Before Sunday, Lovie Smith had never set foot in One Buccaneer Place…the new One Buccaneer Place, that is. The state-of-the-art headquarters for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inherited that name from the team's old haunt when it opened in 2006, and at that point Smith was in the middle of his nine-year tenure as head coach of the Chicago Bears.
Smith was certainly familiar with the old One Buc, having launched his NFL coaching career in the cramped offices and makeshift meeting rooms of the Buccaneers' original facility, built in 1976. Smith jumped from the college ranks to the NFL in 1996, taking over as linebackers coach under new Buccaneers Head Coach Tony Dungy. After five seasons in Tampa – five years in which the Buccaneers threw off 15 years of losing and re-emerged as perennial playoff contenders – Smith went to St. Louis as the Rams' defensive coordinator and then to the Bears in 2004.
One day before he was to be formally introduced as the Bucs' new coach in a press conference at One Buc Place, Smith flew to Tampa via private jet along with his wife MaryAnne, his sons Matt and Miles, his daughter-in-law Kathleen and his grandson Jackson. The family was greeted at the plane by a Buccaneers welcoming committee, which quickly whisked the group over to the new One Buc. There, they received a detailed tour of the enormous facility, beginning in the lobby/museum and ending in the corner office that new belongs to Smith. (Check out more images from Lovie Smith’s first tour of One Buccaneer Place.)
The Smith family left snowy, five-degree weather in Chicago to jet to Tampa, where they were greeted with a balmy 75% afternoon. Smith was the first through the jet door, holding young Jackson (the youngest of his eight grandchildren). At One Buc Place, Lovie and MaryAnne were particularly impressed with the Moment of Victory statue in the lobby as well as "the rock" that was part of the lore of the 2002 Super Bowl season. Eventually, Smith found himself standing in front of the display that chronicled all of the head coaches in team history, with his pictures already installed in the center. Smith talked about the photos taking him down memory lane, and he certainly has a sharp memory to take him on that trip. On multiple occasions during the tour he encountered an employee who was still on staff from his days with the team more than a dozen years earlier, and without fail he greeted them by name.
Coach Smith encountered many more pictures on the tour, as the walls of One Buc Place are covered with enormous images of current and former players and coaches. He enjoyed pointing out his contemporaries from his first stint with the team, from Derrick Brooks to Monte Kiffin to Shelton Quarles (the latter of whom was also on the tour in person).
After checking out the locker room, the equipment room, the weight room, the positional meeting rooms and more, Smith made it up to the corner office on the second floor in the southeast corner of the building. His office. He took a liking to it immediately, noting the perfect view of the practice fields and, a little farther off, Raymond James Stadium.
"Whoever was in charge of planning this did everything right," said Smith.
He was talking about his new office, but he just as well could have meant the entirety of the new One Buccaneer Place…so unlike the old One Buccaneer Place in form but, to Lovie Smith, still the place that feels like home.