Francisco Sánchez's community leadership has often earned him recognition on a national scale. At the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' September 25 game against the Atlanta Falcons, his achievements continued to garner appreciation, this time in front of a crowd of tens of thousands at Raymond James Stadium.
Prior to the game, Sánchez was named the Buccaneers' honorary captain and the recipient of the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award, a recognition made possible through the support of Bud Light. Sanchez was moved by both the honor and the setting.
"This is my hometown," Sánchez said. "Although I live in Washington D.C. now, I'm very proud of my Tampa roots. I've been a Bucs fan since 1976 when they first came here. So, for me to get on the field and really humbly receive this reward, it means so much to me. I'm very grateful."
Though native to the Bay area, Sánchez's community efforts extend far beyond the city of Tampa. Sánchez was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama to serve as Under Secretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He assists in the development of U.S. trade policy in the global economy, creates jobs and economic growth by promoting U.S. companies, strengthens American competitiveness across all industries, addresses market access and compliance issues, administers U.S. trade laws and undertakes a range of trade promotion and trade advocacy efforts.
Sánchez is not only a leader on Capitol Hill but also an exemplar within the Hispanic community. As a senior policy advisor to President Obama during the 2008 campaign, Sánchez served as the Chairman of the National Hispanic Leadership Council and also provided policy support on issues pertaining to Latin America. During the Clinton administration, he served as the Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"Hispanics have been contributing to our country from the very beginning of the creation of the United States, so it makes me feel good that Hispanics around the country get recognized for their contributions to their community and to their country," Sánchez said.
Sánchez can now add the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award to a number of other accolades. He has been inducted into the National Boys and Girls Club Hall of Fame and recognized as a leader in the community through an organization started by President Bush. He has also been named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business Magazine *and also one of the top Hispanics nationwide by *Poder Magazine.
The NFL and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) partnered to launch the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Awards Presented by Bud Light during the 2011 celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The awards recognize the contributions of Hispanic leaders in each NFL market. With the support from Bud Light, each award recipient selected an organization of their choice that serves the local Hispanic community to receive a $2,000 donation.
"Bud Light is recognizing 32 great leaders in each of the 32 NFL cities with this award," said Margarita Flores, vice president of community affairs for Anheuser-Busch. "We applaud all the recipients for their work in making a difference in and improving their local communities."
Sánchez chose the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay as the recipient of this donation. The Boys and Girls Club believes every child has the potential to be great and strives to build driven and independent adults through creating a positive place full of hope and opportunity.
Though his numerous contributions to the Latino community are worthy of praise, a humble Sánchez was honored to be the recipient of the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award on Sunday.
"I'm in shock and very humbled and very happy," Sánchez said. "I've been to many Bucs games, but it's the first time I've been on the field. It's very high energy, so I'm loving it. I'm just glad I don't have to go up against any one of these guys."
Throughout the NFL, teams celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month during Week Three of the 2011 season. On September 20, cornerback E.J. Biggers, tackle Demar Dotson, defensive tackle Frank Okam, linebacker Dekoda Watson and Buccaneers cheerleaders visited West Tampa Elementary School, with a student body that is more than 60 percent Hispanic, to lead more than 50 students in football drills and speak on the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. At the conclusion of the school visit, 11 students were randomly selected to participate in Sunday's pregame festivities at Raymond James Stadium. The chosen students led the Buccaneers out of the tunnel during team introductions as part of the Buccaneers' Hispanic Heritage Celebration.
Milagros and Mercedes Martinez were both chosen to participate in team introductions before Sunday's game.
"This is my first chance of coming here to see the Buccaneers play in real life," Mercedes said. "It was super fun…I heard everything. It was just really exciting."
The smiling sisters celebrated their first Buccaneers game experience on the field of Raymond James Stadium.
"I was very excited," Milagros said. "I felt like I was special."
For more information on how the Buccaneers are giving back, visit www.buccaneers.com/community.