Paul Gruber defined 'dependable'

It’s been no big secret that former offensive tackle Paul Gruber will be the next player inducted into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Ring of Honor.

The team officially announced it Wednesday and the press release had a tremendous quote from Buccaneers co-chairman Bryan Glazer, who generally is very quiet and reserved.

"Paul was a Buccaneer Man, before we talked about Buccaneer Men," Glazer said. "He went on to become everything you would want in a left tackle or family man: dependable, dependable, dependable."

I don’t think Glazer -- or anyone -- could have come up with a better summation of Gruber.

When you think about it, Gruber really was ahead of his time. Yeah, he got a little recognition and some more pleasant times in the last few years of his career. That was after coach Tony Dungy arrived and the team started to have some success.

But Gruber played on some horrible teams before that. I witnessed a good chunk of his career while covering the Bucs’ beat for The Tampa Tribune in the 1990s. I saw Gruber while he was playing for dreadful teams under coach Sam Wyche and I saw the transition to better times with Dungy. But I never saw any change in Gruber.

I mean that as the ultimate compliment. The guy was a true pro, playing 12 seasons and starting all 183 games he played in. When the rest of the team was struggling, Gruber still went out and played left tackle at the highest level every week. He did the exact same thing when things got better. He also was active in the community and polite to the media.

The only real shame about Gruber’s career is that it ended in 2000, after a broken leg prompted him to retire. If Gruber could have held on a couple of more seasons, he could have been on Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl team.