Veteran LB Ryan Nece (left) and rookie WR Michael Clayton perform a heartfelt rendition of Jingle Bells
As has become tradition at this time of the year, the Buccaneers Rookie Club, along with a few veteran players, visited the North Shore Retirement Center this week to sing carols for the residents. This year, to get in the holiday spirit, the Tampa Bay Buccaneer players first stopped by All Children's Hospital to spread some cheer among the pediatric patients.
Rookies on hand for Tuesday's trip included WR Michael Clayton, C Scott Jackson and G Jeb Terry. They were joined by several veteran players, including T Derrick Deese, TE Dave Moore, LB Ryan Nece and S Jermaine Phillips.
The day began at the hospital, where the players visited with dozens of kids and gave each an autographed Buccaneer pennant. The sight of the large players in their Santa hats, clearly full of holiday cheer, delighted the young patients. Each of the kids received a picture of themselves with the players and a wonderful memory to take with them through the holiday season.
There was even a little caroling at the hospital. Nece and Phillips, needing a little tune-up before the next stop, sang to some of the children. Jackson and Terry also did their part, stepping in to communicate in fluent Spanish with patients and families who didn't speak much English.
The time to move on to North Shore, where the residents were anxiously awaiting the Buccaneer chorus, came more quickly than expected. Several children at the hospital didn't receive a visit due to the time constraints, so Deese, Nece and Phillips decided to return to the hospital after caroling in order to finish the rounds.
The players' reputation as singers preceded them at the North Shore Home, where they entered the lounge to much applause. Clayton, speaking on behalf of the Rookie Club, wished everyone a happy holiday season and asked them to join in the singing. The Buccaneers then thoroughly entertained the residents and staff members in attendance with renditions of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The players' enthusiasm carried the day, if not necessarily a tune.
Miriam Ekhoff, a resident at North Shore, proclaimed this the best Christmas she's had since living at the home.
"I'm telling you we are so thrilled today at North Shore," Ekhoff said. "They did a beautiful job singing, and they knew all the words. I don't think anything will equal [this visit] during the holidays."
Clayton, the rookie wide receiver, exhibited a smooth singing voice, and later gave away his secret.
"I had a little glass of egg nog to get my vocals ready to come out here and sing," said Clayton. "I've never done this before, so I just wanted to make this an enjoyable moment."
Other than that, the singing group had no practice before taking the stage.
"No preparation was required because it's straight from the heart," said Clayton. "When it comes from the heart it's all sincere."
The day wasn't over yet for Deese, Nece and Phillips. As promised, the three returned to the hospital to visit with the children who they missed the first time around.
Thus, on one fine December day, the Buccaneers succeeded in spreading cheer and good will to those both young and young at heart.