Rich McKay (left) has known Dr. Joseph Diaco since McKay was an aspring quarterback at Jesuit High School
In today's NFL, it is extremely rare for any person to spend an entire career with the same team.
In the early '90s, free agency ushered in constant player movement around the league, and it's a rare coach who remains in the same post for even a decade. As coaching crews and personnel departments change, so do their support staffs, so trainers, equipment managers and video staffers usually have more than one team on their resumes.
Then you have people like Tampa Bay Buccaneers team physician Dr. Joseph Diaco, the self-described Jock Doc.
Diaco hasn't spent his entire medical career with the Buccaneers, of course, but he has been the team's chief physician for practically its entire existence. When Diaco first joined the team in 1978 (he became the chief physician the next year), John McKay was the head coach, Ken Herock was the director of player personnel, Joe Gibbs was coaching the running backs, Wayne Fontes was in charge of the defensive backs and Bill Muir was fresh into the NFL as a talent scout.
Thus, the 2003 season is Dr. Diaco's 25th as the Buccaneers' chief team physician and his 26th year of association with the club overall. However, Diaco does far more than diagnose hamstring pulls and mend dislocated shoulders, and that's why he was in the Bank of America Building Tuesday evening to receive an important honor.
On Tuesday, Dr. Diaco was honored for his commitment to the Bay area by the Arthritis Foundation. The Foundation named him their Community Leader of the Year. The ceremony, which took place at the Tampa Club in the Bank of America Building, was chaired by Dr. Diaco's son Stephen and featured Buccaneers General Manager Rich McKay as the guest speaker.
Dr. Diaco is the Chief of Surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, where he currently practices general and laparoscopic surgery. He is also a clinical professor at the University of South Florida and the president of the Tampa Surgical Society.
McKay gave a heartfelt speech about what Dr. Diaco has meant to him and his family, but also found time to mention the NFL achievements of the tenured physician. The GM noted that Dr. Diaco has been on the sideline for 167 wins, as many as NFL coaching great Paul Brown, but that he's also been on the sidelines for 245 losses, which, one suspects, ranks as the most in NFL history.
McKay made special mention of the 1983-1987 seasons when the Buccaneers totaled 16 wins against 63 losses, cycled through three head coaches and still kept the same team physician.
"That just goes to show you how great of a doctor he really is," said McKay.
On a more serious note, McKay said he was proud to introduce the man that he has known since he was a young aspiring quarterback at Jesuit High School.
"I've been in this community a long time," said McKay, "and Joe is as good a guy as there is. Everyone knows Dr. Joe and everyone likes him. He does truly great work and he should be honored for that."
Dr. Diaco accepted his award and thanked everyone in attendance, especially his mother. "Mom, thank you for your dedication and being the force behind the Diaco family," he said.
"It is with a great deal of love, of satisfaction and gratitude that I accept this award tonight. It is very much appreciated and I'm honored. Thank you very much."
Shaun King at Academy Prep Grand Opening
In the summer of 2001, Buccaneers quarterback Shaun King hosted a civil rights program that included a trip to Washington, D.C. for students from local middle schools. One of those schools was Academy Prep in King's hometown of St. Petersburg. On Tuesday, Academy Prep hosted the grand opening of its new school in Ybor City and King was on hand to help the students and community celebrate the important addition to their program.
"Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be involved with the Academy Prep in St. Petersburg. I was so excited about the level that the kids were learning at and how excited and enthusiastic they were about learning that I wanted to be involved in this event, today," said King. "I have first-hand knowledge of what this school can do for young people and it's amazing."
Academy Prep is a private middle school (grades five through eight) for children who qualify for the Federal Free or Reduced Lunch Program and who have the ability and desire to succeed. All students attend Academy Prep on scholarships provided by individuals, corporations, and foundations. Students at the Center are guided to excel both in their studies and in their personal development.
King wasn't the only community figure on hand to help Academy Prep kick-off the school's opening. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio was also on hand to praise the efforts of the community in building the new Academy Prep school.
"This is one of those special days as Mayor," said Iorio. "When you see the community coming together in a very tangible and significant way, it makes Tampa a better place."
With the success of the school in St. Petersburg coupled with the support that they have received in regards to the new Tampa school, Academy Prep is also considering a new school in Brandon. King thinks that is a good idea.
"Academy Prep is something that is right in our community and right for our kids," said King. "The difference between success and failure is opportunity and Academy Prep is a great opportunity for any child."
For more information on Academy Prep and how one can contribute, please visit www.academyprep.org.