For the 15th year, the Buccaneers offensive line has showed up for their Tampa Bay community… even if this time, they weren't actually there in person. Due to COVID-19 protocols, the players and coaches of the Bucs' offensive line weren't able to be at the event next to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday as cheerleaders, staff and Buccaneers Legends Jeremy Trueblood and Anthony Davis handed out 1,000 Thanksgiving meals at the 2021 Turkey Time with the O-Line supported by Publix.
Instead, a special video message played for participating families, which were pre-selected by United Way Suncoast, with well wishes from Ali Marpet, Donovan Smith, Ryan Jensen, Alex Cappa, Tristan Wirfs, Aaron Stinnie, Josh Wells, Nick Leverett, John Molchon, Robert Hainsey and Brandon Walton, in addition to coaches Harold Goodwin and Joe Gilbert. Families' cars were loaded with full Thanksgiving meals that included a 12-16-pound turkey, stuffing, Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes, cranberry sauce, gravy, green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and King's Hawaiian rolls donated by King's Hawaiian. There were also kits in reusable shopping bags and a $20 Publix gift card included, all to make sure needy families in the area still had a great meal to go along with their holiday.
"Especially with the times that we've been going through these recent years, it's important to let people know that we're actually there and we care," said left tackle Donovan Smith. "To continue doing that just speaks volume of the guys, the team and the organization."
View photos of the 15th annual Turkey Time With the O-Line, supported by Publix, at Raymond James Stadium. The event provided 1,000 Thanksgiving meals to families in need.
To kick off the event, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Social Justice Fund presented a matching grant of $44,000 to the nonprofit organization Feeding Tampa Bay. This is the team's fourth consecutive year collaborating with Feeding Tampa Bay for the holiday initiative. The matching donation will be mobilized through school pantries, mobile pantries and with Feeding Tampa Bay's more than 550 agency pantries to help provide meals to community members in need this holiday season.
Left guard Ali Marpet has been the ringleader of the effort year after year and has been involved since being drafted by the Bucs in 2015. Both him and Smith, also a 2015 draft pick of Tampa Bay, sit on the board for the team's Social Justice Initiative, which was launched in 2018 with a $1,000,000 Social Justice Fund commitment by the Glazer family. Directed by Buccaneers players, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative was created to break down barriers to racial and social equality by focusing on youth empowerment, police relations, criminal justice reform and workforce development. The initiative supports year-round player efforts dedicated to achieving social justice through purposeful dialogue and impactful programs that effect meaningful, positive change in the community.
The initiative touches many of the Bucs' community efforts and will be especially active this holiday season. So even when players can't be present at some of these events, their impact will still be felt, which the guys appreciate.
"I think what I miss is just seeing the families' faces – the kids' faces – just the time they experienced," said Smith. "It's definitely one that words just couldn't even describe – you just have to be there to see. But to be able to still get the job done means a lot."