The holiday season is a time for giving; something the Buccaneers take to heart. Many players and even entire position groups hosted holiday events to give back to the local community. Here are some of the highlights…
Jameis Winston Holds His Fourth Famous Jameis Jamboree
Each year around the holidays, quarterback Jameis Winston invites local children and families for a night of food, fun and football. This year, the event was held at the AdventHealth Training Center’s indoor facility and included a fully catered meal, football drills with various Bucs players and photo and autograph opportunities with Winston, himself.
Winston also gave each child a Dream Playbook, which is a journal given by his Jameis Winston Dream Forever Foundation that helps children plan to achieve their goals. Winston clued the kids in on his three principles of life: God, school (education) and that they can do anything they put their minds to. The evening was filled with Winston throwing routes to young receivers and even young defensive backs getting to match up with wide receiver Mike Evans, who was in attendance as well.
A Very Merry Mike Evans Christmas
During the second week in December, wide receiver Mike Evans held not one, not two, but three back-to-back events on behalf of his Mike Evans Family Foundation to brighten the holidays for plenty of folks around the Tampa Bay area.
The first was his Catch for Christmas Celebrity Bowling Tournament, where he and a number of his teammates mixed and mingled with Bucs fans who had bought a lane at the Crossroads Bowl in Brandon. All proceeds went to provide college scholarships through Evans’ Foundation, which aids underserved youth who meet the academic standards to go to college but may not have the resources or means. His quarterback, who has his own Jameis Winston’s Dream Forever Foundation, was on hand to support not only in person, but sponsored a lane on behalf of his charity, as well. It brought teammates together for some food, fun and bowling, and it was just the beginning of a do-good week for Evans.
“That was awesome, it was an awesome turnout,” Evans said. “Everyone came out to support. A lot of my teammates were there. Overall, it was just a fun time. Everybody just kept coming up to me saying this was a great event and we made a lot of money doing it to send some kids to college.”
Mike Evans Catch for Christmas Bowling Night
Mike Evans and the Mike Evans Family Foundation hosted a bowling night raising money towards college scholarships for underserved high school seniors.
The next night, Evans and his wife, Ashli, visited the Children’s Home Network, which is a residential shelter for neglected or abused children. Another pillar of Evans’ Foundation is to help victims of domestic violence. He’s involved in efforts both here in the Bay area and back in his home state of Texas. The Evans family brought dinner along with toys for Christmas for the children that live at the shelter. They spent time with the kids and played games. They also donated necessity items that the shelter is in need of year-round; things like shower curtains, sheets and toiletries. The Evans want to make sure children feel loved and cared for, especially around the holidays.
“We got to play basketball, a little bit of football with them,” Evans said of the evening. “We opened toys, served them dinner, just tried to give them that hope, show some love and express some positivity.”
The week was capped off with a surprise for a few Jr. Bucs football players who had made good grades in school. A group of 13 boys visited AdventHealth Training Center under the guise they were there for a tour of the facility. Little did they know, their favorite player had a ton of surprises in store, starting by getting in on a group photo to start the day. Evans then personally led them around the facility, showing them where he trains and even giving out signed football cards straight from his locker. Evans then took the boys out to the indoor facility where inflatables and games had been set up. It of course, turned into Evans launching deep passes in one-on-one drills with the boys and they couldn’t have loved it any more.
After all that, everyone settled into the dining room for pizza and ice cream, but Evans still wasn’t done. He had saved the auditorium for last, where upon walking in, the boys saw a whole holiday setup complete with gaming systems and swag for each one of them.
“Being able to be in this position to give back and seeing their faces light up is the best thing for me, how they react to what me and my family are able to do for them is awesome,” Evans reflected on the week. “Now that I’m in the position that I’m in, I’m just happy that me and my family can give now. It’s one of my favorite things to do.”
“This is my favorite time of year, especially now that we are able to give back,” Evans’ wife Ashli added. “We try to give back as much as possible and this time of year makes it really special and we try to do the best we can.”
Defensive Tackle Gerald McCoy Launches Patricia Diane Foundation
Fresh off his Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination, Gerald McCoy launched his Patricia Diane Foundation, named for his mother and in honor of single-parent households, on Friday night.
“Patricia’s Mission Night” was put on at T.Pepin’s Hospitality event center and included a live auction where McCoy’s teammates auctioned off their own signed jerseys. Ten players were in attendance to support their veteran lineman, wanting to recognize all the good he does for the Tampa Bay community.
“This is an amazing event,” fellow defensive tackle Beau Allen said. “You see Gerald was just recently nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award and you can’t really say enough about how big of a deal that is. He’s done a lot in his career on the field but that’s kind of the highest honor you can receive off the field. I think he absolutely deserves it.”
Though this was his first event on behalf of his new foundation, McCoy has been a staple in the Tampa Bay community for his efforts. His latest venture in the community is his involvement with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Board. The Social Justice Initiative is a player-led program that aims to create real change in the Tampa Bay community and Gerald was one of the first to volunteer to serve. He participated in the program’s inaugural event at the Tampa Police Citizens Training Academy, where he led a candid, and at times uncomfortable, discussion with law enforcement about issues facing society today. He also shared his testimony along with words of hope and encouragement at the Zephyrhills Correctional Institution this past Tuesday with the program.
Additionally, McCoy has various repeat efforts in place. Since 2012, he’s led the entire defensive line’s involvement in their “D-Line Delivers Christmas” holiday event that provides hundreds of families with holiday gifts and experiences. He's also implemented his “McCoy Family Christmas” annual event in 2013 where he and his family give back to single-parent households.
“He does so much for people,” Allen continued. “I think the big thing lately, people get a lot of attention, they go out of their way to look for praise. I don’t think Gerald is that kind of guy. He just does stuff because he’s a good dude. I think that’s what this thing is all about. It’s an awesome event. I hope it shines a light on Gerald and his new foundation and raises some money for a great cause.”
It meant a lot to McCoy that his teammates supported him. Among those in attendance were Allen, left tackle Donovan Smith, wide receiver Mike Evans, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and more.
“I’m very excited,” Allen said of being able to support McCoy’s efforts. “We have each other’s backs on and off the field, too.”
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and his family Host 40 Bay-area single-parent families for the McCoy Family Christmas
After surprising the families as they were taken on a tour of AdventHealth Training Center, McCoy, through his Patricia Diane Foundation, had secured items from each family’s wish list unbeknownst to them and had the presents set up with individual Christmas trees for each family inside the indoor facility. He led each family into the darkened building before flipping on the lights and revealing the tree setup, creating a Christmas-morning-like atmosphere for families that may not have one, otherwise.
There was food and fun, but it was all about family as McCoy and his family continued their annual tradition.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson continued his Shop with a Jock Annual Event
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson spent an evening taking kids on a holiday shopping spree to get the items on their wish list. Jackson took 35 children from A Kid’s Place to Walmart on Tuesday night, as well. A Kid’s Place provides foster care and loving homes for abused, neglected or abandoned children in the Tampa Bay area.