Eight-year-old visitor Carlton Denson met many Bucs on Friday, including LB Derrick Brooks (left) and DT Anthony McFarland
On Sundays and on the practice field, Tampa Bay Buccaneer players must wear helmets to protect their heads. For eight year-old Carlton Denson, wearing a helmet is a way of life.
Carlton, who suffers from severe hemophilia A with high inhibitor level, must wear a karate helmet to protect his head from injury. After being hospital-schooled for several years, Carlton recently began attending public school. Soon after he made the switch, Carlton predictably ran into teasing from his schoolmates over his helmet.
When the Buccaneers heard about Carlton's situation, they invited him out to watch practice on Friday. At the end of the workout, he met many of the players, most of them holding their own helmets under their arms as they chatted with their visitor. One by one, the Bucs signed Carlton's helmet.
"I thought if we could make his helmet a sense of pride by getting the Bucs to sign it, that would make him want to wear it," said hospital homebound teacher Mary Kellner. "I think it's something he'll always remember."
The players did their best to make it a day Carlton wouldn't forget, as Mike Alstott, Derrick Brooks, Keyshawn Johnson, John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Kenyatta Walker and others came over, signed his helmet and a Buccaneers football and told the young man to keep his head up and try not to worry about the helmet. Best of all, Carlton played catch with QB Shaun King. As Shaun and Carlton said goodbye, the Bucs' passer signed his autograph to the football with a special message:
'From one quarterback to another, Shaun King.'
"It's nice that we could put a smile on his face," said King. "Growing up can be tough and this is something that we can do to brighten his day."
Joining Carlton as a Buccaneers special visitor was nine year-old Dylan Archey, who suffers from osteogenesis imperfecto.
Dylan comes to Tampa from Melbourne every four months to receive treatment for his ailment at the Shriners Hospital. During his frequent visits, Dylan has become a friend of Buccaneers K Martin Gramatica, who works closely with the hospital.
After visiting with Martin, Dylan spent time with several Buccaneers players, though he refused to reveal who his second favorite Buccaneer was. He did share what he thought of his visit to One Buc Place.
"It was excellent," said Dylan.
The Buccaneers final visitor of the day was Chief Master Sergeant Select Deborah Clanton of the United States Air Force. Chief Master Sergeant Select Clanton was on hand to present an American Flag to the Buccaneers. The Flag was dedicated to the Buccaneers by Clanton during her tour of duty in Operation Southern Watch in Saudi Arabia and was flown on a mission by Brigadier General Dale C. Waters over Iraq.
"I was deployed at Prince Sultan Air Force Base in August and when I got there they told us about this program where they fly flags for individuals," said Clanton. "Most people get them done for family and friends. I was trying to figure out who I should get one done for and I did my church, my family, my boss and then I asked if I could fly one for my team, the Buccaneers."
Clanton was successful in her efforts to have a flag flown in the Buccaneers' honor and she presented it to Head Coach Jon Gruden, Alstott and Lynch.
Chief Clanton also presented the Buccaneers with a certificate of authenticity for the flag. The certificate read: 'This is to certify that the accompanying flag was flown over the hostile skies of Iraq in an F-15C on 5 Oct 2002 by Brig Gen Dale C. Waters while enforcing United Nations sanctions in support of Operation Southern Watch."
Gruden was moved by Clanton's gesture.
"It's an honor to be presented with this flag," said Gruden. "To be recognized like this is a great thing for the Buccaneers. We're proud of our military and we hope we make them proud."