A sea of black and yellow filled the Blake High School gymnasium last Friday afternoon. The Yellow Jacket football team huddled at center court as the school band played loudly, but it was the delivery of an unexpected gift that created enough excitement to bring the gym crowd to its feet.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph delivered the surprise gift, showing up unannounced at the school's homecoming pep rally. The cheers ringing in his ears and the familiar beat of the school and reminded Joseph of his high school days in Hallandale, Florida, where he was a four-year starter in football and an all-state selection, as well as a state heavyweight wrestling champ.
"It's been pretty rowdy," Joseph said. "It takes me back to when I was in high school getting ready for homecoming and showing team spirit."
Joseph did his part to spike that team spirit by providing a special contribution to the Blake football team.
"We are donating $10,000 towards their equipment to refurbish their weight room here," Joseph said. "It's going towards something that all athletic programs can use, to be able to compete at a higher level. It's important for young men to be able to develop, and we're just trying to get them the tools they need."
Beyond his financial contribution, the professional football player has taken an active role with Blake's varsity football team by sponsoring pregame meals, regularly attending games and inviting the young players to come watch him on the Raymond James Stadium gridiron.
Joseph's impact has been felt by everyone in the Blake program.
"It's great having someone that's made it, that's been through what we've been through and they've made it as far as the NFL, and they're successful in the NFL," said sophomore center Josh Vizcaino. "It's a really great feeling to know that [Joseph] cares enough for us to come and help us when he doesn't have to, but he wants to."
Blake Head Coach Harry Hub, who is entering his 35th year coaching and his third year at Blake, was not only grateful for Joseph's efforts to improve their weight room, but also for the positive influence he has had on a group of impressionable young men.
"They have somebody to look up to and [can] personally say, 'I know him; I met him; I shook hands with him,'" Hub said. "He's doing something for our school. That's special, very special."
Joseph is certainly a good role model for the young Yellow Jacket players. His generous contributions in the Bay area include coaching children through football and fitness drills at the West Tampa Boys & Girls Club; initiating "Turkey Time with the O-Line" to provide over 1,600 needy families with Thanksgiving meals; distributing toys to pediatric patients at the Shriners Hospital for Children; and providing charitable groups with tickets to Buccaneers' home games. Joseph is the Buccaneers' spokesman for the NFL/United Way's "LIVE: UNITED" campaign to help promote volunteerism and service throughout the community.
This fall, he can add the Yellow Jackets to his list of community endeavors.
"I've done a lot over the years, but what I really want to do now is work with athletic groups in public schools and with Blake High School," Joseph said.
Though Joseph's donation at Blake will be used primarily to improve the equipment in the football team's weight room, the philanthropic player hopes to make more than just an economical impact on the team.
"It's just been nothing but a heck of a ride," said Joseph. "[It's been] nothing but fun, helping some kids that need help."