For some time, Tampa Bay Buccaneers guard Davin Joseph searched for the right way to put his stamp on the Tampa community, to reach out to those in need in a way that felt meaningful. He combed the Bay area for a place he knew his contributions would be uplifting.
In August of 2011, Joseph found himself at Blake High School, more specifically in the weight room for the Yellow Jackets' athletic programs. Gazing around the facility and taking in the state of the equipment, he knew something had to be done.
Joseph had found what he was looking for.
Students and faculty at Blake High School had told the Buccaneer lineman about the broken weights and rusted equipment in their facility in a manner that, on the surface, seemed particularly harsh. As Joseph would see for himself, every word was true.
This Wednesday afternoon, Joseph was back at Blake High, accompanied by a group of people that included Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, standing in front of the door to the school's brand new weight room. That door was a passageway to a new beginning, a fresh start for student-athletes both present and future who will walk the halls of Blake High.
"I'm jealous of the underclassmen because I'm not going to get to take advantage of the equipment," said Michael Alvarez, a senior swimmer at Blake. "People don't realize how important this weight room is because of the sports. Everyone uses it, everyone builds their endurance in here, everyone builds muscle. Football players use it for their training, and swimmers, who you wouldn't expect, use it.
"It really wasn't up to par before, and now we've got state-of-the-art equipment, and it changes everything."
The revitalizing of the weight room at Blake High School was the result of a promise Joseph had made to the school earlier in the year, when he surprised the students and staff at their Homecoming Pep Rally by presenting a check for $10,000.
With the new equipment and machines in place, it was clear Joseph had touched the lives of both students and faculty alike, as smiles filled the room when the first tour of the weight room got underway.
"It has been a project I have really been looking forward to from the beginning," Joseph said. "This is a project that can definitely help all sports improve and be competitive – giving Blake something they can be proud of and something they can use. This is another tool they can use to help grow. This is just one part of many things to come here and I am just really excited about it."
Mayor Buckhorn witnessed the generosity of Joseph as he observed the facility as well, saying he believed somewhere along the way there was a coach, a mentor or a teacher who helped Joseph get him to where he is. That mentor motivated him to be the NFL star that he is and likely also planted the seeds for Joseph's ongoing commitment to giving back to the community..
"He is empowering young people, he is empowering Blake High School, and he is giving young athletes an opportunity to improve themselves," Buckhorn said.
The much-needed facelift Joseph brought to Blake High School could pay dividends in the future when it comes to attracting new students to their school, simply because of the competition it faces in their area from the likes of Plant, Jefferson and Robinson High Schools.
Students have a choice of where they would like to go to school, so Blake High School Principal Jacqueline Haynes hopes the revamped weight facility will attract students. However, she notes that none of the school's goals would be possible without the help of Joseph.
"It means the world," Haynes said. "The fact that he chose us, that he is giving back to the community, and that he has an interest in student-athletes and this school; it means so much to us. If we could have more people like Davin helping us to reach our goals, it would be fantastic. His generosity, his sincerity, it just means a lot to us."
Joseph sees the positive effects his aid is having on the kids at Blake High, and that only increases his desire to continue helping the less-fortunate in his community.
"This isn't something that I just look forward to doing because I play football, but it is because it is something I want to do," Joseph said. "I look forward to fulfilling those partnerships throughout the community, and helping me help others."