Before talking to residents at the Leslie Peters Residential Home about life choices, Buccaneers Rookie Club members played a spirited game of basketball
Dwight Smith missed the dunk. His message, however, was right on target.
On Tuesday, October 23, Smith and seven other Tampa Bay Buccaneer rookies participated in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookie Club event at Leslie Peters Residential Home. Joining Smith were LB Marq Cerqua, G/C Shane Grice, S John Howell, TE Mike Roberg, CB Dwight Smith, DE Ellis Wyms and WR Milton Wynn
Though the overriding purpose of the Rookie Club visit was to counsel the residents of the Peters Home about making good decisions in life. Before getting down to that business, however, the Buc rookies and Peters Home residents engaged in a spirited game of basketball.
First the players divided into two squads and joined with residents from the facility. Howell, Smith and Wynn joined the 'white' team while Cerqua, Grice, Roberg and Wyms donned 'gray.'
The basketball game quickly progressed into a game of 'can you top this,' with the residents trying to impress the players and the players attempting to amaze the residents in return.
The highlight of the game came courtesy of Smith. Wynn made a steal at half court and quickly dished to Smith on a breakaway. Smith went up for the dunk but missed, bending the rim in the process. The game was delayed for a few minutes while the rim was bent back into place, after which the 'white' team finished off a 29-27 victory.
After the basketball game, the players and residents headed back inside for the serious portion of their meeting. While everyone cooled down with some lemonade, the players were divided up into four groups to talk with the residents about the decisions that they make in life and the lasting impact that bad decisions can have.
"I think that sometimes people get the wrong impression of the kids who are in this type of facility," said Howell. "These are not bad kids, they've just had some bad breaks and are now trying to turn their lives around. The point that I tried to stress is that the number one thing in life is discipline. It may not always be fun, but it's something that you have to do. You have to be disciplined in your actions."
As the roundtable discussions progressed, it was easy to see that the residents had a level of respect and admiration for the players. That made it possible for the players to deliver a powerful message concerning what it takes to achieve success and how to make the most of the opportunities you are given.
"It's good to come out to a place like this," said Cerqua. "We're trying to make a difference in the lives of these kids. These kids may be down, but they are not out. They can learn from their mistakes and turn this into a positive. I've been there and know what it's like. Everybody makes mistakes, you just have to learn from them."
In the end, perhaps, more than a basketball rim was molded back into shape.