LB Ryan Nece improved his lasagna-making skills at an event for Big Brothers/Big Sisters at Maggiano's
Many football players are asked to pull double duty on game day. A cornerback might hold down a starting spot on defense and also cover kicks, for instance, or a defensive tackle might come in for a few goal-line plays at fullback.
Less often is a player asked to pull triple duty, but that's just what one Tampa Bay Buccaneer did on Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving.
Third-year linebacker Ryan Nece, who has been one of the team's most dedicated community volunteers since his arrival in Tampa, participated in not one, not two, but three community service events on Tuesday. Despite having several family members in town for the upcoming holiday, Nece visited the Falkenburg Academy, helped out at Metropolitan Ministries and attended an event on behalf of the Shelton Quarles IMPACT Foundation.
Who said Tuesday was the players' day off?
Nece's morning began at Falkenburg, a juvenile detention center for teenage boys. With the help of Winn-Dixie supermarket, Nece and safety Jermaine Phillips took several turkeys and other traditional Thanksgiving fare to the school so the boys there could enjoy a holiday meal together. Nece and Phillips took turns addressing almost 100 residents at the center, letting them know that they had a second chance at life once their time at the academy is through.
"We just want to show them that we care, people are thinking about them, and there are people out there who are concerned for their well-being," said Nece. "We thought giving them a turkey dinner, which everybody loves, and just talking to them about hope, about courage, and about faith, are the more important messages to convey to them."
Using a sports analogy to relate to the boys at the Academy, Nece and Phillips explained that devising a game plan in football is a lot like creating a plan for your life. They encouraged the boys to make plans for the future to ensure that they get their lives back on the right track.
This was the second year Nece visited Falkenburg Academy at Thanksgiving, and he hopes to make it a tradition for many Thanksgivings to come. It was far from the end of his day, however.
Upon leaving the academy, Nece journeyed over to Metropolitan Ministries on North Florida Avenue, where he met some fellow players and members of the Buccaneers Women's Organization. A total of about 30 volunteers were on hand representing the Buccaneers, and everyone worked hard at either sorting or distributing food boxes in the Holiday Food Tent.
This was Nece's third year volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries, and his involvement with the event dates back to his first year as a Buccaneer.
"Metropolitan Ministries is something I've been involved with since I was a rookie," he said. "My rookie year, I started over here doing this, and it's become a huge production. To be a part of it is a privilege because everybody in Tampa knows about Metropolitan Ministries."
After a long day and four changes of clothes, Nece ventured over to Maggiano's Little Italy, where he joined Quarles at a program held by the Shelton Quarles IMPACT Foundation. The event was the first in a series of four titled "That's AMORE!" Thirty kids from the local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program came to Maggiano's with their mentors and learned how to make the restaurant's world-famous lasagna. The group then enjoyed a meal of salad and lasagna together as part of a holiday celebration.
The IMPACT Foundation strives to provide opportunities and resources to children in need throughout the Tampa Bay area. Nece often attends the foundation's events to support Quarles, a Big Brother himself, and to help impact the children in a positive way. He also found time for some self-improvement.
"I tried to make lasagna before at home, and it didn't quite work out," said Nece with a laugh. "I learned a lot working with these kids about how to prepare lasagna. I worked with two little girls, and I think our lasagna is going to be one of the best ones."
Nece volunteered to attend all three events, and he even brought his 17 year-old sister, Katlyn, and 16 year-old cousin, Breanna, along for two of the stops.
"Community service is an essential part of Nece's life, and he takes it very seriously.
"To me, it's just something that is important," he said. "If there were four events, I would do four events because it's about impacting people. If I can impact people and allow them to think positively about life and about their situations, I want to be a part of that."