SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. WINSTON’S HUMILITY, PERSONALITY, 3 RULES OF LIFE COMES FROM HIS DAD
The first annual Jameis Winston Pro Camps youth football camp came to Sunlake High School in Land O’ Lakes, Fla. this week and it was hard to tell who had more fun – the hundreds of kids in attendance or Winston himself.
Tampa Bay’s second-year quarterback cheeks must have been hurting after the two-day camp ended from all of the smiling and laughing he did. Winston was there an hour early on both days, and threw touchdown passes, caught a few scoring strikes himself, taught kids how to play-action fake, and encouraged the masses with his trademark positivity.
I spent all six hours at the Jameis Winston Pro Camps camp watching Winston interact with my sons, Logan and Caden, and the hundreds of other young football players in attendance. If you doubt Winston’s sincerity when it comes to interacting with kids at civic-related events I have one word for you – don’t.
This was no public relations stunt, as some skeptical no-nothings in the national media suspect it might be.
Winston doesn’t go to Bucs-related community events, or visit an Orlando hospital following the deadly terrorist attack at the Pulse – as he did this week – or hold football camps to better his image, which was tarnished by an alleged rape accusation at Florida State and several other widely reported incidents during his three years as a Seminole.
Winston’s youth camp could be summed up into two things – his love for the game of football and his passion for kids.
Also in attendance as an assistant coach was Winston’s dad, Antonor, who happened to coach Logan, and spoke with me at the camp’s conclusion about his son’s humility and desire to help others.
He had a strong message for Jameis’ naysayers.
“What you see – it’s all the way genuine,” Winston said. “What I would like to say to those people – and this is what I live by, and what my family lives by – it’s easy to make assumptions when you don’t know a person and don’t fellowship with a person. All you have to do is look at the past history and go back to his high school days when pastors used to invite him to their pulpit to speak to their church. Not just to their youth – but to their church. He’s been doing it since Day 1. I don’t want to go back and being facetious about it, but he’s been doing this all the way back to middle school when he started doing camps for little kids. I just want to challenge people to do their research. Just like folks listen to the media and the lazy journalism and the people that don’t know him, I want them to do their own research and then make their decision about Jameis.
“The only reason you can tell he’s genuine is because you’ve gotten to know Jameis and fellowship with him. If you don’t know Jameis you might say he’s fake or this is a façade and that the P.R. people are having him say and do things to better his image. But let’s challenge that. He’s grown up on the three rules of life: God, school and anything he puts his mind to. He’s been raised that way since he was four years old. If you keep repeating those three things in a child’s mind that’s how they’re going to react. I’m not going to say they’re going to be perfect. I’m not saying they’re not going to make mistakes. But that’s how he was raised.”
Antonor Winston with Caden and Logan – Photo by: Scott Reynolds/PR
Antonor Winston imparted that wisdom not only into his son, but also into the team of elementary school kids, including Logan, he coached at the youth football camp. Spend a few minutes with Antonor Winston and it’s clear to see where Jameis not only gets his outgoing personality, but also his confidence.
“Growing up on the three rules of life is 50 percent of it, and God Himself is the other 50 percent that gave Jameis his confidence,” Antonor Winston said. “We’re confident people – you know that!”
Jameis Winston projected his confidence on to the kids at his camp with his opening statement and echoed those remarks at the camp’s close.
“We’re going to be confident,” Jameis Winston said. “We’re going to be confident in everything we do. And the reason we’re going to have confidence is because every one of you is special. We are all special. And everybody on this field has a teammate and the phrase I’m going to leave you with from this camp is ‘teamwork makes the dream work.’”
There’s a fine line between having confidence, which is a noble trait, and being cocky, which can be off-putting. Those that are around Jameis Winston and know him, see his genuine humility. Those in the national media that want to believe allegations and misconceptions about Winston don’t see or appreciate how humble he is despite his fame and adoration.
“Jameis has always had a humble spirit,” Antonor Winston said. “Jameis’ downfall has always been wanting to win so bad that it took over. When he loves his team, he loves hard. When he loves people, he loves hard. That is Jameis’ weakness. He goes overboard with his passion for winning. If you don’t know him, he can appear to be outlandish that way.
Antonor Winston – Photo by: Scott Reynolds/PR
“People really don’t know how humble he is because of the athletics. If they had to know what he’s had to endure growing up from middle school to high school. Before people judge or criticize, get to know him – not by lazy journalism or the media. Get to know him at his events, not just on Sundays (at Bucs games). Come on out and get to know him as a person. He’s not perfect. Everybody has their bad days, but I think the more people do that the more perceptions will change.”
Antonor Winston was dressed head to toe in Florida State attire on the first day of camp and then in Buccaneers gear the second day. If you’re wondering where Jameis’ personality and his confidence comes from look no further from his outspoken father, who is always grinning – just like his son.
Antonor Winston’s effervescent personality stood out as much as his son’s, and the bond between the two is incredibly strong. When Jameis was joined by Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, wide receiver Louis Murphy and left tackle Donovan Smith on the second day of his camp, they all took part in a 40-yard dash with the kids – and Winston’s unusually spry 45-year old father.
Jameis Winston, who has been chided for his slow 4.97 40-time at the NFL Scouting Combine, poked fun at himself and ran his 40-yard dash with a stopwatch that he stopped prematurely before the finish line.
“Hey, look!” Jameis Winston shouted out for all to hear. “I just ran a 3.8!”
Like any proud father, Antonor Winston is quick to defend his son’s supposed lack of athleticism – despite the fact that he set a new Buccaneers record for most rushing touchdowns by quarterback in franchise history with six during his rookie season. Jameis Winston did trim down this offseason, but not to the extent that one might think.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Pat Donovan/620 WDAE
“He looks good, and I want to straighten up the perception on that,” Antonor Winston said. “He’s actually kept the same weight, he’s just lost the body fat and added muscle. I’ve known Jameis for a long time and when it comes to the 40-yard dash … uh, no (he’s not that fast). But you put him on the field and he has football speed. Don’t write that, though because that’s our secret weapon! (Laughs)”
In just three combined years of playing in the limelight at Florida State and for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Winston has accomplished so much from winning the Heisman Trophy and a national championship as a record-setting redshirt freshman to helping the Seminoles post a record 26 consecutive wins as a sophomore to becoming just the third NFL rookie to throw for 4,000 yards, Rookie of the Year honors and earning a Pro Bowl berth. I asked Winston’s dad what on-field exploit impressed him the most.
“I really don’t have one,” Antonor Winston said. “And we’re talking about the national championship game. We’re talking about the Pittsburgh game (in 2013, in which Winston had a combined five TDs and completed 92.6 percent of his passes in his collegiate debut). I’ll tell you where my mind is. His best game was the Syracuse game when everything broke down and the stories came out. That was a phenomenal game. The Syracuse game was one of his best games in 2013, but I don’t get caught up in his best games.”
Antonor Winston marveled at his son’s ability to compartmentalize the distraction that the sexual assault allegations could bring and stay focused on the task at hand – beating Syracuse, 38-20. He did so while completing a machine-like, season-high 83.3 percent of his passes for 317 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“Jameis’ career isn’t done yet,” Antonor Winston continued. “Once he gets three or four years into his (Bucs) career then I might be able to go game for game with you once he reaches his athletic potential. Then we can start judging games. We’ve watched too many films since he was a young boy for me to be judging games now. But the Syracuse game for him was all about handling adversity. Everything came out against him in the media and rose to the occasion because of God, school and anything you can put your mind to. As a dad, there’s no way he could do that without focusing on those three things. If you focus on God and your school, there’s nothing you can’t do. When he went out there and played like that, there was no doubt in my mind he believed in those things.”
As for the off-field exploit that stands out in Antonor Winston’s mind, he didn’t mention Jameis’ charity work, his community service or his hands-on participation in the first annual Jameis Winston ProCamps youth football camp. What impressed Winston’s dad was how quickly Jameis’ Buccaneers teammates accepted him.
“His teammates,” Winston said. “These are professionals – grown men – that had heard stuff about him that wasn’t true through the media and they had some doubts about him at first. Even Dirk Koetter said he had some doubts about him. The best part about it is that his team rallied around him and said, ‘We’re going to learn about you by ourselves (without the media).’
“I had several of his teammates reach out to me and said, ‘Pops, if he’s an asshole, we’re going to call him an asshole. If he’s not, he’s not. And he’s not.’ Most of the guys came in real early and shared fellowship with him and got to learn about him for themselves. I shed a tear for that. Gerald was one of the first guys. Donovan Smith and Jameis became good friends early on. Louis Murphy and his dad were phenomenal for Jameis, and so was Vincent Jackson.”
When Winston’s two-day football camp concluded it was clear that that it wasn’t the kids, the guest Buccaneers or even Winston himself that had the most fun. It was his father, Antonor Winston, who got the chance to coach, preach, inspire, dance, run, and be proud of his 22-year old son.
And the chance to set the record straight about Jameis, too.
FAB 2. THE BROTHERHOOD: JAMEIS, JONAH AND VINCENT
From a BB gun fight on campus, to stealing crab legs to a sexual assault allegation, Jameis Winston was almost known more for his off-field incidents than his on-field accomplishments at Florida State. But all of Winston’s off-field hi-jinx at Florida State came to a sudden end on September 14, which happened to be the day he was suspended for the Clemson game due to standing up on a table and yelling a profanity in the student union.
For all the handwringing by Buccaneers fans that sweated Tampa Bay drafting a person of supposed questionable character and wanting Marcus Mariota instead, Winston has been problem-free since the Clemson game. That includes his first year in Tampa Bay, too.
Jameis Winston at Florida State – Photo by: Getty Images
“I changed after the Clemson game drastically because that’s the first time I’ve been told that I can’t play,” Winston said. “When you see your teammates on that battlefield, and you’re told, ‘No dog, you can’t play.’ That hurt me. I’m a fun-loving guy, but all that stuff is behind me. After that Clemson game, when you love the game so much and you have a passion for the game and you see your brothers out there and when they won that game … if they would have lost that game everybody would have been talking about ‘Jameis wasn’t playing.’
“I haven’t changed, but I’ve grown,” Winston said. “I’ve grown into the role of being a quarterback, and not just one of the guys. As a quarterback you have to carry yourself in a certain way. You can be one of the guys when the cameras aren’t around. One thing my dad always taught me was character is what you’re doing when no one is looking.”
Letting his Florida State brothers down is one thing, but there’s another side to that story that hits even closer to home. In being suspended for the Clemson game, Winston let his own brother down.
Family means everything to Winston and the bond between Jameis and Jonah, his elementary school-aged brother, is one of the most important things in his life. At the Jameis Winston ProCamps youth football camp this week I spoke with Antonor Winston, Jameis’ father, to discuss one of the most fateful phone calls Jameis ever made.
Jonah and Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
“Jonah – that’s really Jameis’ child because of the age difference,” Antonor Winston said. “Jonah’s a baby. He’s eight. Jameis is 22. I stayed on Jameis a lot, and he was always yearning for a big brother. Once Jonah came into the world he said, ‘I’m going to be a big brother!’ But he mostly turned into a dad. His relationship with Jonah is going to be a great bond forever because I think he sees a lot of him in Jonah.
“Missing the Clemson game and the phone call he made to Jonah about it really affected him. We were riding down on I-10 towards Tallahassee when we got the news that Jameis was going to miss two quarters. When we got down there I talked to them and that’s when they didn’t say he was going to be suspended for the whole game. We didn’t find that out until the next morning when we were at the hotel. He called Jonah on his mom’s cell phone. He didn’t call my cell phone – thank the Lord! He called my wife’s cell phone – I remember it as clear as yesterday – and he asked to speak to Jonah. He never calls us before game time, so I knew something was up. Maybe he called to tell Jonah he was suspended for those two quarters? Well he told Jonah he was suspended for the whole game – and I didn’t listen to it because it wasn’t on speakerphone – and my baby boy started crying. Just tears running down his face. I had to grab the phone and ask Jameis what was the matter. He said, ‘Dad, I can’t play the whole game.’ That’s when it hit him.”
Jameis Winston made his little brother Jonah – who absolutely adored him – cry. Jonah loved watching Jameis play, and Jameis’ actions let him down. Crushed him to the point of tears.
Never again would Jameis do something to shame his family and make his younger brother sad or embarrassed. Unless something unexpectedly crazy happens this summer, when the Buccaneers kick off the 2016 NFL season at Atlanta on September 11, it will be nearly two full years since Winston has had an off-field incident.
Photo courtesy of Antonor Winston
The bond between Jameis and Jonah runs deeper than any relationship Winston had with a Florida State Seminole or a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
“That’s his son,” Antonor Winston said.
As much as Jameis Winston loves football, God and family mean the most to him. So it came as no surprise that on Winston’s 21st birthday that he wasn’t in the bars or night clubs in Tallahassee, Fla. getting drunk and partying.
Instead, he drove to his house in Hueytown, Ala. on January 6, 2015 where he could seek the counsel of his parents and the Lord about whether to turn pro and enter the NFL Draft or return for another year of baseball and football at Florida State.
“That was a long drive home for him from Tallahassee,” Antonor Winston recalled. “It’s four and a half hours from my door to Jameis’ apartment. During the drive home I told him we’ll talk about his decision when he gets home. When he got home he immediately grabbed our hands and we started praying about it. It didn’t take long for him to say, ‘Let me make a grown man decision.’ Most people think we wanted him to turn pro, but we really wanted him to get that degree. We wanted Jaboo to get that degree. We hoped one day he could maybe play both sports, but we wanted him to get that degree. I will be a proud daddy when he gets his degree.
“We prayed about it and he made the decision. He made every decision on his own at school, and as a father that is raising a child, that’s what you enjoy. He made the decision to be a podiatrist. He went to school to study podiatry, and then he wanted to switch his major to be an engineer. I was like, ‘What a minute, I would stick to podiatry.’ But that was his decision. He wanted to switch to a higher major. Hey, anything you can put your mind to, right?’”
Winston’s father admits that some of his son’s decisions led to mistakes at Florida State, but lessons are to be learned when one leaves the nest.
“As a parent, I never talked to Jameis on growing up issues,” Antonor Winston said. “I talked to Jameis on disciplinary issues. A lot of people don’t know why Jameis didn’t go to the pros right out of high school. Well, Jameis is a kid. He’s a child at heart. I didn’t want my son on a bus with grown men. He wasn’t ready. I said, ‘Jameis, work hard and think about it. Are you mature enough to go play professional ball right now with grown men? He said, ‘No, dad.’
“So go to school and work on your maturity. If the Lord leads you to play pro ball, then so be it. We had to wait on the Lord and see what he had in store for him. Go to college where you are supposed to get all of this (immature) stuff out of you and then be a man. That didn’t work for us to get to school to be mature, unfortunately. We had to go another way to [become mature].”
Bucs WR Vincent Jackson – Photo by: Getty Images
Winston always wanted a big brother. Instead, he became one when Jonah came into his life.
As it turns out, Winston’s family has grown this offseason in a decidedly unexpected fashion. Winston’s father dropped a bombshell in my interview with him on Tuesday.
“We just found out we’re related to Vincent Jackson,” Antonor Winston said. “My wife’s brother married Vincent’s aunt. We just now found that out, so it’s been phenomenal. Jameis is throwing to family now, but they didn’t know that last year. We just found this out this offseason.
“Jameis always said Vincent was the older brother he’s never had. Vincent treats him like an older brother would, too. Since they found out that they’re family I think Vincent is going to adopt him! After he retires he’s going to do great things. Everybody knows Vincent is going to do great things. After Vincent leaves we’re going to adopt Louis (as Jameis’ older brother on the Bucs). Jameis has always wanted an older brother. Now he’s got one in Vincent.”
FAB 3. JAMEIS WINSTON FOOTBALL CAMP OBSERVATIONS
I spent two days at the Jameis Winston ProCamps youth football camp at Sunlake High School in Land O’ Lakes, Fla. and have several observations I want to share with you. No, I didn’t do any practice reports on any Pop Warner all-stars in attendance.
Although my South Pasco Predators organization was well represented at the camp and placed three of the fastest kids in the 40-yard dash in Ryan Johnson, and Drew and Wade Woodaz; in addition to my son, Logan, winning player of the day for his team on Monday after he caught a touchdown pass from Winston on a deep flag route and tapped his toes in the end zone. Not bad for a big 11-year old defensive tackle.
Louis Murphy, Gerald McCoy and Donovan Smith – Photo by: Scott Reynolds/PR
When introducing McCoy to the campers prior to the start of practice on Tuesday, Winston called McCoy a five- or six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle. McCoy corrected him and said he was a “four-time Pro Bowler.” Then Winston said McCoy would be embarking on his fifth Pro Bowl this year. These two high-profile Bucs are tight and becoming even tighter.
Winston saved the best introduction of the day for Donovan Smith.
“A future Pro Football Hall of Famer, my best friend and my blindside (protector), one of my greatest teammates of them all, Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith,” Winston said.
Smith and Winston have palled around together all offseason, which is a great sign. You want your left tackle and quarterback to have that mutual trust and responsibility to each other.
In last week’s SR’s Fab 5, I gave quite the props to second-year receiver Adam Humphries, who has been the starting slot receiver for Tampa Bay this offseason as Louis Murphy continues to rehab from his torn ACL, which happened on a 29-yard catch in a 31-30 loss at Washington. Well don’t count Murphy out.
“It was very unfortunate, but that’s in the past,” Murphy said. “All I can do is keep working. I trust the Bucs training staff and I know I’ll be ready for the season.”
Murphy is one of Winston’s close friends and favorite receivers, so when he’s back in action he’ll get every opportunity to make the team, especially after signing a three-year deal worth $4.6 million last year.
“We have to leave it in God’s hands and in the training staff’s hands,” Murphy said. “They haven’t said anything yet about a time table (for training camp). I’m just working every day and making steady progress. I know the offense and know the plays, I just have to get the knee right, get healthy and get ready for this upcoming season. It’s going to be a long season. I’ll be ready to go Week 1.”
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Murphy loves the fact that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was promoted to head coach to replace Lovie Smith, and believes the relationship between Koetter and Winston will take Tampa Bay to new heights.
“We have a new head coach, but we still have continuity because Dirk was here last year,” Murphy said. “If you look at the great teams with Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady – they all had the same offense and the same offensive coordinator for years. You’re not learning a new playbook each year. That just comes with time and building chemistry every year. A lot of the great quarterbacks have the same system and the same O.C. for 10 or 12 years.
“It’s scary. It’s scary to think of how good Jameis Winston can really be with Dirk. He’s a great coach and he has a great philosophy. He’s a player’s coach. He has all the support from his players and a lot of guys look up to Dirk.”
Murphy wasn’t the only NFL wide receiver helping Winston out. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess, who befriended Winston during the pre-draft process last year, was in town for both days of Winston’s camp.
“It’s good because Jameis and I – we’re the same person, he’s just more outgoing,” Funchess said. “We both love helping kids out. I’m just out here supporting him and making sure everything is good with his camp.”
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Pat Donovan/620 WDAE
Winston will return the favor next month at Funchess’ youth football camp in Michigan, and had a great time working with the 300 elementary school-aged and middle school-aged kids in attendance in Pasco County.
“Ever since I had my little brother, I looked at the way my dad raised me and I always looked at it like, “Man, I want to have a big brother,’” he said. “Any type of big brother influence I can put on any kid – any type of effect I can have (is good).
“Every one of those kids out there is like my little brother. I’m just trying to have as much fun as possible and trying to engage with them.”
As expected, Murphy sat out the 40-yard dash at Winston’s camp and didn’t participate because he hasn’t been cleared to run yet. But when Funchess, Winston, McCoy and Smith all decided to run several 40-yard dashes with the campers, all I could think about was how awful it would be if one of these guys tore a quad or ripped a hamstring during the impromptu sprints.
Thankfully, no Buccaneers were hurt at Winston’s camp, and a great time was had by all.
FAB 4. PARENTS, LET YOUR KIDS PLAY FOOTBALL
I hope all of the dads and grandfathers that visit PewterReport.com and read my SR’s Fab 5 column had a great Father’s Day last Sunday. In keeping with the Father’s Day spirit I wanted to share something that is near and dear to my heart with you.
As many of the long-time readers of my SR’s Fab 5 column know, I have coached my son, Logan, in Pop Warner football for the past five years. He’s a defensive tackle and I’ve been his defensive line coach (and sometimes defensive coordinator) since he started playing when he was five years old.
If you think I’m crazy for letting him start playing tackle football when he was five years old, you’re wrong. It was the best decision I could have made as it has brought us closer together as a family and it’s a way for me to give back to the community and share my knowledge and passion about the game of football from my 22 years of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And the kids love it when I bring a Buccaneer or two out to practice each year as I’ve done since I started coaching years ago.
Logan Reynolds (37) makes a tackle for the South Pasco Predators
Because of my profession, Logan has watched football with me since he was a toddler. When he was four years old he begged me to sign him up to play tackle football. I told him he had to wait until he was five, but there was a problem with that.
During Logan’s fifth birthday party he came up to me and told me he was ready to play. I said, “Ready to play what?”
“Football!” he replied.
The only problem is that his birthday is in February. When I told Logan he would have to wait seven more months until the Pop Warner season started in August he broke down in tears.
He was ready to suit up in February! As a result I made my kid cry at his birthday party, which we laugh about to this day.
Since he’s been playing we’ve had a lot of great memories and he’s benefited from the teamwork, work ethic, physical toughness and perseverance the sport of football demands from its players. Logan is not the most gifted athlete, nor is he the best player. He just loves playing football.
I call the five-year old tackle football players “Bobbleheads” because their helmets are bigger than their bodies. The beauty of kids playing football at such a young age in the Tiny Mite division (ages 5-7) is that there is such little force generated at that age that concussions or serious injuries are incredibly rare.
Logan and Coach Scott
Most injuries occur later as kids get older, and concussion fears have caused a noticeable dip in enrollment among younger players, which is a shame. From my observation, the safest ages for kids to play tackle football are from 5-7.
I’ve always told my son the first time he gets a concussion or serious injury he’s likely done playing. I have seen very few concussions over the years, and thankfully that hasn’t happened yet to Logan.
What I have seen is parents make the mistake and wait until their kids are older, such as nine or 10, to sign them up for Pop Warner or other youth football leagues. Football will make your kids tougher. There’s no doubt about it.
Some kids are naturally tough or aggressive and they transition just fine. Yet other kids aren’t as tough and it’s a much rougher transition going up against kids that have been hitting, tackling and learning how to take a hit with a four- or five-year head start.
I sympathize with those kids and know how to coach them up and get them caught up to the other kids with remedial tackling drills because I was the only kid on my freshman football team in high school that didn’t play organized tackle football. My freshman year was a rude awakening and I was barely a competent player. It wasn’t until my sophomore year that I had fun as a confident player. Then I hurt my knee and my football career was over after just two years.
Knowing all the fun I’ve had coaching kids and the fun my son has had playing football (and winning a lot of games, I might add), I wish I could have convinced my parents to let me play Pop Warner football when I was young. At his first annual youth football camp I asked Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston what his message would be to parents that are considering letting their kids play tackle football.
Logan Reynolds and the South Pasco Predators
“My message would be to let your kids have fun,” Winston said. “When you are playing [and having fun], and you’re in the right organization, and their safety is a concern … but when you are having fun you are not going to care [about getting hurt]. You are not going to really get hurt. It just depends on what organization it is because I played football at a very young age. I started playing football at four years old. Just being out there, staying active and having fun. At a young age, your main purpose is to go out there, win with your teammates and get a trophy at the end of the year. I truly recommend that because these kids will learn a lot from youth football.”
It’s been my experience that the safety training has gotten better and better each year, as has the protective equipment. The South Pasco Predators organization is getting new, top-notch Riddell helmets this year, and football is a lot safer than I when I played back in the 1980s.
In doing some research about the concussion risk I found results all over the board, so I’ll let you do your own research. Because football is a collision sport, it is higher than most sports with lacrosse a close second. But there are also concussions in soccer and basketball due to the fact that kids don’t have helmets or padding outside of shin guards in soccer.
Caden, Logan and Coach Scott
If you are considering letting your kid play tackle football, do your research. Find the best local organization in your neighborhood, whether it’s a team from Pop Warner, TBYFL (Tampa Bay Youth Football League) or PAL (Police Athletic League). Good coaches and good organizations make all the difference. Good coaches care just as much about player safety as they do winning games. I know that is the mantra in the SPP organization I coach in.
The Predators teams I’ve helped to coach have made the playoffs the last four years and most of the South Pasco teams do. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the last Pop Warner FYD league championship team three years ago, and my daughters’ cheer teams both went to Nationals last year and placed sixth and eighth in the nation, respectively.
If you live in the Land O’ Lakes, Odessa, Trinity, Lutz, Wesley Chapel area, I recommend the South Pasco Predators organization. All teams – Tiny Mite (5-7), Mighty Mite (7-9), Junior Pee Wee (9-11), Pee Wee (10-12) and Junior Varsity (12 and up) are still enrolling football players. If you are interested in signing up or want more information on the SPP football and cheerleading programs, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ex-Bucs DL Coach Joe Cullen – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“In my time with Gerald McCoy, as great a player as he is – and I consider him to be the best defensive tackle in the National Football League – he’s as hard a worker and the true epitome of a pro that you would want,” Cullen said. “He’s the hardest working player I’ve ever been around and his preparation never ends when it comes to getting ready for an opponent. You see some guys sign a big contract and things change, but his work ethic never did. In fact, his work ethic went even higher in my opinion – and not that it could go much higher to begin with.
“Scheme-wise, he loved the scheme. It was the same scheme Warren Sapp played in and Gerald could attack. He had back-to-back years of 8.5 sacks, which I think is second in the NFL (among defensive tackles) in that span. Sometimes people put things out there to motivate a guy, but I don’t know. If you’re an Atlanta columnist, what kind of source are you going to have within the Bucs in my opinion? You know what I’m saying? Say a guy isn’t a great player or whatever, but question a guy’s work ethic? C’mon!”
How furious was Cullen over the ESPN report? He took time out of celebrating his three-year wedding anniversary with his wife to reach out to PewterReport.com twice to blast the report.
I’ve covered McCoy since he came into the league in 2010 and he is easily the hardest-working defensive lineman in Tampa Bay. I’ve seen him at practice in OTAs, mini-camps, training camp and during the season, and what Atlanta-based writer Vaughn McClure said doesn’t jive with what I’ve seen or what Cullen said.
I remember the NFL lockout during the spring of 2011 when McCoy helped organize an offseason mini-camp with the Buccaneers at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. In his second-year with the Bucs, McCoy served as a willing participant and as the team’s defensive line coach. Like Cullen said, criticize the guy in any area you like, but don’t question McCoy’s work ethic.
I’ve used unnamed sources before and understand the need to do so, so I’m not going to necessarily knock McClure, but the danger of doing that is opening up yourself for criticism when even better sources – like Cullen in this case – are willing to go on the record to refute what you report.
• Not quite sure who ESPN is hiring these days in the NFC South, but I certainly miss Pat Yasinskas’ coverage of the division. In the same roundtable article, which asks if the Bucs made a mistake by firing Lovie Smith, David Newton, the Carolina reporter, said letting Smith go was a mistake and had this to say: “That the Bucs haven’t shown a lot of progress defensively the past two seasons is somewhat concerning. But the offense has been dreadful, which makes being sound defensively hard because players are on the field too long.”
An observant reporter could say that about the 2014 Buccaneers, but how could an objective, informed journalist suggest that was the case about Tampa Bay’s offense in 2015? The Bucs had the fifth-ranked offense in terms of yards, eclipsed the 6,000-yard mark for a season for the first time in franchise history, had the league’s second-leading rusher in Doug Martin, the Pepsi Rookie of the Year in Jameis Winston, who became just the third rookie QB to throw for over 4,000 yards in NFL history and a 1,200-yard receiver in Mike Evans. Tampa Bay wound up placing three players – Martin, Winston and left guard Logan Mankins – in the Pro Bowl, too. Go figure.
• Tampa Bay wide receiver Louis Murphy said the best is yet to come for the Bucs offense now that Dirk Koetter has been promoted to the role of head coach this year.
“We had the league’s second-leading rusher and a 4,000-yard passer as a rookie quarterback last year, but we’re just getting started,” Murphy said. “It’s a player’s dream. The way Dirk calls plays, any receiver, running back or quarterback would love to play for him. Look at what he did in Atlanta with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez. They had so many weapons and they all got the ball. We know we’re going to be great. We just have to prove it to everybody else.”
• If you think Jameis Winston is a special player, look out for his eight-year old brother, Jonah, according to Winston’s father, Antonor.
“My other son, Jonah, doesn’t understand the game the way Jameis does,” Winston said. “But he’s a better athlete than Jameis. This is Jameis’ first time where he’s able to be an athlete. If you go back and look at all the awards – he’s always been in two sports his whole life. And there has been a lot of travel ball (with baseball), so he never got a chance to be a great athlete. I’m looking forward to see how good he can really be. I already knew he was humble. I already knew he was smart. I already knew he was a good teammate, but I never knew how good he was. Now we’ll see.”
Jameis Winston at Florida State – Photo by: Getty Images
• I touched on a lot of topics in my conversation with Antonor Winston this week, and Jameis’ father set the record straight on a couple of issues, and one area we ventured into was Winston getting suspended for the Clemson game and getting criticized by some in the media for wearing his Florida State uniform during pre-game warm-ups.
“You know the extent of it – people said he walked on to the field with his uniform on,” Winston said. “But it was a whole administrative problem because they made the decision to suspend him that day (the day of the game). The (equipment) staff wasn’t notified to take away his uniform. That’s why I was upset with the media because they didn’t tell the truth about that.”
Antonor Winston said his son wasn’t trying to pull a fast one and attempt to suit up and play simply by wearing the uniform.
“He just wanted to be a teammate – that’s it,” Antonor Winston said. “He didn’t know. He had never been suspended (at Florida State). He was suspended once in high school and that’s what he did – he was in full uniform and he stood on the sidelines and cheered on his teammates. That’s all he wanted to do – be a good teammate.”
• Be sure to sound off on this week’s edition of SR’s Fab 5 and leave your comments below. We’re starting a weekly column to continue the popularity of SR’s Fab 5 with the new SR’s Fab 5 Reaction every Tuesday. Each week I’ll select a handful of comments to react to and offer up some additional insight, opinion and commentary on the Buccaneers. Be sure to check it out. Here is a link to last week’s SR’s Fab 5 Reaction 6-21.
• And finally, cheers to Great Britain for its decision to seek independence from the European Union. Voters exercised their democratic right to vote and it was a big defeat for globalism and a big win for nationalism. As an American from a sovereign nation, I’m all about sovereignty and I respect the fact that the majority want the United Kingdom to be sovereign, too.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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