Bucs General Manager Rich McKay ran in Saturday's Draft Day Dash - unopposed by Captain Fear - before heading over to team headquarters
It had all the makings of a classic rematch. The stoic challenger. The uber-confident defending champion. The dramatic setting.
Captain Fear. Rich McKay. Raymond James Stadium.
It was Draft Day Dash, 2003.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' mascot and general manager squared off in a memorable duel in 2002, at the second annual Draft Day Dash, with McKay famously prevailing. The 2003 race was billed as the long-awaited rematch…would Captain Fear gain redemption for mascots everywhere, or would McKay once and for all cement his place in the pantheon of great general managers/runners.
Given that perfect setup, it was a stunning disappointment when a mysterious ankle injury caused the overly-muscled mascot to pull out just days before the scheduled showdown.
"It's not legit," said McKay, shaking his head at Captain Fear's 'injury.' "He's faking it. He really didn't want a piece of me this year. It was a showdown and he didn't want a piece of me. He kind of manipulated the course a little bit like Rosie Ruiz, from the Boston Marathon, last year and in the end, he still couldn't finish it."
Captain Fear didn't take lightly to McKay's thinly-veiled innuendos, throwing up his hands and shaking his head in disgust. Grasping his ankle in disgust, Captain Fear made it clear that he will be ready for next year's challenge but, according to the Bucs general manager, the point is moot.
"No rematch," said McKay. "I'm like Rocky, no rematch. We had the showdown, he claimed injury, it's over."
In addition to the anticipated Fear-McKay storyline, the Draft Day Dash featured 1,400 other Bay area residents vying for 5K glory.
The race, signaled to a beginning by McKay at 9:00 a.m. outside of Raymond James Stadium, began with a long straightaway down Himes Avenue to Al Lopez Park. At the park, the midway point of the race, the runners were able to grab water from TECO Energy volunteers and Buccaneers Student Advisory Board members Tiffani Brown, Jill Finlayson, Tramaine Harvey, Jessica Latour, Leah Linder, Justine Perry, Alicia Rose, Chris Shewbarron, Tracy Talbot and Brett Walsh.
After hitting the water stop, the racers headed through Al Lopez Park and back towards Himes for the stretch run. The final sprint led the racers onto the Raymond James Stadium field and across the 50-yard line.
Awaiting the runners at the finish line were the beautiful, smiling faces of Buccaneers Cheerleaders Jennifer Abbott, Tammy Denbo, Danielle Dolen, Kayla Drawdy, Dawnyale Foster and Andrea Gordillo.
The first man across the finish line was 15-year-old Land O'Lakes high school runner Steven Bell, in a time of 16:15.
"I hoped to win the 5K," said Bell, about his goals coming into the race. "This is pretty close to my best time. The weather was nice, it was kind of windy coming back, but it was nice."
Following Bell across the finish line was the winner of the women's portion, Lisa Vaill, who finished in 17:17.
"I just did it for a workout," said Vaill, who has qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials in the marathon. "I just came down to visit some friends and run in the race. I didn't run my best time, but it was fun to be out here and win it."
While Bell and Vaill set the pace, McKay set a difficult standard for his silent nemesis but otherwise took the course casually, saving his energy for the day's actual draft efforts. McKay ambled in at the 23-minute mark, barely breaking a sweat but giving Captain Fear something to strive for next year.
After the race, Buccaneers safety Jermaine Phillips was on hand to present plaques to the victors and distribute prizes to the winners of the Draft Day Dash raffle. The winners' plaques were presented first, as both Bell and Vaill were called to the stage, followed by the raffle winners, who were announced by event emcee Gayle Guyardo. The raffle winners received a gift bag featuring the Buccaneers Pewter Power book by the Tampa Tribune, the Buccaneers Super Bowl DVD and a Super Bowl hat.
The Draft Day Dash was more than just fun and games, as all of the proceeds went to benefit the Buccaneers Charities and the TECO Foundation.
"These fans supports us so much," said Phillips. "So it's nice for us to be able to come out and support them. This was a great event and it's amazing how many people are out here today."