George Herron (second from right) was chosen Best Dad in the Bay after being nominated by his daughter
For the third consecutive year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers Ryan Nece and Shelton Quarles celebrated the arrival of Father's Day by recognizing an accomplished group of Bay area dads. At Friday's "Best Dads in the Bay Luncheon," presented by BB&T and The Tampa Tribune and held at Raymond James Stadium, Nece and Quarles spent an afternoon with 50 exceptional fathers and the sons and daughters who love them.
The luncheon was the culmination of a project in which the two family-minded Buccaneers took hundreds of Best Dad nominations online through Buccaneers.com. After reviewing each nomination, Nece and Quarles selected 50 finalists and invited them to the luncheon along with a guest. They also chose three of the 50 to be specifically recognized, and one who would be named the Bay area's Best Dad.
The luncheon also featured a guest speaker, one who knows the two linebackers very well, both on and off the field. Buccaneers Linebackers Coach Joe Barry assured the audience that Nece and Quarles "talk the talk and walk the walk." They put their heart and soul into their play on the field, Barry asserted, and they put just as much of themselves into their family lives and community service work.
"And, as fathers, none of the rest of you would be here today if you weren't talking the talk and walking the walk in the ways you raise your children," Barry told the assembled dads.
Nece and Quarles then handed out a series of raffle prizes, including autographed Bucs memorabilia, leading up to the announcement of their selections of the best three dads in the Bay area. All three were nominated by very appreciative families.
The second runner up is a police officer who makes the community safer and serves as a constant source of love and support for his young son. Officer Kevin Bennett received two tickets to a Buccaneers home game, as well as spa and restaurant gift certificates for being named one of the Best Dads in the Bay.
The luncheon's first runner up raised three girls and spent many nights with curlers and hairspray in his hair, acting as their dress-up doll. He was a presence at each of his daughters' sporting events and dance recitals and never once complained about their busy schedules. As first runner up, Bruce Colby received two tickets to a Buccaneers home game, a spa gift certificate and a one-night stay at a local Tampa hotel with a gift certificate for dinner included.
The Best Dad in the Bay is a man who also raised three daughters. Only one of those three was his biological child, but he unfailingly treated each the same. This father taught his girls important lessons about unconditional love and respect, for oneself and for others. Now that his oldest daughter is disabled, he cares for her as well as his 15-year-old grandson. George Herron received two tickets to a Buccaneers game, including the opportunity to have his picture taken with Nece and Quarles on the field prior to the game. Herron also received a spa gift certificate and a catered party for 25 people at his home during a Buccaneers road game, complete with a big screen television to watch the team in action.
Simply being considered for the award was a touching honor for Herron.
"You just don't realize how the kids think of you sometimes," he said. "When my daughter showed me a copy of [the nomination] I gave it to my grandson. He came back with tears in his eyes, and it made me feel really proud and honored."
Nece and Quarles conducted a similar program centered on Mother's Day. They recognize that both events, which have become annual staples in their extensive work in the community, are venues through which they can connect with their supporters in the Tampa Bay area. The luncheons also allow them to honor those who hold the most important jobs in our community.
"The community supports us in such great ways, it's only fitting that we figure out different ways to give back to those who support us," said Quarles. "These luncheons are a way we can show the community how much we love and support them as well."
Added Nece: "This luncheon gives us the opportunity to recognize the key individuals who are shaping our youth. Anytime you can praise parents who love their kids and are doing everything they can to have a great household and an environment where their kids can succeed, you have to celebrate that."