'We did it, Tampa!': 20 years ago, the Buccaneers clinched their first Super Bowl win

For almost three decades, the Tampa Bay Bucs were under severe drought. That was until the night of Jan. 26, 2003. 

Fans, clad in red and black were glued to their TVs, beers clenched in hand, hearts racing. Those who were in Qualcomm Stadium were on the edge of their seats. Super Bowl XXXVII will forever be known as the Pirate Bowl. 


(Left to right) Warren Sapp, Jon Gruden and Corey Ivy.

By halftime, neither Shania Twain, No Doubt nor Sting – who were the headliners – could ramp up the Oakland Raiders' offense. The Tampa Bay defense won by a mile, returning three of a record five interceptions for touchdowns and shutting down any hope the Raiders had of a late comeback.

Coach Jon Gruden and his Bucs won their first NFL championship, routing the Raiders 48-21.

There were no words to describe how Tampa Bay's die-hard fans felt. It was a long time coming. It was the Bucs' first appearance in the championship game, and they left with the Lombardi Trophy.

Long-suffering Bucs supporters waited 27 years for a championship. The frustration turned into elation Monday as they rushed to stores across the region to buy anything commemorating the Super Bowl triumph.

Moments after the game ended, car horns began honking, rockets exploded overhead, and people spilled into the streets around Raymond James Stadium and in Ybor City.

The Tampa Tribune's Monday edition featured a full-page photo of Coach Gruden hoisting the Super Bowl trophy, with the single-word headline: "Yes!" 

The St. Petersburg Times front said "Champs" over a photo of Gruden embracing Bucs' defensive tackle Warren Sapp.


A fan of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stands up as he holds a "Chucky" head in each hand (representing Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden, who is known as ''Chucky'' after the horror show doll) during Super Bowl XXXVII against the Oakland Raiders on January

More than 65,000 fans filled Raymond James Stadium as the Super Bowl champions came home the following night. Players were on stage, surrounded by cheering fans and camera flashes. They were led by team owner Malcolm Glazer, who hoisted the trophy over his head as cannons were fired from the end-zone pirate ship.

"We did it Tampa!" shouted safety John Lynch. "We've come a long way, and now we're No. 1!"

Sapp held the trophy over his head and then planted a kiss on it.

"It's in its rightful place," he told the crowd.

Gruden led the crowd in chanting, "Pound that rock," which became an inspirational theme for his players this year.

"This is for you," he said. "You ain't seen nothing yet, Tampa. We love you!"


Head coach Jon Gruden of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers holds aloft the Lombardi Trophy as he celebrates after the victory over the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII on January 26, 2003 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Buccaneers won 48

Linebacker Derrick Brooks carried the trophy around the perimeter of the stadium so fans nearest to the field could get their hands on it.

"I just want you to keep the party alive," defensive back Ronde Barber said. "We'll find a way to celebrate with you."

Fans poured into the stadium when the gates opened at 6:30 p.m., including Norman Wright, a 23-year-old lifetime Buccaneers fan from Tampa who waited for more than two hours.

"How often does this happen?" Wright asked. "It's a long time coming."


Fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate in the stands during Super Bowl XXXVII against the Oakland Raiders on January 26, 2003 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Buccaneers defeated the Raiders 48-21. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty

The team's charter plane landed at Tampa International Airport around 8 p.m., minutes after pilots of the Continental jet amended course and flew over the stadium, drawing raucous cheers from the crowd.

"This is unbelievable. This is incredible," Tampa mayor Dick Greco said. "What a great city."

Tampa Bay fans love a good victory parade – whether it's on land or sea. In 2003, the party took to the streets of downtown Tampa.

What a time it was to be a Buccaneer.


SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 26: A detailed view of a large replica of the Vince Lombardi trophy and overview of the stadium during the celebration after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII. (Photo by Focus on Sport/

The Associated Press contributed to this report