Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Game Before the Game

Buccaneers Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph visited his high school alma mater last weekend in order to help Pop Warner put on the Adrenalyn Bowl, which showcased the popular youth leagues and raised money for both Pop Warner football and Haiti victims

They billed it as "The Game Before the Game." For some current NFL players, that's exactly how Pop Warner football related to their eventual careers.

Specifically, the game before the game was the 2010 Adrenalyn Bowl, an annual Pop Warner exhibition game played in the Super Bowl host city, and just 24 hours before the Super Bowl itself. The Adrenalyn Bowl attracts NFL players to serve as honorary coaches during the game, and for some it's a return to their roots.

Joseph himself never participated in Pop Warner football because it was felt he was too big at the time. Still, NFL stars like Joseph are eager to support an organization that helps spread their game to children across America. Also a draw for Joseph to this year's game: It was held at his prep alma mater, Hallandale High in South Florida.

In addition to being a state wrestling champ, Joseph was a four-year starter and an all-state selection on the gridiron for Hallandale High. Now future Hallandale Chargers who follow in his footsteps can get an earlier start on their own football careers in a new Pop Warner League.

"It was good working with the Pop Warner program," said Joseph. "My city of Hallandale is now getting a Pop Warner team and so I guess this was kind of like the welcoming for that, having the Adrenalyn Bowl there. The turnout was good.

Roughly 100 young athletes from the Miami area had the opportunity to compete in this year's Adrenalyn Bowl and receive coaching directly from Joseph, Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Brian McKnight.

"I got a chance to interact with the kids and the coaches on both sides, both teams, and really get to know really what the Pop Warner program is all about," said Joseph. "It's great for my community to see the kids do well, interact with good coaches and really have a high level of football.

"Some of the kids looked pretty good, they looked pretty good. Some of them in the 12 and 13-year old age were pretty tall, so I think you'd see a lot of future athletes there. Hopefully, they stay on the right path to make it one day."

Last weekend's game marked the third year in a row in which Pop Warner has held its exhibition event in the Super Bowl city, allowing participants and supporters of Pop Warner Leagues to become involved in the NFL's biggest game. This year, there were a pair of games pitting local teams in two different age groups (7-9 and 9-11). In addition, the three Pop Warner Super Bowl Champions for 2009 were honored at the event: the Richmond Giants (Division I Midget), the Greater Goulds Rams (Division II Midget) and the Liberty City Warriors (Division I Jr. Pee Wee).

Joseph thoroughly enjoyed the entire day and could tell his fellow celebrity coaches did the same.

"It was pretty cool, actually," said the perpetually-smiling Buccaneers lineman. "DeAngelo Williams, Tim Tebow, Brian McKnight - it was good to see everybody. You see the guys having fun and really interacting and enjoying the kids and the kids really enjoying the players, so it's really universal. It's kind of neat to see the guys elsewhere hold the same standard as we do here."

Admission to the game was free but donations to Pop Warner were encouraged. In addition, a portion of the event's proceeds went to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti, which also made the game a natural fit for Joseph, who is of Haitian descent and still has family in the beleaguered island nation.

"I have personal ties," said Joseph. "So it's good to see so many people in our homeland trying to help people in need elsewhere. It's just a great sign of this world becoming one world instead of being so separated and divided and it was pretty cool to be involved in something like that."

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