Buccaneer Rookie Club members (from left) Justin Smith, Jermaine Phillips, Ryan Nece and Travis Stephens entertained residents at the Laurel Center with their enthusiastic caroling
Nothing sets the holiday mood quite like a little Christmas caroling.
Imagine a warm bundle of neighborhood carolers, carrying candles to your door and spreading cheer from house to house. Or think of a small family knot at Grandma's house, gathering around to sing their favorite holiday songs.
Or picture this: a quartet of NFL football players putting on an impromptu Christmas concert at a local home for the elderly on their one day off from practice.
It may not have been your average group of carolers that entertained the residents at the Laurel Nursing & Rehabilitation Center on Tuesday, but it was certainly one of the most enthusiastic bunch of singers you're bound to run across. Throwing caution – and at times, melody – to the wind, the Tampa Bay Buccaneer foursome of LB Ryan Nece, S Jermaine Phillips, LB Justin Smith and RB Travis Stephens used their lungs to brighten the holiday season for an appreciative crowd of elderly citizens.
Nece, Phillips, Smith and Stephens are four members of the Buccaneers Rookie Club, which attends a variety of community events on Tuesdays throughout the football season. Rookie Club members engage in all sorts of activities with a variety of people throughout the community, but their caroling trip on Tuesday was one of the most noteworthy – well, maybe that's a bad choice of words – of the year.
While residents at the Laurel Center enjoyed lunch, the rookie quartet, which had dubbed itself 'The Young Bucs,' entered the center to a rousing cheer. They immediately began to perform a medley of Christmas tunes for their captive audience.
The Young Bucs began their performance with Jingle Bells and proceeded through a number of other Christmas favorites, before making their way to – of course – the 12 Days of Christmas. Lyric sheets were on hand for all the old classics, but the rookies showed their caroling inexperience early in that last lengthy tune, struggling to remember the gifts of the third day (three French hens, you know). Like all good carolers, however, they hit the right not at the right time, erupting loudly on the five golden rings.
By this time, the crowd was in good spirits, singing and clapping along to the somewhat off-key warbling of The Young Bucs. After their virtuoso performance, The Young Bucs spent time with the patients and staff members, signing autographs, discussing the upcoming holiday season and telling stories about holidays past.
"It's a lot of fun to come out here during the Christmas holiday and make people laugh and smile," said Smith. "Anything we can do is worth it."
Following a brief intermission, The Young Buc quartet headed over to the other wings of the facility where they entertained the other residents and helped make the Christmas season a little brighter, according to Scotty Scott, the director of Activities at the Laurels Nursing & Rehabilitation Center.
"Words can't express the excitement that they brought," said Scott. "When I look at some of the residents with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces, it's wonderful. A lot of these residents don't have families and events like this really help make their Christmas."
The residents at the Laurel Center weren't the only ones to have their holidays brightened by the Buccaneers Rookie Club on Tuesday. With the help of Buccaneers FB Mike Alstott and TE Todd Yoder, the Rookie Club also helped put smiles on the faces of the children that are patients at All Children's Hospital.
At All Children's, the Buccaneers split into two groups and visited the children's rooms to distribute pennants, take Polaroid photos and sign autographs. It was an eventful day made eminently worthwhile by the radiant faces of the children as they received their surprise visitors.
"We're out here to out some smiles on some faces," said Alstott. "It's the holidays and it means a lot to be able to come out and spend some time with the kids. Hopefully, well give them a memory that will last."
Judging by the awestruck looks on the kids' faces, that's certain to happen.
"The kids may be a little shy right now," said Stephanie Hall of All Children's Hospital, "but believe me, they'll be talking about this for the next six months after today."