Tyson Snedeker (left, with sister Paige) got a particular thrill from meeting Ronde Barber, as both Tyson and Ronde are twins
On Friday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcomed two special visitors to their morning practice at team headquarters.
As the Bucs went through their final practice in preparation for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers, Tyson and Paige Snedeker sat on the patio enjoying the drills and listening to banter between players and coaches.
Tyson and Paige were both born with an extremely rare genetic disorder that has yet to be diagnosed and causes loss of muscle use, hearing and vision. Their trip to One Buccaneer Place was a dream of Tyson's and something everyone was glad to see come about.
"It's a dream come true for my kids and my family," said Julie Snedeker, Tyson and Paige's mom. "The kids are so important to me and since they're not able to see a Bucs game, because they're visually impaired, this is a dream come true for us. I appreciated the players, Coach (Jon) Gruden and all the people that that were involved in having us come out here for this special time."
Tyson and Paige's visit included a tour of the One Buc Place, with stops in the locker room, weight room and players lounge. After the look around, the Snedekers headed out to the back patio to take in practice. The Bucs workout lasted about 90 minutes, but the final horn wasn't the end of the day for Tyson and Paige.
Following practice, the siblings favorite players – quarterback Brad Johnson, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, quarterback Shaun King and defensive tackle Warren Sapp – along with several other Buccaneers players stopped by to shake hands, talk football and autograph the football that was a gift from the team.
Gruden also stopped by and spent several minutes chatting up the two youngsters, though Paige got a little shy around the famous coach. An interpreter translated Gruden's words into sign language for Tyson, whose hearing has been limited by the disease. Tyson wasn't limited in the conversation, however, keeping up with Gruden and keeping his poor interpreter's hands flying.
At the end of their lengthy discussion, Gruden took off the visor he had worn through practice, autographed and gave it to Tyson, telling him, "This is my lucky visor. It will bring you some good luck."
The training complex had thinned out at this point, as players filtered out, enjoying the earlier schedule of a typical Friday. At this point, after visits from a good portion of the team, Tyson and Paige thought their visit was over. Actually, there was one more big surprise waiting.
If One Buc Place were a restaurant, he might have been just another waiter, emerging as he did from behind double doors with two plates full of corn dogs, hot dogs and hamburgers. There's no wait staff at Buc headquarters, however; this just happened to be Tyson's favorite player bearing lunch.
Last year, Tyson and Paige lost their brother, Tyson's twin David, to the same disease they both suffer from now. Barber, one half of the NFL's most famous pair of twins, considered it his own privilege to have lunch with the Snedekers, and he arrived with more than just food.
Reaching behind his back like a magician, Barber produced two Buccaneer duffel bags stuffed with gear, including a Buccaneers t-shirt, hat and pennant. Tyson and Paige plowed into their lunches, rooted through their bags and peppered the defensive back with questions.
The questions ranged from why Tiki, Ronde's twin, isn't also playing in Tampa (Ronde didn't know, but wished he was) to if he has any children (two daughters who are about as cute as Paige) to if he would sign the number 20 jersey that Tyson had brought with him (of course he did).
"He had a twin, so we're in the same situation, because I have a twin" said Barber. "I know how close Tiki is to me and I can imagine how close Tyson's twin was to him. It's something that if I can make him feel good I'm more than willing to do."
According to the children's mother, Ronde's visit was the perfect ending to a wonderful visit.
"It really meant a lot (for Tyson to meet Ronde)," said Mrs. Snedeker. "Tyson and David were very close and they were twins and Ronde and Tiki are twins and they're very close, so that meant a lot to Tyson. It's made his world happier today. This was a wish come true."