Buccaneers COO Eric Land (left) and QB Chris Simms accept a certificate of appreciation from Colonel Nelson McCouch
Supporting our military troops at home or overseas is a tradition the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gladly fostered for more than a decade. Thursday, the team was officially recognized by the U.S. Army for its efforts in that regard.
In what is believed to be the first such honor of its type for a sports team in Florida, the Buccaneers – represented by quarterback Chris Simms and Chief Operating Officer Eric Land – were the recipients of a "Certificate of Appreciation for Patriotic Civilian Service."
The certificate was presented by Colonel Nelson McCouch, Chief of the Community Relations Division of the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs for the Army at the Pentagon. The citation is an honorary award granted to a civilian group in recognition of voluntary involvement that contributes to the mission of an Army activity or staff agency.
"On behalf of General [Anthony A.] Cucolo, our chief of army public affairs, I came here today to present a plaque to quarterback Chris Simms and also Mr. Eric Land for your great contributions to the Army and to the operations 'Enduring Freedom' and 'Iraqi Freedom' – and for all the recognition ceremonies, 'Secret Santa' operations and military appreciation days that the Buccaneers go out and recognize the service of our soldiers," Col. McCouch said. "We're very thankful that a club of this distinction is willing to do that on a repeat basis to recognize the service of our soldiers."
Accepting on behalf of the Buccaneers, a humbled Simms thanked the U.S. Army for all that it does for the country and said the Buccaneers would continue to support the Armed Forces.
"I would definitely like to thank the Armed Forces – the U.S. Army, of course – they've been a huge influence on a lot of people in our organization, and we've always been privileged to help them out," Simms said. "They're fighting a way bigger fight than we are; that's for sure. And if we can bring a smile to their faces or their families' [faces] over the year, I think we've been honored to do it. I'm honored just to accept this on behalf of the Buccaneers."
Land echoed Simms' sentiments and noted that since the purchase of the team by the Glazer family, supporting the U.S. military has been a priority for the Buccaneers.
"On behalf of the Glazer family, Coach Jon Gruden and General Manager Bruce Allen, we're deeply humbled by this gracious gesture," Land said.
"We believe as you do that America is the only country that can claim it's the land of the free and the home of the brave. You and our soldiers who are represented here today and their leaders are making the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free and safe. That debt of gratitude that we all have – and in the organization that we have – will never be completely paid.
"We promise to you, the Pentagon and the military branches, we'll continue raising the bar here so that our service men and women and their families here at home never forget the level of support they have from Tampa Bay and from their Buccaneers."
Art Worth Having
The Mayor's Beautification Program got a boost this week from one of the Buccaneers most active players in the community. Linebacker Shelton Quarles was on hand at a celebrity fundraiser Wednesday, helping raise money with his…painting skills?
Quarles was one of several guest painters participating in the fundraiser at the SilverSpoons & Sandcastles XVI VIP Celebration Party held at the Medallions Restaurant and sponsored by the St. Pete Times Forum.
Each year, a different item is chosen by the SilverSpoons & Sandcastles committee for artists and celebrities to decorate. The items are then featured in a silent auction open to the public. This year, in keeping with the Mayor's Beautification Program to improve and beautify Tampa's natural environment, participants painted watering cans and rain barrels. The finished items will be auctioned off May 4 at the Tampa Port Authority's Cruise Terminal No. 3.
"It was a little bit odd, and it felt kind of weird because I haven't done it in a long time," Quarles said. "My kids are always painting, but I'm always busy doing something around the house or doing something else in the community. Being able to do that took me back to my roots. I'm still neat as ever, trying to keep everything in between the lines, but I think I would have felt a little better with some crayons than I did with a paint brush."
Still, Quarles was up to the task.
"It's always important," he said of the mission to keep Tampa looking good. "When you see a city that has no trash, and how they do a good job of keeping a nice, neat city, it makes you feel better about being a part of that city. So maybe by making a better effort of keeping Tampa a beautiful city, it will help bring more people to our city."