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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A Pair of Aces

Through a trio of awards, Bucs Pro Bowl LBs Shelton Quarles and Derrick Brooks were recognized this month for their tireless efforts to strengthen the community


LB Shelton Quarles was presented with a Points of Light award by Lt. Governor Toni Jennings

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' frequent contention that they are one of the NFL's most community-minded teams is more than just a boast. That claim is repeatedly backed up by awards and recognition received by Buccaneer players who perform wonderful acts of giving in the community.

This month, two Buccaneers who are recognized almost as often for their charitable works as for their hard hits on the football field received another round of awards for their numerous acts of philanthropy.

On April 5, Pro Bowl linebacker Shelton Quarles traveled to Tallahassee where he was honored with a Points of Light Award from the office of Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Lt. Governor Toni Jennings presented Quarles with the award.

The Governor's Points of Light Award recognizes Florida residents or organizations that demonstrate exemplary service to the community. A panel of judges comprised of leaders in the areas of volunteerism and service evaluate all nominations and make recommendations to Governor Bush. Each week, a Points of Light Award recipient is announced. The Points of Light Award program is managed by the Volunteer Florida Foundation.

That wasn't the only recognition Quarles would receive in April. Earlier this week, he was presented with another award at the NFL Players Gridiron Gala held in Washington, D.C. For the third consecutive year, the NFL Players Association and Players Inc. partnered with James Brown, host of "The NFL Today," to present the gala, with proceeds benefiting Special Olympics D.C.

At the event, Brown presented JB Awards to 16 NFL players who had excelled off the field in their efforts to build better communities and stronger families, one of which went to Quarles. Fittingly, before he accepted his JB Award Quarles had attended a charity basketball game to benefit Special Olympics earlier in the day.

Quarles was in line for such honors because of the work of his IMPACT Foundation, which most recently launched a program titled "Tee It Up." The new initiative introduces underprivileged youth to the game of golf, with the idea that children who normally would not be exposed to golf will benefit from the life lessons the game has to offer. Also this year, Quarles expanded the Homes for the Holidays program, which helps single-mother families own a home of their own, to his hometown of Nashville.

"I am thrilled to receive both of the awards because it is not about football, it's about off-the-field activities that are for the benefit of the community which supports us in such a great way," said Quarles. "When I first arrived in Tampa 10 years ago, I had great role models in Derrick Brooks and Hardy Nickerson. They taught me about the importance of giving back because of the blessings we have received. "

One of those role models picked up his own award this week for his work with youth in Tampa Bay. Brooks, also a Pro Bowl linebacker, was presented with the J. Rex Farrior Distinguished Citizenship Award at the Tampa Chapter of the National Football Foundation's 38th Annual Scholar Athlete Awards Banquet on Wednesday.

This prestigious award is presented annually to a former or current player who has carried the lessons learned on the football field into a life of service to the community. At the awards banquet, the NFF also recognized 19 of Hillsborough County's high school football players who are top scholars and leaders in their schools.

Brooks was honored with the Farrior Award mainly due to the work of his Brooks Bunch program, which provides educational opportunities for youths who attend Bay Area Boys & Girls Clubs. Brooks accompanied a group of kids on the seventh educational voyage in the program's existence when they traveled to South Africa in June 2005. Brooks and his foundation, Derrick Brooks Charities, are currently hard at work developing a new program titled "1st And Goal" that will aid Boys & Girls Club members with college prep courses and vocational planning.

"I am honored to receive the award from the National Football Foundation," said Brooks. "To me, this eclipses the God-given ability that I have been blessed with to play football. The kids involved with Brooks Bunch are the ones who go out and do the work. I just do the best I can to provide opportunities for them to succeed."

Both Brooks and Quarles have long maintained that they will continue their work in the community well after their playing days are over. Recognition is the last thing either man hopes to achieve, but the one thing they can be certain will follow. One can only hope they save room on their mantles for awards yet to come.

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