At the inaugural Sneaker Soiree event in May, celebrating excellence in sports business in the Bay area, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were honored for putting on the "Individual Game Promotion of the Year."
The specific event that drew the voters' attention took place at the Buccaneers' 2010 season opener and was entitled "Military Appreciation/Season Opener: Soldier Reunion." On an afternoon in which the team paid tribute to all the men and women in the U.S. military, one stunned family was treated to an emotional surprise homecoming of a U.S. Army sergeant stationed overseas.
This was indeed a special event, and one that drew sustained applause and chants from the rest of the crowd. However, giving their fans something extra – and often something unexpected – is a goal for the Buccaneers at every game played at Raymond James Stadium.
In 2011, the Buccaneers have a long list of gameday enhancements teed up for their fans at the stadium, as well as a series of collection drives aimed at helping those in need in the Bay area community. Most of the games at Raymond James Stadium this year have a specific theme that will make the experience of watching the Bucs in action even more entertaining for those in attendance.
Here's a look at what Buccaneer fans can expect at various home games this summer and fall:
* Miami at Tampa Bay, 8/27: USA Football
The Buccaneers are partnering with Pop Warner to give Buc fans a glimpse at the stars of the future!
The pregame ceremonies before the Dolphins-Buccaneers tilt will feature a ceremonial coin toss involving youth players from local Pop Warner leagues. The same young gridiron giants will then lead the Buccaneers team out of the tunnel during pregame introductions. Between halves, fans will be treated to what is annually one of the most popular halftime diversions: Youth football exhibition games. The Pop Warner teams will also be cheered on by a squad of Junior Cheerleaders.
For Pop Warner, the Miami-Tampa Bay contest will serve as a nationwide kickoff event for the organization's 2011 season. Nearly half a million children in 42 states and several nations abroad, ranging in ages from five to 16, participate in Pop Warner's programs every year, and the Bucs-Dolphins game will serve as a nice reminder that their season is about to begin, too.
Since August is also "USA Football Month," the Buccaneers will also recognize USA Football, the official youth football development partner of the NFL. Every year, USA Football educates tens of thousands of youth football coaches on how to play the game safely and successfully.
* Detroit at Tampa Bay, 9/11: 9/11 Tribute and Military Drive
On the 10th anniversary of the unforgettable terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Buccaneers will join their fans in remembering those who lost their lives during the attacks and paying tribute to those who displayed bravery and sacrifice in the aftermath.
The Buccaneers will enlist the help of the local military for the 9/11 tribute, beginning with a Jump Team parachuting into the stadium during the pregame ceremonies and following with a stirring flyover. During the ceremonies, the Buccaneers will be taking a live feed from the crash site of United 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The brave actions of 40 passengers and crew members aboard United 93 thwarted the intended attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Fittingly, the team will seek to help servicemen and women deployed overseas by hosting a Military Drive at all the entrance gates prior to the game. Fans will be asked to donate coffee, hygiene items, nonperishable food and new or slightly-used CDs and DVDs.
The Buccaneers will also pay tribute to First Responders Day, honoring fire fighters, policemen and women and others who serve and protect the community.
At halftime, an Induction Ceremony will be held on the field. This event, which always draws a big reaction from the Raymond James Stadium crowd, will mark the beginning of a rewarding career in the military for dozens of dedicated men and women.
- Atlanta at Tampa Bay, 9/25: Fútbol Americano and School Supply Drive
Coinciding with Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), the Buccaneers will join an NFL-wide effort to celebrate players and fans of Hispanic heritage. The occasion will be marked at Raymond James Stadium with Fútbol Americano banners gracing its interior façade and components of the NFL's Fútbol Americano programming.
Also on this game day the Buccaneers will conduct their annual School Supply Drive, which is aimed at making sure all students in the Bay area have the necessary tools to succeed in school.
* Indianapolis at Tampa Bay, 10/3: Breast Cancer Awareness
The return of Monday Night Football to Raymond James Stadium for the first time since 2003 will coincide with the return of pink highlights to the Buccaneers' uniforms.
For several seasons, the NFL has thrown itself fully into the breast cancer awareness cause by allowing players to replace portions of their uniform accessories at specific games with eye-catching pink versions. Many Buccaneer players embraced the opportunity last year – who can forget Aqib Talib's ankle-to-knee pink socks?
At halftime, fans will be entertained by a musical number performed by a dance group of cancer survivors and family members of survivors. This inspiring group will be led through their routine by the Buccaneers' own cheerleaders. Breast cancer survivors will also lead the Buccaneers from the tunnel during pregame introductions.
* New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 10/16: Pet Supply Drive
While there is no specific theme set for this game, the team will hold one of its collection drives, this one aimed at providing food, care and comfort for the many animals in need in our community. As always, the Buccaneers will partner with the local chapters of the Humane Society to maximize the impact of this drive.
* Houston at Tampa Bay, 11/13: MacDill Air Force Appreciation Day, All-Star Cheerleading and Food Drive
In honor of the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, the Buccaneers will pay tribute to the countless men and women who have called it home as they have served our country.
At halftime, fans will get a special treat with an All-Star Cheerleading performance. A group of 10 local cheer and dance teams will take the field to perform a dance choreographed by the Buccaneers' own cheerleaders. Then, each of the 10 groups will showcase their own choreography with separate numbers.
Prior to the game, the Buccaneers will hold a Food Drive designed to provide supplies to local food banks and charitable organizations prior to the holiday season. Fans will be urged to bring non-perishable food items with them to the game in order to help out those who might otherwise go hungry on the holidays.
* Carolina at Tampa Bay, 12/4: Throwback Game
In what is rapidly becoming one of the most anticipated dates on the Buccaneers' calendar, the team will hold its third annual Throwback Game in Week 13 when the Panthers come to town.
Buccaneers players and coaches will once again trade in their red-and-pewter togs for uniforms and accessories based on what the inaugural team of 1976 wore. The brilliant orange and white uniforms have been painstakingly replicated from that first season and were first unveiled in 2009 to glowing reviews. Moreover, the Buccaneers take the Throwback concept to the extreme, transforming the entire stadium into an orange-clad echo of the '70s. In each of the last two years, fans have gotten into the act as well, turning the RJS stands into a sea of orange. Click here to read more about this year's Throwback Game.
At halftime, former Pro Bowl tight end Jimmie Giles will be the third player inducted into the team's Ring of Honor, joining Hall of Fame defensive end Lee Roy Selmon and legendary Head Coach John McKay. Giles will be honored during a ceremony on the field, after which his name will be unveiled on the stadium's upper façade.
* Dallas at Tampa Bay, 12/17: Play60 and Toys for Tots Drive
The NFL's Play60 initiative, which grows in scope and influence every year, is aimed at convincing the nation's children of the importance of physical activity and good health. As a nod to this initiative, the Buccaneers will recognize the local winners of the NFL's Punt, Pass & Kick competition, who will then go on to compete in national events during the playoffs. The Play60 program will also be celebrated through a variety of pregame elements.
As always, the Buccaneers will also team with the U.S. Marines to conduct the annual Toys for Tots drive. As it sounds, this drive is meant to bring holiday joy to children in the Bay area who might otherwise not receive gifts. With the help of Tampa Bay fans, this will mark the 35th year the Glazer Family Foundation, Buccaneers fans and the Marine Corps have united to bring smiles to the faces of children during the holiday season.