The Buccaneers will celebrate USA Football Month at tonight's home preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. This celebration takes place throughout the NFL during the month of August and helps salute the nonprofit organization's goal of teaching the game's fundamentals and instilling the sport's character-building vaules within the youth football community. USA Football is the Official Youth Football Development Partner of the NFL.
To help celebrate USA Football Month, Tampa Bay will host the seventh annual Pop Warner Nationwide Kickoff event during Saturday's game. More than 20 young athletes from the Manatee Wildcats Pee Wee team will take the field at Raymond James Stadium for a ceremonial kickoff during the team's pregame festivities. Former Bucs center and three-time Pro Bowler Tony Mayberry will also deliver a pep talk to the Wildcats.
Before the game starts, 26 players from the Manatee Wildcats Pee Wee team will lead the Bucs onto the field during introductions and stand alongside the team during the National Anthem. During the coin toss, Tampa Bay will also honor five individuals who represent different levels of youth, amateur, and professional football. Those players are Charles Edward Griffin, Jr. from the Northeast Tampa Pirates, Timothy Baptiste of Gibbs Middle School, Earl Moore IV of Hillsborough High School, offensive lineman Chaz Hine of USF, and Mayberry, the former Buccaneers center.
At halftime, the East Tampa Bandits and West Pasco Prowlers Jr. Pee Wee teams of the Foundation for Youth Development and the Zephyrhills Bulldogs of the Zephyrhills Pasco Police Athletic League will participate in a scrimmage. Along with those teams and individuals, Tampa Bay will host thousands of local youth football and high school athletes as special guests in recognition of USA Football Month.
"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been great supporters of the Pop Warner program and we are thrilled to partner with the team for the 2011 Nationwide Kickoff," said Sam Mutz, National Football Commissioner of Pop Warner. "An estimated seventy percent of NFL players got their start with Pop Warner, so this event is a great way for the kids to connect directly with their NFL role models."
"The Buccaneers are proud to commemorate the start of the youth football season by hosting the Pop Warner Nationwide Kickoff," said Buccaneers director of community relations Miray Holmes. "This event highlights the significant impact that Pop Warner has on our children, which ties students' athletic and academic pursuits in a positive, structured environment. Pop Warner has set the standard on both a local and national level, and we're honored to feature them in Tampa Bay."
The Bucs host a wide variety of youth football programs throughout the year, including the team's Play 60 Challenge, Gatorade Junior Training Camp and the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick program. These programs not only help children and their families enjoy the game of football, but also serve as a resource for coaches to help promote a positive experience for youth football participants. Tampa Bay is comitted to educating children and coaches about the National Football League and enhancing the skills of young athletes both on and off the field.