After a seven-day trip to London and a much-needed bye week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were hard at work again this week at One Buccaneer Place.
Other than a "bonus" session on Thursday, it was back to the normal routine for the Buccaneers and Head Coach Raheem Morris. That included another round of special visitors as part of the Buccaneers' ongoing High School Coach of the Week program, albeit with a little bit of a wrinkle this time around.
This Thursday, Morris welcomed three outstanding local coaches to the Bucs' state-of-the-art training facility, honoring each one as a Coach of the Week to cover the last three weeks. On hand to watch practice, get a tour of One Buc Place and receive their awards were Coach Reginald Roberts of Zephyrhills High, Coach Jason Stokes of Gaither High and Coach Ron Hawn of Tarpon Springs High.
Roberts, Stokes and Hawn all display a passion for the game of football and their school's program, but they share another common bond, as well: Each coach is new to his current school in 2011. At Zephyrhills, Gaither and Tarpon Springs, the transitions have gone extremely well. For outstanding performances with their new teams over the past three weeks, each coach earned the title of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Coach of the Week.
"I think this is a great honor," Stokes said. "I feel really privileged to receive this award. It just motivates me to accomplish even more with my team."
Stokes has led the Gaither High Cowboys to a 6-2 season so far, doubling last season's win total. The Cowboys are currently on a five-game winning streak and are undefeated in their conference. Perhaps the most impressive victory for the Cowboys this year was a recent 37-0 shutout win of Freedom High. Stokes was joined on his visit and the exclusive facility tour by Gaither Principal Marie Whelan and players Matt Williams, Carlo Perello, Logan Marshall and Matt Finnesy.
Roberts, who played for Zephyrhills High in the late 1980s, visited One Buc Place with his wife, Deborah, and players Jamal Roberts, Jake Smith, Adrian Sanchez and Jacob McLaughlin. He has returned to his alma mater in an exciting new role, as he is now the one calling the plays.
"One of the greatest moments of my life was playing football at Zephyrhills High School, and to return is a dream come true," Roberts said. "I came back to give back. I had a lot of good jobs before this, but this is a dream job. It's just awesome to return to Zephyrhills High School."
In his first year at the helm of the Zephyrhills Bulldogs, Roberts has already tripled the number of wins recorded in the preceding season. His 6-3 record – 5-1 in conference play – and recent 49-0 shutout win over Ridgewood High School has earned him the Coach of the Week Award.
Stokes and Roberts, along with Coach Hawn and guests, not only received a tour of the Buccaneers' headquarters, but also were awarded a signed certificate, Buccaneers hat and personalized football presented by Coach Morris. In addition, each coach was presented with a $1,000 donation to go towards their football programs.
"This is definitely a beautiful facility," Hawn said. "I've been to a couple other places around the league, but this place tops them all."
In his first year coaching at Tarpon Springs, Hawn has led the Spongers to a 6-3 record, 2-2 in conference play. Like Stokes and Roberts, Hawn has also recorded a shutout victory with his new team, in his latest win, 31-0 over Boca Ciega. Hawn, along with assistant coaches Mitch Disney, Jake Kinskey, John Cartiglia and Chris Sutters, joined the crews of Gaither High and Zephyrhills as this week's special guests.
The Buccaneers will honor 10 high school coaches from Central Florida during this year's prep football season. A Coach of the Year, who receives an additional $1,000 for his football program, will be selected from the 10 weekly winners at the end of the season. The Buccaneers and National Football League's Coach of the Week program aids in the development of youth football, which has a positive influence on young athletes and the communities in which they live.