It was a reunion of sorts for the Super Bowl champs as players, coaches and various members of the Buccaneers' front office gathered to support their head coach and the Arians Family Foundation at their annual golf tournament, held for the first time this year in Tampa.
The event began Sunday night at the Innisbrook Golf Resort & Spa with a kickoff dinner and special performance by country music star Chase Rice. Familiar faces lined the red carpet, including two of the most well-known faces in the National Football League, as quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski greeted their coach.
"It means a lot to me," said Gronkowski. "Just to come out and support [Arians]. He was a great coach all season to us players, so it's just cool to come back and give back to the community but also support Coach Arians. He's a Super Bowl champion coach, so you got to stick together."
It sounds like that sticking together thing applies to the entire team and in a year that was filled with so many challenges and so much uncertainty, the silver lining is that it quickly created that sense of family among the players and staff.
"It is pretty tight," said Brady of the organization. "I know we all kind of got brought together under some pretty interesting circumstances for all of us. What we were able to accomplish just brings us together and it's nice when you form a really tight group of players and coaches and families."
In fact, in an event for the Arians Family Foundation, that was fittingly the theme of the night with the mission to help children in the foster care system who so often come from broken families. The Arians Family Foundation partners with Voices for Children and CASA around the country, mostly reflecting stops in Arians' coaching career, which works with Court Appointed Special Advocates that help guide children through the foster care and legal system. In Tampa, the Foundation works with the Guardian ad Litem organization, which has partnered with Voices for Children since 1986. Events like the annual golf outing are crucial to the work they do and how many children they can help.
"I would hope it grows more interest because awareness and finance is what it's all about," said Arians. "We want to raise as much awareness as we do money and try to get people interested in being a volunteer. It's something I know you'll get more out of than the child will."
Bruce's wife, Chris, has spearheaded the cause and is a CASA herself. After working as family lawyer for years, their son Jake joked on Sunday night that she got tired of taking (and passing) the bar exam every few years in different states as Bruce's career took them all over the country. That's what led to her involvement in CASA now decades ago. She's still in touch with many of the children she's helped, including the very first one, who is now married with kids of his own.
"What you need to do is show them there's a different way," said Chris. "There is a way of living without chaos and dysfunction, and if you're able to do that, you can change the outcome of that child's life."
The event itself was presented by the Buccaneers and included a live auction during the dinner portion on Sunday night. Both Brady and Gronk threw in some bonus game-worn and signed jerseys, but it was outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul that stole the show. To the host of already amazing prizes and experiences, he added in his own personal suite and field passes for an upcoming game this season to the highest bidder. In all, over $750,000 was raised for the Foundation to continue its efforts in supporting Voices for Children, CASA and the GAL program of Tampa Bay.
The dinner was followed by the actual golf outing on Monday, which despite some initial rain drew more celebrities and Bucs players. Players like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Justin Watson, Tanner Hudson, Anthony Nelson and Jamel Dean took to the links, playing a full round with participants. Bucs legends Rondé Barber, Jimmie Giles and Vinny Testaverde were also there on the Islands Golf Course of Innisbrook.
"I think it shows that guys have a ton of respect for [Arians]," said Godwin. "And that's because he shows us the same respect. That's all you can ask for in a coach so when he comes knocking on your door and asks for something, you're more than willing to go out of your way."
"I had to come," continued Evans. "BA preaches that you need to be there for your teammates and support all our causes. He always shows up for us so we show up for him."
Not only did the Bucs themselves get involved, but they also brought with them many of the team's sponsors as the Arians Family Foundation continues to ingratiate themselves into the Tampa Bay community. It was something that was very much appreciated by Bruce's son, Jake, and daughter, Kristi, who run the foundation together.
"The Buccaneers have gone over and beyond with their support and their sponsors," said Jake. "[The Bucs] were like, talk to our partners first. Having that access to them was absolutely unbelievable and it makes it so much easier to come to a new place.
"And winning the Super Bowl didn't hurt either."
Supporting staff and players in their charitable endeavors is nothing new for the Glazer family. It's part of their own foundation, both metaphorically and physically, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation, which has been donating to and matching player and staff initiatives for years. In fact, when Arians was signing his contract to become the franchise's next head coach, it was Buccaneers Co-Owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz who was talking to Chris Arians about the work of the Arians Family Foundation, which was originally started in 2013. She asked how her family and the Buccaneers organization could support them and the passion she had for the cause became apparent.
"The Arians Family Foundation is an unbelievable organization, they're so dedicated and passionate about helping kids in this community, in so many communities," said Glazer Kassewitz. "We're so happy to support them. I think everybody feels very united and everybody feels like a family and I think we work hard to work together and support one another, so this is really a statement of kind of who the organization is. It's wonderful."
"And as Gronk says, it's for the kids," laughed Chris.