You might think that the Friday after the final day of an NFL team's mini-camp would be one of the quietest of the year. You'd look across the practice fields to see cloudy summer skies, maybe the buzz of a golf cart putting equipment away for the long six-week span before Training Camp begins – peaceful, silent, serene. However, the fields behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training facility, One Buccaneer Place, were anything but today.
The air in the morning after mini-camp was full of laughter, cheers and the sound of hundreds of little feet running on the same grass where the team practiced a mere 24 hours ago.
Photos from the Buccaneers' final mini-camp practice of 2016.
For Vincent Jackson and a few of his Buccaneers teammates, the first day of summer break was spent at One Buc Place hosting the fourth-annual Youth in Action Camp, put on by the Jackson in Action 83 Foundation. More than 150 children, ages six to 12, who are members of military families, attended the free one-day Camp.
Jackson, a self-proclaimed military brat and recipient of the 2015 NFL Salute to Service Award, is committed to making a difference in the lives of military service members and their families, with the Youth in Action Camp being just one program he and his foundation put on each year. Knowing first-hand the challenges of growing up in a military household, this camp is particularly important to him.
"For me it just brings back memories of being this military kid, going to these camps while my parents were at work or away," Jackson said. "Talking about team bonding, playing good old-fashioned yard games, this isn't about football or anything else. This is sack races, water relays, hula hoop stuff, throwing the ball, this is the stuff that we grew up off and it's nice to bring that back and to remind kids about just getting outside and being active."
As the fun and games continued, Jackson's Buccaneers teammates Jameis Winston and Gerald McCoy walked out onto the field, leading to even more smiling faces.
"The impact it has on their lives, never getting settled anywhere, it really can impact you and it might be a positive thing, could be a negative thing," said McCoy about the impact Youth in Action Camp has on military children. "But what [Jackson] is out here doing is trying to influence these kids in a positive light and in a positive way and that's huge. So any way that I can help out, I'm definitely gonna be a part of that."
When the relay races, obstacle courses, ball tosses and more came to a close, the military parents arrived to pick up their smiling children after a long day of play. A constant lesson of the Jackson in Action Foundation is the importance of getting outside and playing to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Tia Hayden, mother of three whose husband has served in the Air Force for 17 years, brought her two boys out for the camp.
"I think the camp is absolutely amazing!" said Hayden. "We're extremely blessed for the camp that Vincent has brought, not only this camp, but everything this organization has brought to our family."
Pictures from the Buccaneers' 2016 Cut for a Cure event.
Jackson's efforts in the community have been recognized across the league. This season, he was selected as the NFL's Salute to Service Award winner. But for him, after a completely different kind of day in the Buccaneers practice fields, it comes down to one important message for the kids to take away.
"I'm just a regular guy," said Jackson. "Your mom or your dad and your military folks, those are the heroes."