The Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicked off their 2012 preseason home opener on Friday by thanking fans for their support with a special pregame recognition ceremony.
In an effort to welcome everyone back to Raymond James Stadium for the 2012 season, the team presented 90 randomly-selected Buccaneers fans with customized jerseys prior to kickoff. The NFL and the Buccaneers worked with Nike to create special team jerseys for the fans.
"It's great," said Dean Sherwood, one of the lucky fans selected for the ceremony. "We are big Bucs fans, we love coming to games and it is very cool that they have this fan appreciation."
Friday's Fan Appreciation effort was part of an NFL "Back to Football" tradition that began last season. The Buccaneers and the 31 other NFL teams held similar pregame celebrations around the league at their respective home openers. The Back to Football celebration was another way that the team has recently impressed Buccaneer faithful with its efforts to engage with the Bay area community.
"I think the organization is doing a great job in reaching out," said Jeff Ortmeier, who received a jersey along with his son, Alex. "What the organization is doing with their community is fantastic."
In addition to being presented with jerseys, the fans were invited onto the field, where they welcomed the 2012 squad onto the field during the pregame introductions.
The Back to Football campaign works as a bridge from training camp into the regular season, as millions across the country celebrate the return of NFL football. For Friday's participants at Raymond James Stadium, the chance to join the team and help kick off the home season was an experience they won't soon forget.
"It's awesome," said Alex Ortmeier. "Go Bucs!"