For an afternoon at least, Jon Gruden gave up his title of youngest NFL head coach - and his air horn - to five-year-old Jake Beausir
At 39, Jon Gruden is the youngest head coach in the National Football League. On Friday, however, as Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished up a week of practice, he deferred that title to five-year-old Jake Beausir. Jake, a Kids' Wish wish recipient, was named honorary head coach for the day by the Bucs' head man.
In his role as honorary head coach, Jake observed the Bucs' 90-minute workout from the sideline, then met individually with some of the team's key players after practice. Best of all, Jake was given the duty of blowing the air horn that signals the end of practice.
"I can't speak enough about what it means to him," said Mike Beausir, Jake's father. "He's been excited about it ever since he heard and he's talked about it everyday. He's been nothing but excitement and smiles all day long."
Jake, who was born with bilateral retinoblastoma (cancer of the retinas), blew the horn to end practice, then hustled over to the awning behind One Buccaneer Place to get out of a light rain that had begun to fall. Jake was soon joined by a contingent of Buccaneers led by Warren Sapp, one of Jake's favorite players.
Sapp talked and joked with Jake, brightening the day as the rain grew a bit harder. Several minutes into their chat, Jake presented the Buccaneer defensive tackle with a drawing that he had made of the two of them together. The picture was inscribed, simply, "To Mr. Sapp, Love Jake."
Sapp accepted the picture and told Jake he had something for the boy in return. As Sapp disappeared into the Bucs' locker room, several of his teammates joined Jake on the patio, signing his jersey and football.
Sapp then returned from the locker room with his special gift for Jake: a necklace with a Saint Sebastian medallion on it. As the Buccaneer explained to his new friend, someone had given the medallion to him as a gift, and now he was passing it on to Jake because he believed it would, "Protect you from harm."
Jake's smile grew a hundred watts brighter with Sapp's gift, but he still had visits from Mike Alstott and Coach Gruden on the way.
Alstott, whose jersey Jake was wearing, spent several minutes with the youngster talking about football and sports before signing Jake's jersey and ball and handing him another keepsake.
"It's my lucky coin and the picture will be in my locker this Sunday," said Alstott. "Meeting Jake was great. It put a smile on his face and that puts a smile on my face and it's a great day when that happens."
With all of the players hitting the showers or studying practice film, Jake had one final visitor to spend some time with. Coach Gruden presented the special visitor with a gift bag that included the air horn that he had blown to end practice. The gift was inscribed with the words: "To Jake – My Main Man – Coach Gruden."
Gruden told Jake that he should be careful where he uses the horn, most notably advising him not to blow it in the house or in his sister's ear. Jake nodded seriously and set the horn aside, then presented Gruden with another of his pictures, this one featuring Jake, Gruden, Sapp and Alstott all standing together, over an inscription that read, "To Coach Gruden- Thank You for Making My Wish Come True – Love, Jake."
Gruden assured Jake that the picture would always have a place in his office. As Gruden turned to head to his office, Jake found the air horn and blew it one final time for the coach. Said Gruden with a smile, "I told you it was loud."
As the day wound to a close, Jake gave his assessment of the visit.
"It was cool," said Jake.
Jake's Buccaneer adventure wasn't quite over at the end of the visit. The Bucs' honorary coach and his family will also be guests of the team at this Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.
A Story of Respect
After visiting with Jake at One Buccaneer Place and attending a meeting with the NFL Players Association, Buccaneers Pro Bowl LB Derrick Brooks headed out to Mount Vernon Elementary School in St. Petersburg.
At the school, Brooks spoke to approximately 100 parents and honor roll students about the importance of education and treating others with respect. To help emphasize his point, Brooks told a poignant story about his own elementary school experience. Brooks revealed to the audience that, although he was generally a good student, he used to goof off all of the time after finishing his work.
In short, he had no respect for his teachers, once his schoolwork was done, Brooks said. That changed when the future Buccaneer learned the hard way about the importance of respecting others. As Brooks described to the rapt audience at Mount Vernon, his father taught him that lesson by coming to school and disciplining him in front of his entire fifth grade class.
"It made me realize how important respect for other people is," said Brooks. "And from that day on, I've tried to treat people how I wanted to be treated."
In addition to that lesson, Brooks implored the students to be leaders and to not be afraid of failure. "Just because you fail doesn't mean you're a failure," he told the assembled students. "You're only a failure if you stop trying."
Brooks also applauded the parents in attendance, telling them that there is nothing more important than parental support for any child.
After addressing the crowd for nearly 30 minutes, Brooks assisted with the distribution of the Principal and Honor Roll certificates for the students in attendance.