TAMPA, Fla. — Thanks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the best girls football players in the state will be on the campus of USF this week.
The fourth annual Tampa Bay Buccaneers Girls Flag Football Preseason Classic welcomes nearly 1,500 athletes and 70 teams throughout the state of Florida to compete in the three-day, round-robin-style tournament. A large crop of these girls are local products with 37 teams hailing from Hillsborough and Pinellas County.
"It's honestly an honor because I love that [the Buccaneers] put on these things for us and there's a lot of teams here," Jaylen Stasio of Robinson High School said. "To be in this and [play] with all these other teams pushing the initiative for girls flag football is amazing."
Destiny McWhite of Armwood High School said, "It's inspiring. It's a lot of hard work. You got to be dedicated to come out here and play."
After the first set of games Thursday afternoon, the girls were welcomed to a surprise from Buccaneers offensive linemen Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs.
"You know, it opens the door to a lot of opportunities for young ladies out there," Smith, who has a daughter and grew up with three sisters, said. "Just to show them and tell them that they can do anything that they put their minds to."
Wirfs added, "We didn't have [girls] flag football leagues in Iowa. To see this is incredible."
This event helps kick off the Florida High School Athletic Association flag football season, which officially begins on Monday. If the tournament could survive through the heart of the pandemic, it will continue to be a staple in our community.
"It's part of the fabric of who we are. We have so many women in high positions at the Buccaneers. It's just our nature to support women and girls," Buccaneers co-owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz said.
As for the upcoming Buccaneers season, fans are a bit concerned about what they will see inside Raymond James Stadium. The team is losing a lot of talent, including quarterback Tom Brady, but Smith is not worried one bit.
"We've set the standard and know what it takes. It's just up to the older guys implementing that and holding everybody accountable. But you know, we have a great locker room and the guys love it. They buy-in easily and we're going to be great. I don't know what's the worry and all of that?"