Though Will Gholston may be known by opponents as a menacing run stopper on the field – in the Tampa Bay community, it might be hard to find a bigger softie with a bigger heart than the six-foot-six defensive tackle, who's been with the Buccaneers since 2013.
This holiday season, Gholston and his family donated $60,000 to provide 920 families with Thanksgiving meals. Why 920 families, specifically? Well, Gholston wears number 92 on his jersey – but his vision was bigger than that. So, he added a zero and enlisted the help of Feeding Tampa Bay to make his vision come to life.
"I love their mission, their passion," Gholston said of the organization. "I wanted to find someone who would be able to help me do what I envisioned and that was to be able to feed 920 families this year."
Meals were distributed in four different locations throughout Tampa Bay on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Thanksgiving week. The largest distribution center was right here at Hillsborough Community College, near the team's training facility, where roughly 350 cars came through to collect full Thanksgiving meals.
Not only is Tampa home to Gholston and his family, but the cause is deeply personal for him. Originally a Detroit-native, Gholston went through periods of hunger and homelessness during his childhood. It doesn't feel right to ask for help, he recalled. That's why it was important for him to give those in need this holiday season an option with no questions asked, thereby removing barriers and making help more accessible.
"I remember having nothing to eat," Gholston said. "That's a tough situation. It's hard to ask. So, hopefully I took a little bit off some people's shoulders that now they don't have to ask – they can just show up."
Gholston also believes in the power of paying it forward. He's regularly referenced the village it took to raise him and how much help he's received throughout his journey. Now, he's in a position to help the community around him in a pretty full circle way and sees the potential for it to continue.
"I've made it in this situation, so why not pay it forward?" said Gholston. "Who knows? Somebody else in one of those cars may be able to do even more good down the road."
Gholston is no stranger to helping out both Tampa and his hometown of Detroit, either. Earlier this year, Gholston donated $225,000 to Moffitt Cancer Center to help support cancer health disparities research. He lost both his father and uncle to cancer and his mother is a breast cancer survivor. Gholston continues to serve as an ambassador for the Connection to Cancer program, a joint effort between the Buccaneers and Moffitt Cancer Center.