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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs & Young Athletes Celebrate USA Football Month

Youth football players led the Buccaneers out of the tunnel on Saturday night against Jacksonville and were recognized at halftime as part of USA Football Month


On Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrated the talents of athletes young and old with a tradition that has spread across the NFL: USA Football Month.

USA Football, the sport's national governing body on youth and amateur levels, was named the "Official Youth Football Development Partner" of the NFL, the NFL Players Association and all 32 NFL teams in 2009. To commemorate this partnership, August of 2010 is being recognized as USA Football Month, a celebration of the nonprofit organization's primary goal: to teach the game's fundamentals and further instill the sport's character-building values within the youth football community.

To celebrate this commitment to youth development, the Buccaneers and team mascot Captain Fear requested the help of some additional – albeit smaller – football players when taking the Raymond James Stadium field against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday. Before kickoff, twelve players from Pop Warner's Foundation for Youth Development led the Buccaneers out of the tunnel during team introductions, providing the youngsters with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stand alongside their NFL heroes during the national anthem.

During the coin toss that followed at midfield, the team honored four individuals who represented different levels of youth, amateur and professional football: Robert "Dean" Patterson, a third grade student at McKitrick Elementary School; Kyle Leppert, an eighth grade student at Terrace Community Middle School; B.J. Daniels, sophomore starting quarterback at the University of South Florida; and Lee Roy Selmon, the first inductee into the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"It was a very exciting experience for me," said Daniels, who was attending his first professional game in any sport.  "It's a great experience just to see the different levels of football. [Like] these little kids, I was definitely in their spot looking up to somebody, and now I'm a little older than them but I'm still looking up to these players out here and Lee Roy Selmon, trying to get to the level they're on."

At halftime, teams from the Zephyrhills Pasco Police Athletic League (Zephyrhills Bulldogs Junior Fly and Flyweight) and the Foundation for Youth Development (Palm Harbor Panthers and South Pasco Predators) were brought onto the field. Originally scheduled to participate in a scrimmage, their exhibition was postponed due to lightning, which had delayed the Buccaneers game for more than 30 minutes earlier in the night. Nonetheless, the Buccaneers provided a special moment of recognition for the young guests, who were dressed in full uniform and inspired hearty applause from the crowd.

Daniels believed the evening, and youth sports in general, would make a significant impact on the lives of the young visitors.

"Kids are very impressionable," noted Daniels, who also plays his home games at Raymond James Stadium. "Wherever you are, you want to make sure you're doing the right things, that you lead in the right direction, whether you're in between the lines or outside of the lines."

The participating teams represented more than 3,500 youth football players and coaches from West Central Florida invited to attend Saturday night's game for USA Football month.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host a wide variety of youth football programs throughout the year, including the Buccaneers' Play 60 Challenge, Gatorade Junior Training Camp and the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick program. These initiatives not only help children and their families enjoy the game of football, but also serve as a resource for coaches to help promote a positive experience for youth football participants.

The Buccaneers are dedicated to educating children and coaches about the National Football League and enhancing the skills of youth both on and off the field. For more information on the Buccaneers' youth football initiatives, visit

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