LB Justin Smith ambushed most of his teammates with face paint before sitting down for his own decorative session
Carving pumpkins is a cherished Halloween pastime, not to mention good, sloppy fun. The residents at the Children's Home have another reason to enjoy this annual rite of fall: Each year, their carving buddies are Tampa Bay Buccaneer players.
On Tuesday, WR Joe Jurevicius, LB Ryan Nece, QB Chris Simms, LB Justin Smith, RB Aaron Stecker and C John Wade, along with Meagan Jurevicius, Kara Stecker and Natalie Wade, headed out to the Children's Home to serve as this year's carving crew.
There they joined approximately 50 young men and women in an afternoon of both camaraderie and competition, as the favorite part of the event, as usual, was the pumpkin-carving contest.
Nece, Smith and Stecker are veterans of this Halloween event, having participated in the past, so they were ready for the intensity of the young competitors. Nece, a second-year linebacker who partnered with a young resident last year and took home the award for most creative pumpkin – their creation somehow had hair – was looking to defend his title.
"You either get better or you get worse," said Nece, humorously lifting a quote from the Bucs' own meeting rooms. "The standard was set last year. I'm trying to repeat, show my dominance, show my creative skills and just have fun with the kids. That's really what it boils down to. If we can get a smile on their faces and have fun doing this we'll be all right."
Standing between Nece and a repeat was some stiff competition, not to mention some intentional distractions from Smith.
Smith took advantage of the fact that pumpkin carving wasn't the only activity taking place at the Halloween blast. There were also stations for face painting, decorating trick-or-treat bags and getting temporary tattoos. Smith borrowed some of the face paint to add a little extra character to several of his teammates faces. Nece was the main target.
After drawing several scars on Nece's face, the first-year player decided his fellow linebacker also needed some blue eye shadow, coloring Nece's left eye area completely blue. Smith also did some touch-up work on Simms and Stecker, as well as his own face.
Smith then turned his attention to the kids, most of whom were occupied with their efforts to decorate the pumpkins and bags.
"I'm a walking advertisement right now," said Smith. "We need more people over here in the corner. Everybody just wants to do the pumpkins, they don't want to get their faces painted. We have to make it happen."
Meanwhile, the other Buccaneers, along with several Buccaneers Student Advisory Board members, paired up with the kids and helped with their pumpkin designs and carving.
"I just enjoy spending time with the young kids and I hope they enjoy spending time with me," said Wade.
Eventually, every face was painted, every bag decorated and every pumpkin carved. That left nothing but the judging in four categories: best overall pumpkin and bag and most creative pumpkin and bag.
The pumpkin competition was stiff, with entrants ranging from the traditional Jack-O-Lantern face to one carved gourd bearing a tie and a bicycle helmet.
Unfortunately for Nece, the defending champion failed to retain his crown. Jurevicius and his new friend, Keith, earned the Best Overall Pumpkin honors and Stecker and a young man named Steven took home the prize for Most Original.
Before the players departed, they gave each resident a Buccaneers pennant and a Super Bowl poster.
"This is a great event," said Stecker. "Some of these kids have been here for a while and it's great to come out here and help them out."