Rich McKay (left), Mike Tomlin (center) and Richard Bisaccia celebrate a rare point victory in the exhibition finals on Saturday
Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Aaron Stecker has quick feet and shifty hips, assets that help him avoid big hits on the gridiron. Even with all of that quickness and agility, however, Stecker was repeatedly brought to his knees by a collection of young Buccaneers fans at the third annual Bucs on the Beach event sponsored by Checkers.
The running back's helplessness was somewhat understandable, given that he was sitting on the Dunk Tank platform as excited youngsters – not to mention some teammates and a few Buccaneers Cheerleaders, the traitors! – fired footballs at a red bulls eye at his side. Each hit would send Stecker into the water-filled tank below.
Despite being the designated whipping boy for fans and friends, Stecker had a positive take on the afternoon. "I'm having a lot of fun," he said. "And it's for a good cause, so it's worth it."
The Checkers' Bucs on the Beach charity event featured a volleyball tournament, interactive games with Buccaneers players and a raffle for Buccaneers merchandise. All of the profits from the event will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Glazer Family Foundation. For the third straight year, it was a rousing success.
Stecker obviously recognized the value in his repeated dunking, but he wasn't so charitable when it came to evaluating his teammates' throwing abilities.
"Marco (Battaglia), Rob (Johnson) and Joe (Jurevicius) got me a couple of times, but the little kids out here throw better than they do," said a dripping-wet Stecker. "I'm surprised Martin (Gramatica) didn't come over and try to kick some at the bulls eye."
While the Buccaneers players focused on the interactive game portion of the event, the corporate volleyball teams were battling it out for supremacy on the beach.
The finals came down to a duel between the Bush-Ross team and the Lamb Weston team, with the Lamb Weston team eventually taking the title. Before they could hang up their trunks, however, the Lamb Weston team had one more challenge awaiting them.
After the competitive final, the day's much-anticipated final match-up was between the day's champion and a team made up of Buccaneers coaches and staff members. That plucky squad was captained by General Manager Rich McKay and also included Special Teams Coach Richard Bisaccia, Tight Ends Coach Art Valero, Defensive Backs Coach Mike Tomlin, Pro Scout Lloyd Lee, Assistant Video Director Pat Brazil and Trainer Pat Jernigan.
Buccaneer players couldn't participate in the volleyball portion of the event (more on that later), but they had a grand time meeting fans, participating in the interactive game stations and egging on the volleyball players.
"It's awesome," said Johnson. "Anytime you get to come out to the beach and make a contribution to two great charities, it's great."
Jurevicius, just signed this spring as an unrestricted free agent, was impressed by the obvious devotion of the fans and the ease with which they connect with the players.
"The fans here are truly fanatical," said new Bucs WR Joe Jurevicius. "I'm just excited to see how involved the fans are with the Bucs – that brings excitement to the field on Sunday. I've been around great fans (growing up in Cleveland and playing for the Giants), but it looks like this may be the cream of the crop here."
There's no truth to the rumor that Jurevicius said those things only because renowned Buccaneers fan "Big Nasty" was in his field of vision.
"Big Nasty," one of several Buc fans inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on an honorary basis, came dressed in his outrageous Buccaneers garb and face paint, and he also brought his appetite for Checkers hamburgers. That came in handy during the burger-eating contest, in which he easily put away six burgers in three minutes to become the champion..
After the burger-eating contest, Buccaneers safety Dexter Jackson replaced Stecker in the dunk tank and took his lumps (or dunks) with a spoonful of sugar.
"I had a great time," said Dexter Jackson. "I wanted to give the kids a chance to dunk one of the players that they root for and it was a great feeling to see the kids faces when the dunked me in the tank. This was a great event for a great cause."
And it wasn't over before a few Buc coaches and staffers tried their hands at serving, digging and spiking.
Even if the final game between the champs and the Buc reps was just an exhibition, the competitive juices were flowing and the game was a tense affair, with the crowd fiercely cheering on the team from One Buc Place. Chants of 'Let's go, Bucs!' and 'B-U-C-S, Bucs, Bucs, Bucs' erupted from time to time and the crowd also indulged in the Wave at one point.
"I'm having a blast," said Buccaneers fan Brett Cooper. "I'm a season ticket holder and I just wanted to meet the guys and shake their hands. It's just amazing what these guys do for the community."
At one point during the final game, Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin, egged on by Jackson, Shaun King, Dwight Smith, Nate Webster and Todd Yoder, argued with the linesman about a call before throwing his hat down in disgust and walking away Lou Piniella style.
In the end, the Lamb Weston team, consisting of teachers and students from Countryside High School, was just too much for the Bucs squad, taking a 15-8 victory.
"This was really exciting," said Dexter Rogers, the captain of the winning team, which also featured Jenn Stryjewski, Beverly Stasis, Brian Heath, Kaylyn Bayly and Rob Saltz. "All of us are big Bucs fans and it's nice to be able to come out and support the Buccaneers. We were all excited to play the coaches, too."
McKay jokingly gave his own post-game comments, unwilling to except complete defeat. "I felt we were a little rushed here," he said. "We didn't have an opportunity to really focus on our game and practice."
"Well, we were also overmatched," he admitted. "They were much more talented than us."
All kidding aside, McKay was impressed with Checkers' third annual Bucs on the Beach event.
"It was a ton of fun," said McKay. "It's always nice to come to an event like this, because you get to interact with the community and raise money for charity. Two pretty good things."
Yep, it was just an afternoon of fun in the sun. Or underwater, in Stecker's case.