DT Anthony McFarland visits schools to encourage students to make informed decisions, then rewards them with tickets to Bucs games
Tuesday is the traditional players' day off in the NFL, though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers actually enjoyed two vacation days this week after Head Coach Jon Gruden granted the team a Monday reprieve in appreciation for a fine effort in Baltimore.
You might assume then, that by the second day of this mini-vacation, team headquarters would be quiet and calm and Buccaneer players and coaches would be in various stages of relaxation at their own homes.
That assumption, as it turns out, couldn't be further from the truth.
Actually, a hyper-busy Tuesday for the Buccaneers kicked off at 5:40 a.m., when Buccaneers Linebackers Coach Joe Barry discussed the Buccaneers & Eckerd NFL 101 for Women with WTSP reporter Kim McIntyre. During the first of three early morning interviews, Barry described the differences in responsibilities of the defensive line, linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks. He followed with a step-by-step breakdown of the difference between an over defense and an under defense, then finished with a third segment in which he taught McIntyre how to tackle.
"NFL 101 is a great event," said Barry. "The women are really fired up and ready to learn and they ask excellent questions. I had a great time last year."
Women can register to win the opportunity to attend this exclusive football clinic by going to an area Eckerd location to register, or by visiting www.eckerd.com/nfl101 for on-line registration. Deadline for registration is Thursday, October 10th.
All women who attend NFL 101 will receive a play book that details several basics of the game, including history, strategy, terminology, formations, and positions and a gift pack provided by Eckerd.
McIntyre eventually perfected her tackling technique, driving Barry to the ground. That signaled the end of the interview, but it was just the beginning of an interesting day for a variety of Buccaneers.
LB Shelton Quarles continued the good-will media blitz by heading out on the town to promote the American Heart Association's Heart Walk. Quarles, who has been the AHA's spokesperson since 2000, appeared on Good Day, Tampa Bay Tuesday morning to promote the walk and also filmed a PSA encouraging those in the Bay Area community to participate in the event.
For Quarles, the connection to heart disease is quite personal.
"We've had problems in our family with heart disease and stroke," said Quarles. "My wife's grandmother has a pacemaker and my grandmother passed away from a stroke. That's a major reason why I'm a part of this. I'm also trying to make the Tampa Bay are more aware of how widespread heart disease really is."
Heart disease and stroke claim nearly one million lives each year in America and more than 8,000 people each year in Tampa Bay. For that reason, Quarles offered the following advice: "Come out and walk! It's for a good cause."
For more information on the American Heart Walk, call 813-289-6003 or 727-570-8610.
At the same time that Quarles was filming his PSA, DT Anthony "Booger" McFarland was speaking to students at Sligh and Williams Middle Schools about his "I Can Wait" program.
"I just want to introduce the 'I Can Wait' program to the kids and to talk to them about the ability they have to make smart decisions," said McFarland. "The goal of the 'I Can Wait' foundation is to get the kids to make smart decisions by giving them the facts and letting them know that they do have time to make those decisions. I believe that smart kids make smart decisions when they have the facts."
At Sligh, the first school of the day, McFarland was greeted by an adoring crowd that cheered non-stop as the Buccaneers defensive star entered the building. In addition to the rousing ovation, McFarland was also treated to a step show by several of the boys and girls from the school.
"It's important (to come out and talk to the kids)," he said. "We have the greatest platform in the world being a pro football player. People listen to us when we say bad things and they'll definitely listen to us when we say good things."
The kids weren't the only ones listening. The emotion was clear in McFarland's booming voice as he delivered his speech, and the message spoke to the teachers on hand as well as the students.
"I'm so happy to an opportunity to have him come out and speak to our kids," said Sligh Principal Juanita Underwood. "These kids don't get the opportunity to see a professional football player up close and this was a wonderful opportunity for him to come out and give us his philosophies. Now they have some one to look up to, because kids look up to people and they look up to sports heroes even more. For him to come out and talk about his 'I Can Wait' program and his focus on academics was amazing."
Rather than simply prompt the students to say, "No" or "I Can Wait", McFarland's program emphasizes the reasons behind such decisions, giving kids facts about smoking, drinking, drugs and relationships so that they can make informed choices.
As a bonus to participating in McFarland's program, students who take the "I Can Wait" pledge can earn the opportunity to attend a regular season Bucs' home game as a part of the "Booger's Bucs Can Wait" group.
While McFarland was busy addressing the assembled masses at Sligh and Williams Middle Schools in Hillsborough County, QB Shaun King was on the other side of the Bay recording a PSA for the parents of the students in Pinellas County.
The purpose of King's PSA was to get the word out about the Pinellas County School Systems new Choice Plan, which will begin in the fall of the 2003-2004 school year. The Choice Plan gives parents a much greater selection of schools to send their children to. Under the program's guidelines, if parents don't make the decision, then the district makes it for them.
"I think it's important that parents are aware that they have an option now to choose which schools their children can go to," said King, a Gibbs High graduate. "That's a big decision in a child's life, especially at that age."
For more information on the Pinellas County schools system Choice Plan, log on to www.pinellas.k12.fl.us or call 727-588-1272.
So, while Tuesday was technically a "day off" for the Buccaneers, several members of the organization spent the morning and afternoon proving that they don't know the meaning of those words.