Throughout this week, we will unveil the 50 most important people to sports in Tampa Bay.
The names you will see were all suggested by listeners to The Commish Justin Pawlowski and sent in during his show. Over this past weekend, Justin, along with his producer “The Drake” and Jim Lighthall, spent hours trying to set the official ranking.
Here are names 41-50 of Tampa Bay’s most important people to this area’s sports:
41. Ronde Barber – player – Buccaneers (1997-2013) – Ronde Barber just recently retired and the debate of whether he is a hall of famer is already a hot topic. The debate alone makes him worthy of this prestigious list. Barber was also the key figure in what might have been Tampa Bay’s most important sports moment ever, intercepting Donovan McNabb for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game and sending the Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl.
42. Dave Andreychuck – player – Lightning (2001-2006) – In the off-season of 2001, Andreychuck was a free agent and chose to sign with the young Tampa Bay Lightning rather than join a more true Stanley Cup contender. Andreychuck’s leadership was one of the key components that led to the Lightning winning their only Stanley Cup and also bringing legit credibility to Tampa Bay as a hockey home.
43. Brad Richards – player – Lightning (1998-2008) – Richards was drafted by the Lightning in the 3rd round of the 1998 draft. His performance in the 2004 playoffs led to him winning the Con Smythe Trophy and the Lightning winning the Stanley Cup.
44. Mike Alstott – player – Buccaneers (1996-2007) – Mike Alstott might have as many highlight plays as any other Buccaneer player in history. Alstott had many touchdowns in his 11 year career, but scoring Tampa Bay’s 1st ever touchdown in the Super Bowl was the most important. At a time when the Bucs offenses were their weak links, Alstott gave fans the hope that when the offense stepped on the field, it would not be all negative.
45. John Matuzak – player – University of Tampa (1969-1973) – Matuzak was a star before a lot of the more recent stars in Tampa Bay. Matuzak was the 1st overall pick in the 1973 draft to the Houston Oilers. Matuzak led the University of Tampa to two wins over the Miami Hurricanes in 1970 and 1972 during which UT moved to Division I in 1971. In 1972, Matuzak helped UT get their only bowl win in the Tangerine Bowl, now the Capital One Bowl, in Orlando. Oh, and he also played Sloth in The Goonies.
46. Al Davis – owner – Oakland Raiders (1972-2011) – Davis’ importance to Tampa Bay was the trade he made with the Buccaneers in 2002 that sent the Buccaneers Jon Gruden in exchange for two 1st round picks, two 2nd round picks, and $8 million. Gruden led the Buccaneers to their only Super Bowl championship, but also struggled in his years after winning that game. The draft picks the Buccaneers traded to Al Davis would also hurt the Buccaneers future as they lost 4 early draft selections who might have changed the course of history. This could arguably be the most significant trade in Tampa Bay history.
47. Tino Martinez – player – Tampa Catholic, Jefferson, University of Tampa, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Tino has been a fixture of Tampa Bay since he was born. Despite playing a majority of his professional career in other cities, Tino was always a West Tampa boy at heart. Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay has also made reference that Tino Martinez is a big Buccaneers fan and a season ticket holder. Tino is Tampa.
48. Russ Cozart – head coach – Brandon High School Wrestling (32 years) – Brandon Wrestling’s record of winning 500 matches in a row over a span of 40 years was mostly coached by Russ Cozart, who has been with Brandon for 32 years. Cozart has coached 97 players to state titles and 157 players to All-American honors.
49. Steven Stamkos – player – Lightning (2008-present) – When it’s all said and done, Stamkos could end up pretty high on this list. Stamkos already has a 60-goal season and has become one of the most fear goal scorers in the NHL.
50. Sean Callahan – head coach – Armwood High School Football – Callahan has led Armwood to three state championship titles and twice was runner-up. Armwood has been developed into a nationally recognized high school football program under Callahan. There were other high school coaches in consideration, but they just did not have the credentials that Callahan has built up to this point.
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