LB Ryan Nece, here celebrating with local students who aced their FCAT tests, was one of the Bucs' most active players in the community
As always, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were one of the most community-minded organizations in professional sports in 2003. Throughout the calendar year, owners, players, coaches and staff members supported a variety of community programs, giving generously of their time and assets. Many provided help to established charities while others created their own philanthropic programs.
Often, a Buccaneer player or coach helped draw attention to an important community event with his presence, such as when FB Mike Alstott and WR Joe Jurevicius served as honorary Grand Marshals for the St. Petersburg Grand Prix in February. Buccaneers also were eager to help local citizens celebrate outstanding achievements – such as LB Ryan Nece and the Booker T. Washington Elementary School students who aced the FCATs – or encourage them to even greater heights – such as S John Lynch's ongoing and highly motivational 'Salute the Stars' program.
More often than not, Buccaneer owners, players, coaches and staff members were ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work, as when DT Anthony McFarland repeatedly lectured young students on making informed choices or when a group of rookies repainted the Central City YMCA.
As usual, a large percentage of the players' community efforts centered around children, whether helping those in financial need, raising the spirits of those with health uncertainties or providing educational opportunities for those who might otherwise not receive them. LB Derrick Brooks' "Brooks' Bunch" program continued to be one of the most ambitious and recognized youth programs in the NFL.
The Bucs were also particularly eager to interact with the local military in 2003. Groups of players made several lengthy trips to the nearby MacDill Air Force Base, and servicemen and women in return visited the team at One Buccaneer Place and Raymond James Stadium on more than one occasion.
The following is a sample of the many community programs the NFL's defending champions supported over the past year, arranged chronologically, for the most part.
- Following their Super Bowl victory in January, Buccaneers FB Mike Alstott, G/T Cornell Green, QB Shaun King and TE Todd Yoder were presented with Keys to the City by ST. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker.
- Alstott and WR Joe Jurevicius served as honorary Grand Marshals for the St. Petersburg Grand Prix.
- CB and Detroit native Dwight Smith was an honorary guest at the opening ceremonies for the Detroit Tigers newly renovated Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.
- Head Coach Jon Gruden visited Deer Park Elementary to talk to the students about the importance of education as part of the Staples "Coach of the Week" program.
- Jurevicius served as the keynote speaker at the Easter Seals Corporate VIP Campaign Kick-off Luncheon.
- Pro Bowl LB Derrick Brooks was appointed to the Florida State University Board of Trustees by Governor Jeb Bush.
- University Community Health and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers teamed up to sponsor the inaugural "Bucs Easter Egg Hunt" at Raymond James Stadium.
The first 2,400 children (10 years old and younger) to enter the stadium received complimentary Easter baskets. Children were also allowed to get free pictures with the Easter Bunny on the Buccaneers Pirate Ship, meet Captain Fear, enjoy arts & crafts, pet animals in the Buccaneers live petting zoo and participate in a Q&A with Buccaneers S John Howell, LB Ryan Nece, LB Shelton Quarles and DE Greg Spires.
- Nece helped the students at Booker T. Washington Elementary School celebrate their FCAT success by participating in their activity day that featured an inflatable obstacle course, a movie period, a playground session and a dunking booth.
- Buccaneers DT Anthony "Booger" McFarland spoke to members of SWAT, Student Working Against Tobacco, at their annual youth conference about the dangers of using tobacco products.
- Yoder was invited to swim with the sharks at the Florida Aquarium as part of their "Dive with Sharks" program.
- Brooks hosted the Making Visions Possible (MVP) luncheon in honor of Hillsborough County teachers and guidance counselors. The MVP program, which is a partnership between the Buccaneers and Verizon Wireless, is an effort to reward creative educators within the school system and stimulate further program development.
- Nece helped taxpayers get through the Annual Income Tax Deadline Day by passing out Buccaneers tickers and signing autographs for citizens dropping off their income taxes at the St. Petersburg Post Office on April 15.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and TECO Energy held their Third Annual Draft Day Dash on Saturday, April 26 to coincide with the first day of the NFL Draft. Buccaneers LS Ryan Benjamin and S Jermaine Phillips greeted the runners at the finish line.
- Benjamin, Howell, S. King, Nece, Phillips, Quarles, CB Ronde Barber, CB Corey Ivy, G Kerry Jenkins, S John Lynch, T Roman Oben, LB Justin Smith, DE Corey Smith, G Jason Whittle and TE Todd Yoder visited MacDill Air Force Base for a special behind-the-scenes look at the training and operational techniques of the United States Military Special Forces Units.
During the visit, the Buccaneers witnessed a strategic air drop of personnel, learned about the weapons used during combat, competed against their teammates in an urban combat situation and were briefed on Operation Iraqi Freedom by General Charles Holland.
- WR Keenan McCardell read to the students at Buckhorn Elementary School and spoke to them about the importance of education as a reward for completing their nine-week reading program.
- Lynch honored Tampa Bay's brightest young student-athletes during the annual John Lynch Salutes the Stars luncheon at Higgins Hall.
The John Lynch Salutes the Stars luncheon, which featured appearances by Gruden and McFarland, is designed to recognize students who excel in the classroom, on the field and in the community.
- Benjamin, Howell, Jenkins, Jurevicius, Oben and C. Smith, along with Cheerleaders Vanessa Castillo, Tammy Denbo, Kayla Drawdy, Lauren Rudolph and Jennifer Summers helped construct a playground at the Wilbert Davis Boys & Girls Club.
- Phillips was the guest speaker at the Hillsborough County Middle School Scholar Athlete Awards Banquet, which rewarded students for athletic success, academic achievement and commitment to their community.
- Kicker Martin Gramatica served as the motivational speaker for 800 students at Garland V. Stewart Middle School in Hillsborough County. The assembly was the conclusion of the school's Annual Cultural Fair. Gramatica was chosen because of his cultural background and first-hand experience in moving to a new country as a teenager.
- Benjamin was the guest speaker and awards presenter at the Land O'Lakes women's soccer awards banquet. The Land O'Lakes team won the first state title in any sport for the school in 2003.
- QB Brad Johnson, along with Pinellas County Superintendent Howard Hinsley, rewarded 60 specially selected students at Sexton Elementary School with an ice cream social as part of Brad's Champion Readers program.
- Quarles was the commencement speaker for the Memorial Middle School Class of 2003.
- Jurevicius spent an evening signing autographs, touring the facility and visiting with children from the Children's Medical Services program and the Medical Foster Care program at the Florida Aquarium.
- The Buccaneers hosted the annual Bank of America FanFest, an event that gave fans the opportunity to meet and receive autographs from players and coaches. By purchasing autograph cards, fans helped raise funds for several Tampa Bay area charities. Fans also had the opportunity to participate in interactive games and attractions on the field, a question and answer session with Buccaneers coaches, photo opportunities with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders and a complimentary photo by the Pirate Ship.
- Brooks hosted an 11-day tour of New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Tallahassee, FL for 28 students from the Brandon, Wilbert Davis and Ybor City Boys & Girls Clubs as part of his Brooks' Bunch & Beyond 2003 program.
To earn a spot on the trip, students were required to write essays, perform various research assignments and interview in front of a panel of judges. All assignments, along with the students' attendance and behavioral marks during the classes, were tabulated and counted towards a final grade for the class. Students who completed their assignments, demonstrated good behavior and maintained their grades in school earned a ticket.
The 2003 & Beyond tour included stops at Julliard, the Empire State Building, NFL Headquarters, Wrigley Field, Loyola University, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center, Georgia Tech, Florida A&M University and Florida State University.
- The Buccaneers and Pewter Partner TECO Energy sponsored two football season kick-off events with the local area Chambers of Commerce. Jurevicius and McFarland provided the Greater Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater Chamber of Commerce members insight into the upcoming 2003 NFL Season.
- Jurevicius and McCardell provided a helping hand to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure by participating in its annual 'Pink Martinis at the Blue Martini' event to help raise awareness for breast cancer.
- Alstott hosted the annual Mike Alstott Youth Football Camp, a four-day event that typically involves 350 Bay area children. Every year Mike brings together a group of instructors that consists of professional players and high school and college coaches to teach the clinics.
- The Buccaneers and Eckerd Corporation teamed up, for the fourth consecutive year, to sponsor "NFL 101" for women. The 300 winners of an Eckerd sweepstakes attended "NFL 101," along with two of their friends. The groups received tips from Benjamin, Gramatica, Linebackers Coach Joe Barry, Special Teams Coach Rich Bisaccia, Defensive Backs Coach Mike Tomlin, WR Karl Williams, Running Backs Coach Kirby Wilson and Tight Ends Coach Art Valero, each of whom demonstrated different plays, stances and techniques. All women who attended NFL 101 received a play book that detailed several basics of the game, including history, strategy, terminology, formations, and positions, as well as a gift pack provided by Eckerd.
- The Buccaneers donated several hundred unused tickets for the August 28 game against the Houston Texans to MacDill Air Force Base Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base Special Operations, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Tampa International Airport Police and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department.
- On the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, the Buccaneers welcomed local heroes from the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, VFW Post 4321 and Tampa Fire Rescue Station #8 to attend practice at One Buccaneer Place.
The special guests received a behind-the-scenes tour of One Buccaneer Place, a chance to watch the Buccaneers afternoon practice and the opportunity to meet their favorite Buccaneers players. The visit also offered a chance for the Buccaneers to meet and honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and Social Services for their efforts in defending our nation and providing us with the freedoms that we enjoy.
- McFarland introduced his "Booger's Bucs Can Wait" program to Franklin and Van Buren Middle School. Each year, McFarland works with Hillsborough County Middle Schools to educate kids about making informed decisions on issues such as smoking, drinking, using drugs and relationships. At the schools, he presents a video, passes out informational material and answers questions about how to handle the decision-making process and peer pressure.
- Nece, J. Smith, Phillips, T Anthony Davis, WR Fabian Davis, TE Will Heller and G Sean Mahan teamed up with the United Way and the Central City YMCA to sponsor the annual NFL/United Way Hometown Huddle. Hometown Huddle is an annual event in which NFL players, coaches and team executives from all 32 NFL cities pair with their local United Way organizations for community giving.
At the event, the Buccaneers players joined students who attend the YMCA in an effort to brighten the interior of the Central City branch. The players and students painted the club's hallways with several murals that included representations of the Buccaneers, the NFL, the United Way and YMCA, as well as several other designs.
- Johnson partnered with the Glazer Family Foundation to help celebrate the success of September National Library Card Sign-Up Month and its continued partnership with the Friends of the Library by talking to the students from Lockhart Elementary and Orange Grove Middle School about the importance of education and reading.
- The Buccaneer Women's Organization, a charitable group formed by the wives, fiancées and girlfriends of the Buccaneer players and coaches, held their annual Fall Festival for a group of underprivileged children. At the festival, kids enjoyed arts and crafts, games, food and prizes and received a Buccaneers gift bag filled with candy and Buccaneers merchandise. The kids also had the opportunity to participate in the Buccaneers Gatorade Junior Training Camp, a mini football clinic that involves executing several football and agility drills.
- Jurevicius, Nece, J. Smith, QB Chris Simms, RB Aaron Stecker and C John Wade, along with Meagan Jurevicius, Kara Stecker and Natalie Wade, celebrated Halloween with the boys and girls at the Children's Home. The players, along with Buccaneers Student Advisory Board members, helped the children choose and carve pumpkins and decorate trick-or-treat bags. At the Halloween party, there were also face painting and temporary tattoo station, as well as a contest for the best pumpkin and trick-or-treat bag design.
- Lynch signed a Statement of Support for the U.S. National Guard and Reserve on behalf of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. When companies sign a Statement of Support they recognize the National Guard and Reserve as essential to the strength of our nation and the well-being of their local communities. In the highest American tradition, the patriotic men and women of the National Guard and Reserve serve voluntarily in an honorable and vital profession. They train to respond to their communities, their states and their country in times of need. They deserve the support of every segment of our society, and they got it from Lynch and the Buccaneers.
- Quarles, Oben, Nece and Whittle visited the inmates at the Polk Correctional Institution to address the importance of making informed decisions and the impact poor decisions can have on their future, and also to speak about their faith.
- Howell, Nece, Simms, J. Smith, WR Reggie Barlow, S David Gibson and C Austin King, helped cook and serve food to the veterans at James A. Haley VA Hospital on Veteran's Day.
- Alstott and CB Brian Kelly were presented with a special American flag by pilots Lt. Col. Mike "Tiger" Greiger, Lt. Col. Glenn "Ghost" Schmidt, Capt. Scott "Coma" Schaupeter, Capt. Jon "Chester" Rubin and Capt. Matt "Magoo" Hopkins in honor of the Buccaneers support for our Armed Forces at halftime of the Nov. 16 game against the Green Bay Packers.
The flag presented to the Buccaneers was flown by the 127th Wing, 107th Fighter Squadron over Iraq and during Operation Noble Eagle Homeland Defense missions and was given on behalf of the men and women serving in the National Guard and Reserves.
- Johnson, Wade, FB Darian Barnes and RB Michael Pittman read to children at the Easter Seals in support of their "Reading & Rocking" literacy program.
- During the week of Thanksgiving, Brooks gave away 100 meals that included a Thanksgiving turkey, green beans, corn, potatoes, dinner rolls and desert at the Brandon, Wilbert Davis & Ybor City Boys & Girls Clubs.
- The same week, McCardell distributed 87 turkeys to residents of the Bay Area. McCardell drove around the Bay area in the Buccaneers in the Community van distributing turkeys to those in need, stopping at homeless shelters, churches and low-income homes.
- A. Davis, F. Davis, Heller, A. King, Simms, FB Vinny Ciurciu and S Travaris Robinson helped stuff and distribute food baskets at the Metropolitan Ministries holiday food tent. They were joined by members of The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders and the Buccaneers Student Advisory Board.
- Gramatica and Lynch provided 400 boxes filled with non-perishable food items and 400 boxes of household items to Metropolitan Ministries as part of the Feed the Children program.
- Brooks distributed Nike tennis shoes and Christmas gifts to members of the Belmont Heights and Ybor City Boys and Girls Clubs during his annual Christmas party.
- Alstott, Nece, Phillips, J. Smith, Yoder and RB Travis Stephens visited the patients at All Children's Hospital to distribute pennants, take Polaroid photos, sign autographs and help brighten the holiday season.
- Nece and Phillips delivered Thanksgiving meals to the residents of Falkenburg Academy, a military-style institution for youth offenders.
- Lynch and his wife, Linda, held their seventh annual Christmas party for Hillsborough and Pinellas County Boys & Girls Club members. Lynch and Santa Claus distributed gifts such as clothing, shoes and toys to the children, while also serving a hot meal, singing songs and posing for photos with the kids.
- Nece, Phillips, DE Dewayne White and LB Mike Brown visited the patients at All Children's Hospital and sang Christmas carols for the residents of the North Shore Retirement Home during the holidays.
- McCardell provided 20 lucky kids with a Christmas present they will not soon forget. The 20 kids, who were selected by the Hillsborough Department of Health and Social Services, each received a $500 shopping spree from the Buccaneers wide receiver to use as they pleased at Kay Bee Toy & Hobby Shop.
- Oben delivered gifts to 135 children at the University Area Community Center (UACC) to help brighten their holiday season. Oben worked with local businesses to collect the gifts to make sure that each of the 135 children that may not otherwise receive a holiday gift had a present to open for Christmas.
- The Buccaneers continued their "Tackle Math with the Buccaneers" initiative for Hillsborough and Pinellas County 7th graders. Tackle Math with the Buccaneers is a program designed to teach and reinforce the math skills of seventh grade students while providing an entertaining format for learning. The curriculum features math exercises with football themes for an entire school year. Every seventh grade math class in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties received the materials for the program, which included student playbooks, a coaches (teachers) manual, transparencies, an interactive CD ROM, a video introducing the program, and a Tackle Math poster.
- Several Buccaneers donated to Bay area charities by sponsoring on-field-incentive programs. Gramatica sponsored "Kicking for Kids" in conjunction with Raymond James Financial. For every field goal Martin kicked at Raymond James Stadium, Raymond James Financial donated $500 to various Bay area children's hospitals. For every field goal he kicked during a road game, Raymond James donated $500 to that city's children's hospital. For each touchdown he made, Alstott contributed money to the Mike Alstott Fund, which benefits various Bay area children's charities. Through the "Tackles for Tampa Bay" program, Lynch and his wife, Linda, donated $100 per tackle, $500 per interception and $1,000 per sack that John made to the John Lynch Foundation. Additionally, the Lynches contributed $1,000 per Buccaneers victory to the Foundation. Funds raised through "Tackles for Tampa Bay" support all of the John Lynch Foundation's programs, which benefit student athletes and Boys & Girls Club members. Johnson worked with the University of Phoenix and Saint Leo University to sponsor the "Quarterbacking for Education" program. For every touchdown Brad scored, running or passing, the University of Phoenix and Saint Leo University donated $100 to the MacDill Education Council, Inc., a nonprofit foundation that promotes the continuation of higher education within the Armed Forces in the Tampa Bay area. The donations were made for touchdowns Brad scored during preseason, regular season and postseason Buccaneers games.
- The Buccaneers continued the NFL/Buccaneers Community Quarterback Award, a national program that recognizes volunteers in the 31 NFL markets who demonstrate leadership, dedication and a commitment to bettering the community in which they live. The Buccaneers appointed a review committee made up of team representatives, media and community leaders to review nominations. Once selected, the Buccaneers and NFL Charities made grants in the name of the winners to the non-profit organizations where they serve. Six finalists received $2,000 grants and the overall winner received an extra $8,000 grant for his charity. The Buccaneers' overall winner was Jimmy Garner, of Plant City, for his work with the Best Buddies program.
- The Buccaneers selected their fourth Student Advisory Board, an all-student committee that brings together high school students to perform marketing and community service projects and develop their leadership skills in preparation for continuing their education. Student Advisory Board members served as liaisons between the Buccaneers and their schools, and were responsible for working on community service projects and developing creative techniques to promote Buccaneer spirit at their high schools.
- The Buccaneers hosted an NFL-high number of charitable groups and school children at every home game as part of the game day ticket program. Buccaneers who hosted groups were Owner/President Malcolm Glazer, Alstott, Brooks, Gramatica, Gruden, Jenkins, Johnson, S. King, Lynch, McCardell, McFarland, Oben, Quarles, Wade, Whittle, Williams, TE Ken Dilger, LB Dwayne Rudd and T Kenyatta Walker.
- The Buccaneers were a Finish Line sponsor of the Susan G. Komen Tampa Bay Race for the Cure, a local component of the national event designed to raise funds for breast cancer education, screening and treatment programs. The Buccaneers also had a team of walkers that consisted of Buccaneer Women's Organization members, Student Advisory Board members and Buccaneer Cheerleaders.