More than 550 students and their families filled the massive athletic fields at IBC (Idlewild Baptist Church) on Saturday, February 17 for a day of encouragement and skill-building with members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and volunteers from IBC.
“We use love through football as a way to encourage them,” said Buccaneers defensive lineman DaVonte Lambert. “This goes beyond football. Enrich them with lessons, not only in football skills, but life lessons as well,” said the 6-foot-2-inch 282-pound Lambert.
We are always looking for ways to give back to the local community, Lambert stated. Since signing with Tampa Bay as a college free agent May 2016, his Tampa legacy includes outreach events with students and staff at Pizzo Elementary, All Children’s Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center and City of Tampa rookie firefighters and paramedics.
“These kids are not only our future, they are our now,” Idlewild Baptist Church Pastor Ken Miller said. “Today is not only about football, but how to be better citizens and better students. It is our joy and privilege to not only host this event, but to partner with other organizations who share a love for kids.”
After being organized by field color, huddle and station, student athletes performed drills getting them ready for one of the three scrimmage games where they put their athletic skills as well as sportsmanship to the test.
“They really knew a lot about football and taught us very well,” said Xavier Rivera, who attends Liberty Middle School in the seventh grade.
Xavier shared that he learned a new defensive drill, “how to stay on top of the receiver and break up a play without a penalty.” He liked the opportunity to meet new people from all over Tampa Bay and watch how they play in order to learn from them.
Xavier’s sister Grace, a fifth-grader at Witter Elementary also attended the camp. “It was fun because they (the boys) were surprised when they saw girls on the team,” she said.
She has thrown the football around with her brothers and his friends, but had never played the organized sport where Grace said she got to put the skills she just learned into practice. “A lot of people think that only boys can play football, but girls can too,” Grace added.
Lambert was joined by current teammates, offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile and wide receiver Devin Lucien. Rostered at 6-foot-5-inches 315-pounds, Pamphile was physically the largest person many of the younger students had ever seen in person.
Rob Taylor, former Buccaneer tackle from 1986 -1993, again donned the uniform although underneath today’s pewter you could see the familiar “cream-sickle” orange, to provide closing remarks to participants at the end of the day.
Drawing winners were called up to receive footballs autographed by other Buccaneer players such as defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and quarterback Jameis Winston.