Everyone knows football doesn’t start until September when the regular season kicks off.
But don’t tell that to a number of Bucs players who got together to support their teammate Donovan Smith’s “Autism Speaks” charity bowling event on Monday night at Pin Chasers in Tampa.
The camaraderie in the spring can help win football games in the fall the Bucs players in attendance said.
“I think so(this is the closest team he has been a part of),” Lavonte David said. “We do a lot of things outside of football together. And I have never really been a part of that since I have been in the league. I think that is a real good thing. That is where it starts with. When you trust a guy off the field, you trust him on the field. I think it translates to football, but it just shows the great people we have in the locker room and we like being around each other.”
Fellow linebacker Kwon Alexander also spoke of the importance of supporting his teammates.
“It feels great,” Alexander said. “To come out and show love to a teammates instead of sitting at home and chilling. Everybody respects Donovan and shows how much we care for him.”
Gerald McCoy is entering his ninth season as a member of the Bucs and senses something unique.
“Yeah. It is a really tight knit group,” McCoy said. “When one guys asks you to do something, we just show up. It is the type of team we are.”
Almost every member of the Bucs offensive line was in attendance, and talked about the closeness of that unit.
“So it awesome when you can come out and support a teammate and unite behind a cause like this,” Marpet said. “I think it really shows how close this team really is. I think being close is obviously a good thing for football.”
New center Ryan Jensen, who is heck of a bowler, said he enjoys getting to know his new teammates and thinks it can pay off in the fall.
“It is definitely good to know the guys on a work level but also a personal level,” Jensen said. “When you get to the point where you know a guy personally and know what he is about, you can trust him on and off the field.”
A smiling Donovan Smith was pleased with the turnout to help raise awareness for a cause that is close to him.
“It helps a lot to have, I don’t even know how many came out tonight, at least 20 if not more,” Smith said. “It is something that means a lot to me and shows what kind of guys we have.”
Smith’s family has been directly affected by autism.
“My nephew Aiden, he’s nine, he’s on the spectrum and has autism. So I just made it my point this year to get involved in the community as much as I can. My nephew has non-verbal so we just have to use sign language and different communication things to get through to him. [He signs] ‘Eat eat.’ We know those things and every time he wants his iPad and stuff like that. So it’s really just adapting and adjusting to the child.
“It does help the whole team, to have that bonding off the field, it only helps on the field. You know the guy outside of football. It will definitely help during the season.”