On Monday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced the recipients of the third annual Buccaneers Girls in Football Scholarship, a unique academic scholarship program purposed to benefit graduating female high school football players pursuing a career in sports. The four 2022 scholarship winners – Olivia Zorilla (Florida State University), Kaylen Thomas (Mount St Mary's University), Jairis Gomez (Florida State University) and Elle Bohlman (University of Notre Dame) received surprise boxes at their respective homes delivering the news.
The Girls in Football Scholarship, facilitated by a $250,000 commitment from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation, was established for graduating high school seniors participating in a form of organized football (flag, tackle, touch) with plans to enroll in a full-time accredited four-year college or university. Candidates were required to have earned a minimum 3.0 grade point average during their high school academic career and were asked to submit essays on how they planned to utilize their career ventures to enact positive change in the sports industry.
The recipients of the third annual Buccaneers Girls in Football Scholarship:
Olivia Zorilla (Riverview, FL)
"One day, I hope to be a Sports Event Coordinator working for a professional league, collegiate team, or city commission," said Zorilla. "This job entails being people-centered, tenacious, and strong-willed, all of which are qualities I possess. I want to be the one running game day operations or assisting the NCAA when the Final Four comes to town. There is a lot it takes to make everything run smoothly in sports apart from the athletes themselves. This career choice can help me make a positive impact in the sports industry by allowing me to show the next generation of girls that there are opportunities to work in a male- dominated field. Through the Positive Coaching Alliance, I was able to connect with a female mentor who is successful in the sports industry. As a result of this relationship, I am prompted to be a mentor for girls wanting a career in athletics. Not only do I want to lead and impact those girls, but also the people I will work with daily."
High School: Riverview Senior High School
Home City/State: Riverview, FL
Major: Sports Management
College: Florida State University
Career Goal: Events/Community Relations Manager in sports industry
Kaylen Thomas (Brentwood, TN)
"An injury can be a redirection into a new path," stated Thomas, who discovered a new mentality after suffering a pulled hamstring in 2019. "I found a love of Rugby. I hope to major in Health Sciences with a path to Physical Therapy and Athletic training so that I can help encourage other young athletes to keep pushing forward when unexpected injury setbacks occur. I hope to show the incoming athletes that they are stronger than their losses and setbacks. I hope to be an example that if you push forward, you'll realize that you are necessary to help your team. I will teach values such as self-motivation, high integrity, courage, encouragement, confidence, and compassion. These values and characteristics are important in an athlete. These are my personal core values. Being a female athlete is not glamorous. I have experienced pulled hamstrings, knee sprang, and broken wrist bones. I was determined to keep playing sports. These injury setbacks led me to different outcomes."
High School: Ravenwood High School
Home City/State: Brentwood, TN
Major: Health Sciences
College: Mount St Mary's University – Playing College Rugby
Career Goal: Physical Therapist
Jairis Gomez (Bradenton, FL)
"I would love to channel the passion I have for sports and create a lifelong impact in the industry, "described Gomez, who gained a new perspective on sports by becoming a basketball manger. "Management in sports is of high importance in today's sports world. Sports management ensures the smooth flow of all the activities that are involved in a sports program and provides development in the field of physical education. It both aids and supports a program and its staff, helping them to reach their aspirations and goals in the sports industry. As I go into college, at Florida State University, I plan to major in sports management to have the opportunity to share my skill set and knowledge for the benefit of the sports industry."
High School: Southeast High School
Home City/State: Bradenton, FL
Major: Sports Management
College: Florida State University
Career Goal: Sports Manager
Elle Bohlman (Carmel, CA)
"As a young lady, I have endured the high amounts of stress it takes to be a well achieved athlete," said Bohlman, who is pursuing a career in sports psychology. "By playing football, golf, basketball, and lacrosse I've taken on high amounts of stress that have been extremely overwhelming. I can make a positive impact by being the person that I needed most in a time of failure… this career path chose me when I became the varsity football kicker. I was always nervous because my duty was very individual. The ball snaps, and all eyes are on me. To let the stress go, I would just imagine the ball and myself. When I look up to see the ball through the uprights, all the nervousness fades away. Of course, the more time I got in the position, the more comfortable I became. I feel so lucky to have been a place kicker, as I go through the similar feeling in everyday life experiences. By using my personal experiences, and my future knowledge I plan to be the next big change in the sports industry."
High School: Carmel High School
Home City/State: Carmel, CA
College: University of Notre Dame
Goal: Sports Psychologist
The Girls in Football Scholarship is one of the myriad of ways the Bucs organization is at the forefront of inclusiveness and gender equality both on and off the field. Last year, the team launched the Women's Summit for Careers in Football, an ongoing program designed to strengthen the pipeline of women pursuing NFL careers through informative, innovative sessions including high-profile hosts and leadership within the Buccaneers' organization. In an effort to engender equality, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation has hosted the largest girls flag football tournament in the country with the Girls High School Flag Football Preseason Classic over the previous four years, presented by AdventHealth. To learn more about the Buccaneers' initiatives, visit Buccaneers.com/community.