Buccaneer kickers Mark Royals and Martin Gramatica helped some of the NFL 101 attendees learn the art of placekicking
When the National Football League rose to prominence in the 1950s, it was known as a 'man's game.' The rugged nature of the sport, as opposed to the 'national pastime' of baseball, was appealing to male audiences.
NFL football may still be called a 'man's game' in terms of the toughness it takes to play the sport, but its appeal clearly crosses all boundaries here in the 21st century. Football is the most popular sport in the United States, and that's because it appeals to men and, young and old.
How else do you explain the curious nature of the football seminar that took place at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium on Thursday evening?
The topic was football, the approach was hard-core Xs and Os and the attendance was 99% female.
That's NFL 101, presented by Eckerd's.
Eckerd Drug Stores, the prominent national chain and Pewter Partner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, clearly understands the draw of NFL football for women. Thursday's event at the Bucs' home stadium was the second annual football seminar for women and it drew approximately 1,000 attendees.
After shepherding the Buccaneers through a two-hour practice on Thursday afternoon, Tampa Bay coaches Joe Barry, Clyde Christensen, Chris Foerster and Rod Marinelli headed over to Raymond James Stadium to conduct the 101 seminar. For approximately three hours, the hundreds of women in attendance rotated between the coaches, learning the fundamentals of football and how to enjoy the game fully.
The women at Eckerd's NFL 101 attended the seminar free of charge, having been chosen among entries submitted at Eckerd stores and through NFL.com. Three hundred women were selected and were invited to bring up to three friends for an intense evening of football and food. After the classroom work, the women joined Buccaneers punter Mark Royals and kicker Martin Gramatica on the Raymond James Stadium field for some special teams work.
"I think they learned a lot and had a nice time," said Foerster, the Bucs' offensive line coach. "They were able to ask questions and there was a lot of interaction. They were able to gain at least a working knowledge of the game."
One lesson Foerster easily demonstrated to the women was the meaning of the term 'false start.' Foerster simulated a team at the line of scrimmage as it called a play, and asked his group to clap at the moment of the snap. He then went through the play call, as a quarterback would, and nearly every woman 'false-started' by clapping too soon.
That lesson and many others were eagerly soaked up by the women attending Eckerd's NFL 101, and that was truly the purpose of the event. Knowledge is power, and a greater understanding of the game brings the power to enjoy NFL football to its fullest.
On the other hand, the more you understand what is going on, the easier it is to determine when something has gone wrong. That's the other edge of the sword, as Foerster knows.
"Any time you understand something a little bit better it will either help you enjoy it more or make it more frustrating," he said with a laugh. "I don't know which it's going to be."