Although his body will be laid to rest in the state where he was born, hundreds of people in Tampa Bay gathered on Friday morning to honor the life of Lee Roy Selmon and his impact on the community during a memorial service at Idlewild Baptist Church.
Selmon, 56, died on Sunday after suffering a stroke.
During the service at the Lutz church, friends, family members and public officials spoke of the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star and USF athletic director's impact on their lives.
They remembered him as a man of integrity and a philanthropist who was devoted to his wife and three children.
"You grew to love him," his brother, Dewey Selmon, told the crowd, "and he loved you just as much."
Dewey Selmon spoke of their upbringing in Oklahoma, where Lee Roy's love of animals — and football — began.
The two brothers discovered the game and decided to use a tin can from a cupboard as a ball, said Dewey Selmon.
The field? Their mother's flowerbeds.
"He exceeded in football and in his social life, too," said Dewey Selmon, who played football with his brother at Oklahoma University and later with the Bucs. "Lee Roy loved school and people. But, he could never get a date."
It was one of many lighthearted moments during the ceremony, which included a photo presentation that showcased the chapters of Selmon's life, from his birth to his football career in Tampa Bay, charity work, his part ownership of Lee Roy Selmon's Restaurant and his position at USF.
Floral arrangements and photos of a smiling Selmon peppered the church's altar amid a gold casket. One spray was in red and shaped in the form of his number, 63.
Singers belted out gospel tunes throughout the ceremony. At times, members of the crowd stood, while others clapped their hands.
Selmon's playing days as a defensive end with the Bucs began in 1976 as the team's first-ever draft pick and included six straight Pro Bowl appearances. A back injury forced Selmon to retire in 1984, and in 1995, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the franchise’s only honoree to date. In 2009, he became the first inductee in the Bucs’ Ring of Honor.
On Friday, USF football players, Bucs players and local leaders, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and former mayors Pam Iorio, Dick Greco and Bill Poe were also in attendance at the memorial service.
Judy Genshaft, USF president, announced during the service that the university's Board of Trustees approved her request to rename the USF Athletic Center as the Lee Roy Selmon Athletic Center.
"He as truly a pillar of our university," she said. "We don't know how to fill the void created by his loss, but his legacy lives on."
Doug Woolard, who worked with Selmon in the athletic department at USF, said Selmon would never be forgotten.
"Lee Roy makes us want to be better than we are," he said. "We'll carry him in our hearts forever."