Why do they call it that? Lee Roy Selmon Expressway

10:10 AM, Sep 7, 2011   |    comments
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Lee Roy Selmon

One of our favorite "Why do they call it that?" segments is the piece we did just over a year ago with Lee Roy Selmon. He met us at his restaurant and talked about how his name ended up on an expressway.

We felt that story really captured a lot of his wonderful personality. So, today, we are showing that original piece again.

We've only changed one thing. When it first aired, the story included two places: the expressway and another unrelated city. We've left off the other city, so we can focus on our lost legend, Lee Roy Selmon.

Why do they call it the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway?

Well, let's ask the man himself: Lee Roy Selmon.

With a broad smile, Selmon starts the story. Two radio hosts at 970 WFLA in Tampa were chatting about how to honor Selmon, who'd just become the first Tampa Bay Buccaneer to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"And they just said, 'Well, we should name an expressway after him! We should change the name of the Crosstown to the Selmon Expressway.' And I was surprised by how quickly that caught on," Selmon said.

By 1999, it was official. The toll road connecting Brandon, Ybor City, Downtown Tampa, and South Tampa had a new name, honoring Selmon. The announcement caught Selmon off guard -- partly because he was still alive.

"I understood that most times, these things are done when you're passed on. So I asked them, 'Do you know something that I don't know? Because if you do, especially about that, please let me know!'" he laughed.

The expressway authority keeps Selmon posted on what's happening with his highway. But they do not cut him a check.

"Do you get any of the toll that comes on it? No, I don't get any of the toll that comes on it," the former Bucs star said with a smile.

"My worst fear is getting a ticket on the Selmon Expressway."

After retiring from the Bucs, Selmon served as USF's athletic director and founded his own chain of Lee Roy Selmon's restaurants. Among all of the honors he's received over the years, Selmon says the expressway stands out as truly unique and special.

"To me, it reflects the love that the community has. And the relationship that I've enjoyed with the community ever since I got here in 1976," Selmon said.

And there's another surprising Selmon street story that dates back to his arrival in '76. When they first came to Tampa Bay, Lee Roy and his brother Dewey went for a drive.

They came across two streets -- right next to each other -- named "Leroy" and "Dewey." And the streets were just blocks from Tampa Stadium.

It was just a coincidence; the roads had held those names for decades before those two young draft picks came to town. But to this day, Lee Roy takes it as a sign that he was meant to spend his life in Tampa Bay.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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