-The Bucs Social Justice Initiative launched their Youth Leadership program incorporating Hillsborough County students, players and staff on Tuesday night. The virtual event was held over zoom with 17 players, 25 staff mentors and 24 students from Hillsborough County. The initiative is just the beginning of a months-long program that has paired Buccaneer staff members with 'mentees' in order to help foster positive relationships and make a lasting impact on underserved youth. The program includes monthly events in which mentors, mentees and players get to have open discussions and dialogues with each other and it's something Social Justice Board Member Carlton Davis III is excited about doing.
"It was really fun – really just inspirational to get out and talk to those kids," he said Wednesday. "Of course, because of COVID guidelines, we could only do the Zoom – I much prefer in-person, but we have to respect the guidelines. Meeting those kids – just getting to talk to them and have dialogue with them, and seeing the way they talked with their mentors and being able to encourage them to speak up and really hear their voice. [It] was a thing of beauty to actually hear the voice of the youth and how they feel about things, and to just guide them so they can be the next leaders in this world. It was something that you can't even ask for – it's priceless. We have multiple events coming up like that. That was just the first of many and I can't wait to keep going."
-The Bucs are doing some good off the field and they're playing well on it, too. After the home win over the Green Bay Packers, the Bucs now face two prime time road contests, starting with the Raiders in Las Vegas this Sunday. Head Coach Bruce Arians spoke Monday about the new standard that has been set for the team and they're looking to carry it over to this week's practices.
"I think it's looking back and seeing how you got there [and] why did you play so well?" said Arians. "Again, I go back to last week's preparation. Thursday and Friday, there was just something special about the practice field. I didn't know if we were going to win, but I knew we were going to play well. My challenge is [that] we set a standard – can we match that standard this week in our preparation? So far, we have."
One player that acknowledged that standard – especially the one on the defensive side of the ball – was captain Lavonte David, who echoed Arians' sentiments also on Monday. That kind of continuity is important among team leadership. It gets everyone on the same page, especially because David is so highly regarded in the locker room.
"He's just a great leader – someone I personally look up to for his consistency, his composure [and] his longevity," Davis said of David. "He's been doing it for so long [and] he's been so consistent. Through the good and the bad years, he's always been himself. He's always been a guy that you can count on. Even my rookie year when things weren't going good, he was the same guy he is now. His popularity may not be what it should be, but this year, I definitely believe that he will get the respect that he deserves."
Those aforementioned primetime games should definitely help.
A player who returned to the spotlight this week was wide receiver Chris Godwin after he missed time with a hamstring injury. He said it will be a couple weeks yet before he feels 100% himself, but he's not worried about the offense in the meantime. Though it's been a rotation for quarterback Tom Brady, the offensive skill players are plentiful and the Bucs have proved they can win with any of them.
"I'm very encouraged by what I see," said Godwin. "When we were approaching this season, you could tell that we had something that was really special just from the talent that we had. We knew it was going to take some time to really mold and really get together as a unit, and we're still doing those things. But, just in the first couple weeks of the season, I think you guys are starting to see flashes of what we can be. I think even in the last game where our defense was so dominant, when we got the ball, we really made plays with the opportunities that we had. [We] scored frequently in the red zone – you see a lot of big plays [and] you see a lot of different guys making plays. With the things that we've been able to do so far, I'm really excited with where we're going. It's still going to take a lot of hard work, but I'm very, very optimistic about it."
One of those players who had helped fill in during Godwin's absence was rookie wide receiver Tyler Johnson, who caught his first NFL touchdown on Sunday against the Packers. He has gained the trust of his quarterback and why wouldn't he? He's learned from the best: Godwin and wide receiver Mike Evans.
"They've been very helpful from the day that I first stepped in the building," Johnson said of the pair. "They've been right here, taking me under their wing [and] they've been helping me become a professional athlete, whether that's me running out of my breaks, seeing different coverages [or] me knowing who to block and different looks. It's been a lot of the small things that people really don't get to see. I'm definitely going to continue to learn from those guys. Like you said, they're a bunch of great guys [and] I've got a lot of great guys in the receiving room that I'm learning from. It's definitely been very, very helpful and it's a blessing to be around them."