QB Brad Johnson gave the Scottish visitors an inside look at an NFL game day, then signed autographs for the excited young men
On Wednesday morning, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Brad Johnson won the fifth NFC Offensive Player of the Week award of his 11-year NFL career. Later that day, Johnson had the opportunity to meet some young fans who had witnessed his career during its infancy, before any awards, or even a starting job, were a sure thing.
The visitors were a group of 35 players and coaches from the Glasgow Tigers Youth Football team. That crew is on their 2002 American Football Tour, a visit that included a stop at Raymond James Stadium, a visit with Johnson and lunch on the Buccaneers Pirate Ship in Buccaneer Cove. Meeting Johnson, who was one of the early stars of American Football in Europe, was a high point for the young gridiron pioneers.
"About seven years ago, I played in the World League (the precursor to NFL Europe) in London and I kind of know how football has evolved from America to world-wide," said Johnson, who quarterbacked the London Monarchs in 1992. "So, it's kind of fun to watch these guys keep up with the players here in the NFL and become football players themselves."
Alan Wilson, the Tigers' Head Coach, saw the unique Scottish youth team take root in his own house.
"It all started with my three kids," said Wilson. "They all play. My daughter plays flag and my two boys tackle. I started a flag team for the kids about four years ago and it blossomed from there. When my oldest son was too old to play flag he asked if I could start a tackle team. I said, 'Yeah, okay.' The Scottish Claymores (of NFL Europe) helped out by donating some equipment and it took off from there."
The Tampa tour began with Brad taking the group into the locker room at Raymond James Stadium and showing the visitors what it's like on game day for an NFL player. In the locker room, Brad talked to the kids about football and gently needled them about that fact that, when he played in the World League, his team beat the Claymores twice.
Following the locker room tour, the Tigers presented Brad with a Scottish Football League pin and a flask with the Tigers emblem and the words – Glasgow Tigers Florida Tour. Brad then brought the team to the field, where he signed autographs, posed for pictures and passed out Buccaneers pennants, posters and team pictures to the players.
"These guys are here from Glasgow, Scotland and we're just trying to show them what football is all about in America," said Johnson. "I gave them a tour of the facilities and the field here. Their interest in football is great for the expansion of the game."
If Brad was impressed with the young visitors' passion for football, the youth from Scotland were even more excited to meet the veteran quarterback and learn a few secrets of the NFL.
"It's awesome," said Wilson. "To meet the guy that's NFC Player of the Week and the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I can't put it in words."