Hours after the Draft Day Dash wound around One Buc Place and back to Raymond James Stadium, a legion of Buccaneer fans flocked to the stadium for the Official Draft Party, Presented by Miller Lite
Once again, Buccaneer fans were able to get involved during the team's most important offseason weekend, thanks to the Draft Day Dash and the Official Draft Day Party//
Despite the instant grades you will read on-line and in the papers on Sunday morning, no one will know who the true 2008 NFL Draft winners and losers were for several years.
In Tampa, however, the opening day of the draft produced several winners before Commissioner Roger Goodell ever walked to the podium.
The NFL Draft has become a nationwide phenomenon in the sports world, and in Tampa it's an all-day event. The Buccaneers make sure of that by staging the annual Draft Day Dash in the morning and following it with the popular – and totally free – Official Draft Day Party, sponsored by Miller Lite.
The day's early winners were a product of the Draft Day Dash, an annual 5K race that starts at Raymond James Stadium. This year, the course took the runners down the road to the Buccaneers' gleaming new headquarters and across the practice fields in back before returning to the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Runners conclude their 5K course by sprinting through the stadium tunnels and across the same field where the Buccaneers play.
Tampa's Lee Stephens, 27, was the first runner to cross that finish line, finishing the race in an impressive 15:56. New Port Rickey's Jacki Wachtel, 28, wasn't far behind, finishing first among women runners with a time of 17:31. Wachtel has won the Draft Day Dash two years in a row, but she shaved 23 seconds off her time from 2007. Stephens demolished last year's winning time among men, a mark of 17:27.
Members of the new Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders squad were on hand to lead a pre-race stretch, welcome the runners back into the stadium and help with the post-race celebration. Buccaneer wide receiver Micheal Spurlock, who last fall became the first player in team history to return a kickoff for a touchdown, was also in attendance to serve as the official starter and to help hand out awards and raffle prizes at the end.
Not long after the prizes were handed out, the draft-day festivities moved indoors. With the help of Pewter Partner Miller Lite, the Buccaneers brought back an extremely popular event from the last three years, the Official Draft Day Party.
Fans who wished to attend the party were given free admittance to the Club Lounge. As it has since 2005, the party proved quite popular with Bay area football fans.
Those partying inside Raymond James Stadium watched the draft unfold at a pleasantly quick pace. Whereas last year's first round began at noon and lasted a record six hours and eight minutes, the 2008 draft kicked off at 3:00 p.m. ET and the first round was over in just three hours and 30 minutes.
About two hours into that period, the Buccaneers were on the clock. Tampa Bay selected Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib with its first-round pick, a choice that was met with cheers in the RJS Club Lounge.
In the second round, the Bucs drafted Appalachian State WR Dexter Jackson. The draft is far from over; Tampa Bay has four more picks on Sunday, including one it picked up in a trade on Saturday afternoon. It may be years until the team can truly claim success in the 2008 draft, but those inside One Buccaneer Place thoroughly enjoyed themselves on Saturday. The same can be said for the thousands of Buc fans who took advantage of the Draft Day Dash and the Official Draft Day Party.