DT Anthony McFarland provides young students with the materials they need to pass the tests of life
At six-foot, 300 pounds, wearing a red jersey across his broad chest, the man at the podium didn't look like your standard library aide.
Fact is, this wasn't your standard library aide, though he stood amid hundreds of books looking to help the 50 Van Buren Middle School students assembled around him. The man at the podium was Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Anthony "Booger" McFarland, and this was another important gathering in the star football player's "Booger's Bucs Can Wait" program. Later in the day, McFarland did the same thing in the auditorium of the nearby Franklin Middle School.
"Booger's Bucs Can Wait" works with Hillsborough County Middle Schools to educate kids on the importance of making informed decisions about issues such as smoking, drinking, using drugs and relationships. Each year, McFarland adopts two middle schools to which he presents a video, passes out informational material and answers questions about how to handle the decision-making process in a responsible manner.
The program is part of McFarland's "I Can Wait Foundation," which encourages teenagers to get the facts before they make decisions that can have a lasting impact on their lives. As a bonus to those who participate in the "Booger's Bucs Can Wait" program, students who take the "I Can Wait" pledge can earn the opportunity to attend a regular season Buccaneers home game as a part of McFarland's invited group.
McFarland will make regular visits to his two adopted schools this year. His first visit to the two schools focused on the goals of his foundation, how McFarland plans to work with the students throughout the school year and what he expects from them.
McFarland, who graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in Business Management, about the path to achieving success.
"Not everyone will play professional sports," said McFarland, "but everyone can be successful."
McFarland's program touches on four major stumbling blocks on the path to success: drugs, alcohol, tobacco and relationship difficulties. The program tends to resonate with the young students because the Buccaneer doesn't belittle their intelligence or decision-making abilities. Rather than telling them 'to just say no,' the 25 year-old NFL star encourages his students to get the facts before they act.
"A teacher doesn't give a test without first giving you the material," said McFarland. "So how are you going to take the test of life without the materials you need to make intelligent decisions?"
The students in both the Van Buren library and the Franklin auditorium enjoyed McFarland's presentation and are eagerly anticipating his next visit, when he will show the video and unveil the pledge cards that go along with the program.
"Kids relate well to Anthony because they see him on T.V. and know the level of success he has achieved," said Van Buren Middle School Principal Vince Aguero. "The students we currently have are going through the exact same problems that he had to deal with at their age and it helps for them to hear a prominent voice in the community that cares about the decisions they make. If he can help just one student make the right choices that will make a tremendous difference."
For more information on McFarland's "I Can Wait" Foundation, please visit www.icwfoundation.org.
Prostate Cancer Screening
McFarland wasn't the only Buccaneer trying to help people make good decisions on Tuesday, though wide receiver Keenan McCardell was reaching out to a much different audience than his defensive teammate. While McFarland was speaking with students, McCardell was encouraging the older generation – some who may have been McFarland's student's fathers – to pay attention to their health and make the decision to get annual prostate exams.
McCardell joined forces with the Prostate Cancer Education Council (PCEC) and University Community Hospital to help encourage men over the age of 45 to get their prostate checked, as prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
"We want to get people out here and get their screening done early, just in case they get diagnosed with it," said McCardell. "I just want to help out and let people know that I'm out here taking the test. I at least want to get the awareness out there for people to come in and get the screening."
At the event, McCardell signed autographs, mingled and took pictures with the patients and staff. The 33 year-old receiver also decided it was time for him to get checked, as he took part in the blood test portion of the screening.
"It's real important that you stay on top of it," said Dr. John Koval of UCH. "It's an easy thing to do. The blood test is easy, the digital exam is easy and between the two of them it's going to get picked up 99% of the time. And if it's caught early it can be cured very easily."
In addition to the reduced-cost screenings, twelve lucky men who got screened at University Community Hospital won a pair of tickets each to the October 6 Buccaneers game against the Indianapolis Colts.
For more information on where you can get your prostate screening or to schedule an appointment please visit www.PCAW.com or call University Community Health at 813.615.7300 to schedule an appointment.