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Selmon remembered for giving spirit at Oklahoma funeral

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The First Southern Baptist Church was packed with people from all walks of life Saturday. They all loved and respected Lee Roy Selmon.

More than 700 mourners paid final respects to the Pro Football Hall of Famer and one of the best players in Oklahoma football history. Much like the funeral service Friday in Lutz, Fla., the service in Selmon's home state focused on a life that went much deeper than what he did on the football field.

"The love between Lee Roy and the state of Oklahoma cannot be measured," brother Dewey said.

Dewey was one of seven speakers to eulogize his younger brother, who died last Sunday, two days after suffering a stroke at his Florida home. He was 56.

They all told stories during the three-hour service of a man, who despite an incredible list of athletic successes, refused to see himself as a superstar. They told stories of a shy teenager who was the youngest of 10 children in Eufaula, Okla., and how he became the standard for dignity and humility in two states.

Dewey, who teamed with his younger brother for four years at Oklahoma and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976-81, told several stories. The most poignant came from their second season with Buccaneers in 1977. Dewey said he woke up to the sound of tears one night during the middle of preseason training camp. He saw his brother with tears coming down his face.

"I asked him why he was crying," Dewey said. "He said, `People are suffering in this world. People out there are hurting.' That upset him at 2 o'clock in the morning.

"Lee Roy's whole idea about life. If you heard his story how it really should be told, his direction, his compassion, his motivation was to make it better - not his life, but yours. That's Lee Roy Selmon."

Selmon spent the final 30 years of his life in Tampa. During that time he ingrained himself as one of the pillars of the community. After his Hall of Fame career ended in 1984, Selmon was active in the business and philanthropic community in the area. He also worked in the University of South Florida's athletic department from 1993 until his death, serving as the schools athletic director from 2001-04.

Tampa Bay owner Bryan Glazer likened Lee Roy to the Jimmy Stewart character in "It's a Wonderful Life." He talked about how he was the face of the franchise and never said no when asked to make an appearance on behalf of the Buccaneers and always relished the opportunity to have a positive impact in someone's life.

"People like that don't really exist do they? Humble and that touch and bless so many lives without asking anything in return," Glazer said. "Every community needs a George Bailey. Tampa was blessed to have one and his name was Lee Roy Selmon."

In Oklahoma, however, Selmon is remembered for being one-third of the college football's greatest sibling trio.

He, Dewey and older brother Lucious played together on the Sooners' defensive line in 1973. The Sooners went 10-0-1 that season. Lee Roy and Dewey played two more years at Oklahoma and helped claim national championships in 1974 and 75. All three were consensus All-Americans.

"It's difficult for me to talk about one without thinking of the others," former Sooners coach Barry Switzer said. "I'm sure it's like that with you. When I think of the uniqueness of it, it is staggering. It'd never happened before in college football. It's unique because three brothers started at the same time side by side for the first time in college football history. It had never happened before and it hasn't happened since."

But while choking back tears Switzer admitted there was a reason why he has also said Lee Roy was best player he ever coached. He was the Lombardi and Outland Award winner in 1975. He was the first former OU and Buccaneers player to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was voted the best defensive player in the history of the Big Eight Conference.

"When I think about all the awards he won he achieved everything of greatness that could be done at every level he played," Switzer said. "He was truly one of the great players that ever played in a football game. Lee Roy was the best."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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