Tampa Bay Head Coach Raheem Morris shot his first BUCS podcast on Monday
On Tuesday morning, students in the Hillsborough and Pinellas County School Districts will have the opportunity to start their day off with an inspirational message about overcoming adversity.
Bringing that message into every middle school and high school classroom in the two sprawling districts on the same morning will be none other than Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Raheem Morris.
Now, Tuesday is the traditional off day for players in the NFL but coaches remain hard at work preparing the game plan for the upcoming opponent. Moreover, the logistics of getting Morris to even a small fraction of all those campuses would be a nightmare. Still, the Bucs coach has found a way to make the sort of comprehensive impact on Bay area education that he had envisioned when he began to put a sharper focus on his community efforts this spring.
The answer, as developed by the Buccaneers' community relations department in conjunction with Pinellas County Schools Communications Director Andrea Zahn and Hillsborough County Public Schools Communications Officer Stephen Hegarty, was that increasingly popular form of mobile communication, the podcast.
Podcasts by Morris after every Buccaneers home game in 2009 will be at the center of a new program entitled BUCS: Be the Ultimate Character Student. BUCS is an initiative designed to teach students lessons on education and athletics as they relate to character. Morris will record his podcast on the Monday following each home game, utilizing his own experiences during the 2009 season to relate messages about perseverance, integrity, commitment and, ultimately, the importance of making the most of one's educational opportunities.
Morris was joined by Zahn and Hegarty last Friday to announce the program during his post-practice press conference at One Buccaneer Place. The Bucs' coach related his own school experiences as a youth and his parents' insistence that he take education seriously despite his interest in athletics.
"Growing up as a young man, education was so much more important in my parents' eyes than sports was, and that was a big part of who I am today," said Morris, who wasn't allowed to participate in varsity sports until he had improved his grades to the level set by his father. "We want these kids to have the ability to realize their full potential as students and be committed to it. I think it's a great opportunity to reach them and we're really fired up about it."
Morris taped his first podcast on Monday, a day after his Buccaneers lost their season opener to the Dallas Cowboys, 34-21. He used his experiences in his first regular-season game as an NFL head coach to shape his initial BUCS message. An excerpt:
"There are a lot of things that will add adversity throughout your life that you'll have to deal with, and you're going to have to relate this to your life and I'm going to have to relate this to my life. My lesson today has to do with being mentally tough, not listening to it, going back, reevaluating what you've got to get done. What people think about you, it really doesn't even matter. It all comes from the heart, it all comes from you, it all comes from what you believe in. If you ever need any help, you go back to your fundamental core beliefs."
Each of Morris' podcasts will be distributed to all of the Pinellas and Hillsborough County public schools and will be included in the schools' morning broadcasts. Teachers can choose to display the podcast on the monitors in their classrooms and work Morris' message into their day's curriculum. On the weeks during the Buccaneers' away games, schools will work on their own character education curriculum, which will be reinforced by Coach Morris' character-building message.
Since being named the Buccaneers' eighth head coach in January, Morris has aimed his community outreach on education, focusing particularly on Title 1 schools in the Buccaneers' market area. Throughout the year, Morris is utilizing his ticket program "Raheem's Dreams", appearances and other events to help bring awareness to education issues affecting the Tampa Bay community. Still, he was looking for one comprehensive, focused program with which to make a difference and he believes he has found it with the help of the Pinellas and Hillsborough School Districts with BUCS.
"I really feel good about it," said Morris. "I didn't want it to be a drive-by deal. I want it to be an ongoing process throughout the year, so hopefully these kids not only look forward to the message but they take it to heart and they actually use it in their day-to-day activities. That was important to us."