WR Fabian Davis gives a young YMCA member a lift as they both work to complete a wall mural
The Central City YMCA in downtown Tampa is already quite crowded during the late afternoon hours of any given day, so when T Anthony Davis, WR Fabian Davis, TE Will Heller, C Austin King, G Sean Mahan, LB Ryan Nece, S Jermaine Phillips and LB Justin Smith – that's 2,015 pounds of Tampa Bay Buccaneer – invaded the club on Tuesday, the main hallway was clogged for hours.
No one minded. Those eight Buccaneers joined 50 kids from the YMCA's after-school program and seriously brightened up the place during the NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle. The Hometown Huddle is an annual event that features NFL players from all 32 NFL cities pairing with their local United Way organizations, and it is one of the most significant community events the team attends each year.
This year the Buccaneers literally helped to brighten up the Central City YMCA, lending a hand in the painting of several murals on the club's walls. The base pictures were drawn before dawn by Jamel and David McClain of Melavi Scenes Inc., and the players and kids then split into teams and put their considerable energies into making the artwork come to life.
"I know the kids are looking forward to it and it's a way for me to get my mind off of everything that happened (Monday) night and to give back," said Phillips, hours after the Bucs' 38-35 overtime loss to the Colts. "Just seeing these smiles on these kid's faces is more than enough for me."
As the painting began, the hallway turned into something resembling rush-hour traffic, but this traffic jam was punctuated by giggles, not horns. Everyone worked together to complete the murals, some painting with sponges, some painting with brushes, others holding the palates of paint for their friends or refilling paint buckets.
In addition to Buccaneer and United Way logos, the kids painted different characters and words onto the walls, representing the values that the YMCA tries to instill in all of its members. The words chosen were caring, faith, honesty, respect and responsibility.
The theme of this year's NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle is "A Call to Action" and on Tuesday, the Buccaneers and their young helpers answered that call. Fabian Davis went above and beyond, allowing himself to be used as a human ladder. Davis set one of the students on his shoulders so that he would be able to paint the tallest portions of the murals.
Fabian wasn't the only Buccaneer that provided an extra lift. Smith, one of the Buccaneers' most community-oriented players, had his yellow team up and down the hallway painting everything they could get their brushes and sponges on.
"Anytime you can go into the community, especially when there are kids, you really can't say no," said Smith. "It's hard to come around here and have a bad attitude when you have all of these kids that really don't even know what happened last night. They're just happy to see somebody that's with the Buccaneers. We're here just having fun.
"Plus, the yellow team is the best team here. They gave me the youngest kids, the ones that have the most energy and we definitely showed that."
It should come as no surprise that most of the Buccaneers in attendance believed their group of kids to be the best. In the end, the only thing that really mattered was that everyone had fun and the walls of the Central City YMCA were given new life.
"It's all about the kids," said United Way of Tampa Bay President & CEO Diana Baker. "It's all about the kids having the opportunity to meet people that they look up to in the community, to see them giving volunteer time, because they don't have to be here. It inspires the kids to want to grow up and be like that, to offer themselves to their communities."