There is nothing unusual about fifth-graders playing around outside, and professional football players are certainly used to running drills under the sun. When the two groups came together at Potter Elementary School on Tuesday for a little shared outdoor activity, however, it made for an unforgettable experience.
On their only day off during a busy week, five Tampa Bay Buccaneer players put on their coaching shoes and led more than 70 fifth grade students at the nearby school in a series of fun football drills as part of the NFL's Play 60 initiative. Like some of their own coaches back at One Buccaneer Place, these guys got right into the middle of the drills with their players.
"A few of my teammates and I came out today to work out some of these Potter Elementary kids," guard Davin Joseph said. "But I think that they are really working us out."
Joseph, along with defensive tackle Roy Miller, wide receivers Micheal Spurlock and Sammie Stroughter and tackle Jeremy Trueblood, joined the students for 60 minutes of football drills. Buccaneers cheerleaders, staff and Captain Fear also helped promote the Play 60 initiative's goal of getting the nation's children to spend at least one hour a day in physical activity.
"This is a blast," Trueblood said. "It's something that we look forward to doing. It's a lot of fun to give back. Football's a lot of fun, and all these kids are just out here having a good time."
For the past six months, the United Way of Tampa Bay has taken Potter Elementary and the surrounding community under its wing. Tuesday's event was just one of many ongoing activities implemented to encourage health and education among young students. For President and CEO Diana Baker, United Way of Tampa Bay's partnership with the Buccaneers is one that is unique and beneficial for impressionable youth.
"When these kids hear professional football players say, 'It's important for you to play hard and study hard and achieve your education,' it goes a long way with kids," Baker said. "These are messages that we could preach all day long, and it would fall on deaf ears, but when the Buccaneers players volunteer their time to come out and be with these kids and teach that it's not* instead* of your education, it's in addition to your education, that means something."
In addition to practicing their running, receiving and footwork abilities, the kids at Potter Elementary were also the recipients of a $10,000 contribution from the Buccaneers and NFL. The donation will help provide much-needed recreational equipment and educational resources to the public school in East Tampa that serves over 650 students, all of whom qualify for free lunch.
"This gives us an opportunity to really get some things that we may not be able to afford to purchase for ourselves and for the kids," said school Principal Kimberly Thompson. "Just having that huge donation will allow us to purchase sports equipment along with some books. Our goal is not only just to make them healthy on the outside, but get their brains working as well."
The donation, which will include a wide range of athletic supplies and educational texts, will help enrich the school's libraries and enhance students' daily physical activities.
"The Buccaneers have been generous enough to donate $10,000 to go towards academic supplies and athletic supplies," Joseph said. "We're here just showing them how to use the gifts that they're getting and just trying to keep things rolling around here so hopefully the things they've gotten can be used in a positive way."
Though the professional football players towered over the fifth-graders as they joined together for the drills, all involved displayed a childlike joy, having fun playing together in the Tampa heat.
"The players act like kids themselves," Principal Thompson said. "That has been fun to see. We're all big kids, and to really see them interact with my students has really touched me. They'll never forget this."
The Potter Elementary School community project is part of the Buccaneers' efforts for the 2011 "Hometown Huddle," which took place across the League on October 18. Established by the NFL and United Way in 1999, "Hometown Huddle" is an annual League-wide initiative that provides players, coaches and staff the opportunity to participate in day-long community service activities.