There is no guarantee of cool weather around the holidays in Tampa, but there is one indicator of Thanksgiving that Bay area families in need have been able to count on for the better part of a decade. For the seventh straight year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers conducted their popular and impactful "Turkey Time with the O-Line" event at team headquarters.
Led by Davin Joseph, who first dreamed up the event with former teammate Jeremy Trueblood in 2007, the Buccaneers' entire offensive line came to One Buc Place on their day off to hand out turkeys and all the necessities for a bountiful Thanksgiving meal to hundreds of families who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the holiday. Turkey Time is a tradition that has come to mean as much to Joseph and his teammates as the grateful families who pass through the line.
"The meaning of Thanksgiving to me is more than just food and family," said Joseph. "It's also about giving back – giving back to the community, giving back to people in need and being thankful for your blessings."
This year, 700 families received Thanksgiving meals though the Turkey Time event, matching last year's record total and bringing the six-year total of meals distributed by Joseph and company to more than 4,200.
"We have good guys in our locker room, good guys on the O-Line," said Joseph. "They really contributed a lot this year and we were able to step it up a little more. We have Publix involved and Coca-Cola also, and we're all just making it come true. It's a team effort, it's everybody in the facility, the staff, it's the O-Line, it's the people in the community, it's United Way Suncoast – all of us coming together and making this thing bigger and better every year.
Using previously-distributed vouchers, families chosen by United Way Suncoast received meals that included a 10 to 12-pound turkey, a pumpkin pie and traditional Thanksgiving trimmings such as mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and vegetables. The line also included vans and other vehicles sent by local community agencies to pick up multiple meals for families who could not travel to One Buc Place.
Those who did make it out enjoyed the added treat of interacting with Buccaneer players and cheerleaders, grabbing autographs and posing for pictures and enjoying the good-natured horseplay of team mascot Captain Fear.
Turkey Time persists year after year despite inevitable roster turnover because each new generation of offensive linemen see the good work being done and want to get involved. Zuttah first joined in in 2008, and he's happily come back every year.
"Davin and Jeremy Trueblood started this seven years ago and it's just something that kind of picked up, and I think it's even bigger than it's ever been," he said. "It's a great feeling to help people who are having a tough line. You open the doors of the cars and you see the kids smiling and it makes it all worthwhile."
View pictures from Turkey Time with the O-Line.