The holidays are all about tradition. And food. Both of which are right up the alley of Buccaneers offensive linemen. And no circumstances, pandemic or otherwise, were going to prevent them from carrying out their long-standing Turkey Time with the O-line event, presented by Publix, which was held in its 14th iteration on Tuesday.
It looked a little different this year, with COVID-19 restrictions dictating that the players' participation be virtual, but the event itself provided more than 1,100 Thanksgiving meals for local families thanks to over $40,000 in donations from the line itself and their coaches. - the most ever.
View pictures of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line and Publix Super Markets providing 1,100 full Thanksgiving meals to local families.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Social Justice Fund also presented a matching grant of $41,000 to Feeding Tampa Bay to aid in their local holiday efforts. The donation will go towards helping Feeding Tampa Bay's more than 550 agency pantries in the area.
"You don't necessarily have to be present to be a giver," said Buccaneers Assistant Head Coach and Run-Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin. "I was always taught to give back. I try to impress on the guys all the time that we're blessed – and if you're blessed, do what you can to help others."
The evening included a special virtual message for each of the families from offensive linemen Alex Cappa, Joe Haeg, Ryan Jensen, Nick Leverett, Ali Marpet, John Molchon, Donovan Smith, A.Q. Shipley, Aaron Stinnie, Josh Wells, and Tristan Wirfs, as well as Assistant Head Coach/Run Game Coordinator Harold Goodwin and Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert. It kept up with one of the Bucs' longest-standing charitable outreach efforts and was a way for the big men to make a big impact this holiday season.
"This year is real important," said left tackle Donovan Smith, who is in his sixth year of participating in the event. "Obviously with the pandemic going on, a lot of people have been affected negatively. Some people don't even know where their next meals are coming from. Just to be able to solidify that [during] the holidays and Thanksgiving and being able to spend it with family. To be able to allow these families to provide a meal for whoever is in the household – it's a blessing. That's something we're going to do and continue to strive for and make better each year.
"The more, the merrier," he smiled.
More than 75 masked and gloved Buccaneers staff members were on hand in Publix Lot 14, along with the Buccaneers Cheerleaders and Captain Fear, to distribute meals to families selected by United Way Suncoast and other local non-profit organizations. Each meal included one 12-16-pound turkey, cranberry sauce, gravy, vegetables, stuffing and pie, along with Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes donated by General Mills and King's Hawaiian Rolls donated by King's Hawaiian. The families also received a Publix gift card and Thanksgiving kits in reusable shopping bags, including a foil roaster and storage container.
Started by former Buccaneers offensive linemen Davin Joseph and Jeremy Trueblood in 2007, the event has only grown year over year. In all, the Bucs have provided over 10,500 deserving families with Thanksgiving meals.