Most people take pride in their alma mater. They usually root for the school, maybe attend a few games, or send a check every year. That's normal. Or maybe some take it a little further. Maybe they buy season tickets every year or join the booster club. A little more pride, but still within normalcy.

And then there is Roy Griak. A man who was a freshman at the University of Minnesota in 1949 and still remains a part of every day functions in the Gopher athletic department. A man who was a track and cross country student athlete and now has one of the nation's largest cross country meets named after him. And a man who loves to dance.

Griak was born in born in Montana but after moving at a young age, he was raised in Duluth, Minnesota. After high school he went into the Army, and after being discharged he enrolled at the University of Minnesota. After graduation, Griak taught and coached at the high school level for ten years before taking a head coaching position back at the university.

"I was on the track team here and I thought it was an opportunity and advancement from what I was doing at the high school level," Griak said. "I had very good success as a basketball and track coach in high school and I thought this would be a new challenge and it was and I've been here ever since."

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Griak remained as the head coach until 1996, coaching around 1,700 athletes, before stepping off the track for the last time.

"I was really getting up in years and I knew I was slowing up a little bit," Griak said. "I didn't have the energy I had when I was a young buck. I just decided that it was a young man's game."

Griak says he does not remember his last meet as a head coach but mentions he is sure it was tough.

"Good things come and go,” he said. "You have to go on with your life regardless. I miss being out on the track, I do. But I also realize that I'm 87 years old."

After retiring from coaching, Griak stayed on as a teacher but now serves as the full time administrative
assistant for both the track team and cross country team. Griak says it gives him the opportunity to be with the team in a different capacity.

Each year when a senior class graduates, Griak admits it is hard to see them go. But he also says that he has an ongoing database of more than one thousand men that he tries to keep in contact with. Quite an impressive feat. But maybe even more impressive than that is the fact that Griak along with long time friend Gary Olson started a cross country meet several years back. A meet that is now considered one of the largest and finest meets in all the country.

The meet started out small but has slowly developed into what it is today. The meet, renamed the Roy Griak Invitational, now attracts around 4,000 athletes, including all divisions of colleges and high school. It was held again over the weekend.

Griak chokes up, reminiscing about a young man, whom two years ago was a small eight grader running in the invitational for the first time. He was running in the D high school race. He told Griak that he had been waiting his whole life for this competition.

"That just makes you feel pretty good," Griak said. "The joy comes from watching these athletes and schools come back year after year."

The course is run on the University of Minnesota's golf course, which includes undulating hills, some areas of flat land and also big hills. Griak says the course is very difficult, and it is designed for distance runners rather than sprinters. Either way, competing in this meet is something runners everywhere look forward to.

Two knee and two hip replacements prevent Griak from running anymore.

"I'm not as agile as I used to be," Griak said. "I can dance, but I just can’t run anymore. But I'm a good dancer and I love to dance."

If Griak's dancing is anything like his career in the running world, he is probably right in saying he is good. Griak plans to stay at with the Golden Gophers "until his hair falls out."

"This has kept me young in mind and body, being around all these young good looking guys and girls, and the high school kids that come up," Griak said. "It keeps you sharp. I don't want to go playing bridge with some 80-year old guys and ladies. I'd rather play with 44-year old guys and ladies."

Griak's accomplishments and presence will forever be a part of Golden Gopher athletics.

"He coached in this state in high school and was very successful and then he came here and was very successful,” said Gopher Athletic Director Joel Maturi. “He has been a mentor to hundreds and hundreds of student athletes and continues to be a mentor to people like myself. We are very blessed to have him here on our staff."

For now, Griak stays involved in planning and coordinating the Roy Griak Invitational, along with several other duties.

But he dances whenever he can.

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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, spoke with a few friends and fans.

Marcell Hill

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.

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"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.'"

Geno Hayes

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."

Jackie Riles

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."

She smiles.

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

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

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."

Alan Saylor

"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

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

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.'"

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Rice has always been known more for academics than athletics, but it combines a smart idea with sports by teaching foreign students about football.

International students account for nearly 20 percent of Rice's enrollment, so it's just good business to expand your fan base. Last year the Owls decided to have their football players conduct a clinic to give the international students a proper introduction to the game. It was a hit, and Rice just held its second annual event a week before Saturday's season opener at Texas.

The students sat through some strategy sessions, then hit the field at Rice Stadium to perform some drills.

But in addition teaching the X's and O's, the clinic organizers were also sharp enough to indoctrinate the students on a quintessentially American aspect of sports: Tailgating.

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