“With the fifth pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Devin White, linebacker, LSU.”
Those words set into motion two journeys to Tampa Bay that have taken place in the past 24 hours. For Devin White, it meant realizing a lifelong dream of making it to the NFL. For the person that actually said the words, it meant a very special wish coming true.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is usually the one to announce each team’s pick on the first night of the NFL Draft each year. But Tampa Bay’s pick was different on Thursday night. Goodell relinquished the role to Wish Kid Kacey Reynolds, a lifelong Bucs fan, instead. Kacey was confident and poised in his announcement. He was so comfortable in front of the more than 200,000 fans in attendance, in addition to millions watching on television, that the Commissioner joked backstage that he could go take a nap and let Kacey read the rest of the selections for the night.
It had been Kacey’s wish to announce a draft pick for the Buccaneers, a wish that was facilitated by the Make-A-Wish Foundation along with cooperation from the NFL and of course, the Bucs. Kacey, a 19-year-old from Maysville, Georgia, has been battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but was surprised at his school by a video message from Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans last week that he would be announcing the Bucs’ first-round pick at the NFL Draft in Nashville.
But as far as Bucs Head Coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Jason Licht were concerned, Kacey didn’t wish big enough.
Following the pick, Coach Arians called Kacey on the phone to invite him to Tampa, along with White, to meet him and his staff, as well as take a tour of his favorite team’s facility. Kacey and his parents arrived in style, taking the team charter with White and his family before being greeted by the entire organization in the lobby of AdventHealth Training Center. There was even a chant of “KA-CEY” echoing through the lobby as Kacey and his family walked through.
“It meant the world to me knowing that my wish was finally going to come true and that I get to become a big part of somebody’s life by starting their career in the NFL, whoever it may have been,” Kacey said. “In this case, [it was] Devin. I really wanted to be a part of something that would be important to somebody besides me.”
Kacey went on to meet with General Manager Jason Licht and signed his own contract with the Buccaneers – yes, before White himself. Kacey then walked down the hall and upon knocking on Coach Arians’ door, was greeted with another big hello from the voice that had been on the other side of the phone just a few hours earlier.
The surprises weren’t over yet, either. On a tour of the facility, Kacey’s first stop was the Bucs’ locker room where his favorite player, Mike Evans, was waiting for him.
As Kacey got over the initial shock of who was standing in front of him, Evans introduced his wife, Ashli, who had come with him. Evans pointed at Kacey and told his wife, “Biggest Bucs fan.”
Kacey then smiled, pointing back to Mike and replied, “Biggest Buc.”
Evans then proceeded to offer Kacey anything he wanted out of his locker. Kacey left with a duffel bag full of autographed goodies, straight from the man himself. Evans then showed Kacey around before taking him upstairs to another very special someone: Tony Dungy. The Buccaneers former head coach heard Kacey’s story through a personal connection and wanted to make sure Kacey’s visit was extra special by being there himself.
Before Kacey finished up the day by attending White’s first press conference as a Buccaneer, he and Evans played games in the players’ lounge, including a back-and-forth pool battle. Evans scratched but graciously accepted defeat as the pair waited for the press conference to start.
“It was awesome,” Evans said about his day with the Georgia teen. “Kacey is a really great kid. He loves his Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s a big fan of mine and I’m so appreciative to be able to meet him.”
View the top photos of Kacey Reynolds' visit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Kacey remarked to Evans at one point that he never thought he’d be able to meet him. Evans shook his head and shrugged, saying he’s just a football player. Rather, Evans was more excited to meet a guy like Kacey.
“He’s just a normal kid,” said Evans. “He’s going through some things but he’s a fighter. He inspires me to keep trying to be the best player and the best person I can be.”
Kacey’s journey then joined White’s once again as White was introduced to the Tampa Bay media for the first time at a press conference Friday afternoon as Kacey and his family looked on. White, who is no stranger to making an impact of his own, made sure to tell Kacey exactly what their journey together meant to him.
“This is not the end of our relationship, we are going to stay in touch,” White said. “It’s a blessing to be a blessing to another person. Kacey, if I didn’t say you were a blessing to me last night, which I think I told you a million times, I’m still thankful that you put that pick in for me.”
I think it’s safe to say that impact Kacey wanted to make was realized, too.