Four young women with dreams of making a positive impact in the sports world are a step closer to turning that into a reality thanks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation today revealed the inaugural recipients of the Buccaneers Girls in Football Scholarship, a first-of-its-kind academic scholarship program designed to benefit graduating female high school football players pursuing a career in sports. The four 2020 scholarship winners – Lorraine Angelakos (Brown University), Tatiana Maker (Central Florida), Jade Rayburn (Florida State University) and Janae Scott (Florida Southern College) were delivered the news by Buccaneers players Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, Mike Evans and O.J. Howard, who made surprise appearances in the virtual interview process to congratulate the recipients.
"There are so many girls and women with a passion for football, yet there is limited exposure to the many kinds of opportunities that exist for them to follow their passion into a career," said Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, Buccaneers Co-owner. "We want to bridge that gap and provide better avenues for women in this pursuit. These scholarship recipients are dedicated to being difference makers and we're proud to support them as they take the next step to achieving their goals."
The Girls in Football Scholarship, made possible through a $250,000 commitment from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation, was established for graduating high school seniors participating in a form of football (flag, tackle, touch) with plans to enroll in a full-time accredited four-year college or university. Candidates were required to have earned a minimum 3.0 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) during their high school academic career and were asked to submit essays on how they planned to use their future career to make a positive impact in the sports industry.
Rayburn, an Alonso High School alum where she helped lead their flag football team to two state championships, shares with her fellow recipients the aforementioned goal: make a difference in sports. Rayburn herself will be pursuing a career in marketing and business development at Florida State University with ambitions of working with the NCAA to establish girl's flag football as an official collegiate sport.
Angelakos, a Pompano Beach High School alum attending the Ivy League's Brown University, has her sights set on a career as a sports and entertainment lawyer. She hopes to bring an innovative mindset to athlete representation while increasing athlete engagement with the non-profit sector.
Scott, who is from Tallahassee and attended Florida State University High School, is attending Florida Southern University. An avid football and soccer fan, she plans to pursue a career in professional sports before becoming a personal trainer, opening a fitness studio and training student athletes in need of coaching and mentorship.
Maker, a former teammate of Angelakos at Pompano Beach High School, wants to pursue the legal field as a future civil rights attorney. Currently attending the University of Central Florida, she has the long-term goal of creating policies that will bring equality to work environments and close the wage gap between men's and women's professional athletics.
"The gender stereotypes that everyone has in place are being broken down because people are expanding scholarships such as the Bucs, the first to offer a scholarship for flag football" said Maker. "It shows that people are changing, things are changing, and female athletes are going to have more access to financial aid."
Rayburn is no stranger to the Buccaneers' efforts in the realm of girls in football. She participated in both Preseason Classic tournaments held at the team's AdventHealth Training Center and played in the first 'Friday Night Lights' matchup between flag football powerhouses Alonso and Robinson High Schools.
"This is what this sport needs," Rayburn said of the game. "This is how it should always be. It was just awesome."
"I think what the Bucs have done is what so many other NFL teams need to do," added Rayburn. "They need to realize this sport needs the exposure, they need to say this is real. They need someone to let them know to start watching it. Just knowing that I got a scholarship doing something that means so much to me, it means everything."
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Girls High School Flag Football Preseason Classic is the largest girls flag football tournament in the country. A four-day event at the Buccaneers' AdventHealth Training Center, it brings together more than 50 high school teams and over 1,000 student athletes in a round robin-style competition.
The Preseason Classic and the Girls In Football Scholarship are just two of the ways the organization has been committed to growing the game of football and prioritizing gender equality. The team also established the Jr. Bucs Girls Flag Football League, a first-of-its-kind league in the City of Tampa, where the Foundation covers league fees and equipment for all girls who play. And through in-school programming, the Jr. Bucs Middle School initiative brings flag football to more than 35,000 middle school girls every year.
"It has to start somewhere," said Rayburn. "The Bucs have done an absolutely amazing job of representing us and what we stand for and proving that women in football deserve the same recognition as anyone else."