The large "63s" etched on all four corners of the field, a paratrooper waving a creamsicle flag with that very number, an emotional video tribute, and a vibrant sunlit-sky -- Lee Roy Selmon's presence could be felt everywhere in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season opener against the Detroit Lions.
It was exactly one week ago Sunday that the team's first ever draft pick and only Hall of Famer passed away suddenly at the age of 56 after a severe stroke.
It was a death that sent shockwaves throughout the Tampa Bay area. Players, fans, and colleagues still struggle to comprehend how a vivacious man and fixture in the community could be taken so soon.
Yet through the tears, they smile, each recalling the lasting impact Mr. Selmon, the Buccaneers' beloved "Gentle Giant," had on their lives. On the day of the first Bucs game after Selmon's passing, ThePostGame.com spoke with a few friends and fans.
Marcell Hill, 23, was too young to have witnessed Selmon play first-hand, but he developed a fondness for No. 63 through the accounts of his father, Greg Hill, also a Buccaneers fan.
Marcell was shocked to learn that Selmon had suffered a stroke on Friday, Sept. 2, and devastated to hear false reports that Selmon had passed away that day.
"When I found out [the reports] were wrong and that he was in the hospital I was sure that we was going to make a recovery. When I found out he died I was like, 'Wow.' That caught me and everyone off guard," he says.
"He was young, he still had a lot of life ahead of him," says Hill. "His presence impacted lives, whether he was on the field, off the field, in the class room, in a church, in a restaurant, he was a positive human being."
Hill was moved to see the Buccaneers honor Selmon during the season opener, but thinks it should be taken a step further. "He played the game right and is the stamp of Tampa, [the] Buccaneers, and [the] Bulls. I hope they rename Raymond James Stadium to "Lee Roy Selmon Stadium.'"
Bucs weakside linebacker Geno Hayes was equally devastated to learn of Selmon's stroke and passing. The two developed a close relationship after a chance encounter at One Buc Place shortly after Hayes was drafted out of Florida State.
"He gave me that nice little smile he always gives, and started talking in that calm voice," recalls Hayes. "He was a quiet guy, a quiet giant. He didn't really say much, but when he did speak, you couldn’t help but listen."
But their conversations weren't so much about football. They were about life. Hayes, now 24, looked to Selmon as a role model on how to be a better man. He believes his greatest asset wasn’t his outstanding play on the field, but his humility.
"He gave everybody the same treatment. You want to treat everybody right, no matter how much money they have or how much fame they have," says Hayes, an emerging leader on the Buccaneer defense.
"I could go on and on about what he's meant and how he’s shown how to live. He’s a guy that every man should want to follow."
Since the Bucs’ inception in 1976, Jackie Riles has been the team’s ultimate cheerleader and fan.
Dubbed the "Original Buc Lady," she's spent the last 30-plus years sewing personalized pillows and baking cakes for the players.
"He'd take the time to come up to you and talk to you," she recalls, having sat through dozens and dozens of Bucs practices at the old One Buc Place. "He was the nicest guy there was. He treated you decent."
In 2002, Riles was selected to be featured in a special section of the Pro Football Hall of Fame dedicated exclusively to the "Ultimate Fan." Selmon immediately called to congratulate her.
"He said, 'Jackie, I'm in the Hall of Fame. I'm the original. Now the 'Original Buc Lady,' is in the Hall of Fame too."
Now 74, Riles sits in her wheelchair and cheerfully greets players and staff outside the stadium on game day.
She was there for Selmon's memorial service on Friday at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, where she presented Selmon's widow, Claybra, with a special gift -- an orange and white pillow with red trim that reads, "We love you."
"He was a kind and gentle person. No matter if you were rich or poor. He was just that way, and I’m glad to have known that man.
"Nobody can replace 63 of the Bucs."
John Knutson met Selmon in 2004 on the campus of the University of South Florida. Then the school's athletic director, Selmon would stroll across campus often, cheerfully greeting students. Knutson, a sophomore, was immediately captivated by the NFL Hall of Famer who was largely responsible for bringing football to USF.
"When he shook my hand ... it was almost like an 'out of body experience,'" says Knutson, now an alumnus and still a proud Bulls' supporter. "It's hard to explain. It was a different feeling than any other handshake. Lee Roy was definitely in a class of his own."
Ernie Blockburger, a Tampa native, met Selmon as a 12-year old who yearned to play youth football. But the Tampa Bay Youth Football League deemed he was too big to play. His father sought the former All-Pro to offer some encouragement.
"He knelt down next to me, looked me in the eye and said, 'Do whatever makes you happy, and do it through God.' Words I've never forgotten."
"I remember meeting Lee Roy Selmon right after he got selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He came and spoke to our kids' elementary school PTA," says Alan Saylor of St. Petersburg, who didn't expect to see such a high-profile sports figure at Lakeview Fundamental School, of all places. "I thought 'What a really insignificant event.'"
Selmon came over to where Saylor was sitting and the father of three introduced himself to the Bucs' first-overall, first-ever draft pick who went on to become the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 1979. "He was very friendly, very gracious, very unpretentious," says Saylor. "Just a really good, good man."
Selmon autographed a poster of his Hall of Fame induction for Saylor's eldest son, Chap, who was in the fourth or fifth grade at the time. "What a great role model for any kid," he says. "I think Lee Roy really recognized what a role model was."
It was Saylor, however, who parted with a lasting memory. "I just thought he was a heck of a nice man, and a real asset to our community. He took the time to go to little events as well as big events. He was very unpretentious and a true gentleman."
Davin Joseph, starting right guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, appreciates the type of selfless player and person Selmon was. Joseph and his teammates on the offensive line rarely draw individual praise like a defensive end would, yet Selmon gave it, and always found a way to divert the attention from himself.
"He seemed like a very humble person, in everything he did, and that's why he was so successful," says the 27-year-old Joseph, an Oklahoma graduate like Selmon. "He always found a way to give credit to everybody else. He didn't seek credit for his accomplishments."
Even when Selmon was honored for a prestigious award in the community, or enshrined in Canton, Joseph marveled at the way God remained the focal point in Selmon's life, and that he remained humble.
"You've just got to do everything with the right intentions and it seems like the majority of his life he did everything for the right reasons."
Lisa Brock first met Selmon in 1991, when he was working as a bank executive in Tampa. A public relations executive who now owns her own firm, she was assigned to interview Selmon for the Super Bowl XXV Task Force.
The two discovered they had many mutual friends, including Brock's soon-to-be husband. A friendship would blossom over the years between the Selmon and Brock families.
Their kids often played together. When Brock's husband was selected for the Judeo Christian Health Clinic's Humanitarian Award, it was Selmon who was chosen to present the honor, something Brock describes as "meaningful."
"His death has just really made us aware of how fleeting life is," says Brock, who last saw Selmon at the funeral of longtime Tampa sportswriter Tom McEwen.
"[Lee Roy] gave a beautiful eulogy…thoughtful, humble, poignant, and also funny," she remembers. "He was a man for others and that is why people are struggling to process that he is gone. We don't have too many Lee Roys among us."
Brock's last conversation with Selmon was a phone conversation. His words seem eerily prophetic, something Brock is still coping with.
Selmon: "Sorry I didn't get back to you yesterday, I was traveling to Oklahoma."
Brock: "No worries -- seeing the family?"
Selmon: "Every chance I get. We never know how much time is left and when I can, I want to be in their company."
"I remember thinking," she says, 'So Lee Roy.'"