TAMPA, Fla. — Shaquil Barrett was playing for more than just his team Sunday afternoon.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneer outside linebacker recorded his first career touchdown after he intercepted the ball from Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Field inside the 5-yard line.
Barret said time stood still for him when he caught the ball, and it was a moment he shared with his late daughter.
"...After I made the play, I told her I love you, miss you, wish she was here," he said. "And so, I’m glad I’m able to still get some spotlight for her and to the Lord above because he’s the reason why we’re here right now and just trust in his plan, and no matter what it is, it works for good, so I’m just trusting in that and just going through everyday trusting and believing in that.”
Barrett's daughter Arrayah tragically died at 2 years old after she drowned falling into a pool at the family’s home in the Beach Park neighborhood.
He and his family continue to mourn her death, but Barrett is using football as a way to cope with the pain while also being there for his family.
"I always played for my family already," he said. "But then having that extra incentive and making me want to go a little harder for it. It never stops and it [is] always going to suck but at least I’m able to shine some spotlight on her a little bit."
His family was in attendance and said things in the family are going well since his daughter's death.
The 30-year-old started out the new season as his usual impactful self, recording a sack and interception – both coming against Chicago. It's impressive for a player who suffered a season-ending injury last year and stayed focused throughout the offseason to make sure he returns back to his best.
“It feels good to be back on the playmaking side of things. I know even if I was making plays - all the work I put [in] the offseason during rehab and all that felt good, and I knew I was back - even though if the plays like last week didn’t exactly show that I’m back," Barrett said. "But I felt that I was back for a while now. And it’s just good to get those plays; those game-changing plays, like I’m accustomed to, to affirm that.
"So, I just thank my coaches for putting me in the right position, my teammates for being there for me. So yeah, it just feels good.”
Head coach Todd Bowles also admitted it puts a smile on his face seeing Barrett make big plays for his team again.
"We put him inside to give him a position to make one of the drop calls and twist them underneath and sit there and wait for something, they threw right to him," Bowles said. "Shaq is a very heady guy, I think he had a sack along with it. It’s good to see him back to normal.”
Tampa Bay has won its first two games of the season, making it the third straight season that the Bucs begin the year with a 2-0 record.
Barrett is certainly looking forward to stacking up more wins, and he's going to continue leaning on faith and his family to make sure he'll play at his absolute best.
"I know sometimes people in situations, [especially] tough situations, their faith [has] wavered but, I needed him more now or then or still now than I needed him ever. And that was the only way me and my family were going to make it through by leaning on each other and trusting in the Lord," he said. "So, just talking to each other, worship music, church, prayer, all the prayers from everybody that have been praying for us, like we [were] able to feel the power of prayer for sure, just help get some of the cloudy, raining days off us.
"Literally, last week before the game, I was struggling last week, like struggling really bad. Like I had to stop crying, calling my wife, coaches checked in on me, but then out the blue everything went away and I was able to focus on the game. Everybody, my wife, were praying for me. I actually felt the wave of emotions like slide to the side and I was able to focus. So, I was able to feel the power of prayer.”
Barrett and the Bucs have a tough test in their next game.
NFC champions the Philadelphia Eagles will make a stop at Raymond James Stadium on Monday, Sept. 25 to face Tampa Bay in Week 3.
But after starting off the season in winning fashion, Bowles believes his team's belief in beating any team in the league won't go away anytime soon.
“We feel like if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we have a chance to win every week," he said. "We’ve got enough talent on this team. Again, they’re young, you don’t know their name, because they’re all new, but they’re good football players.
"We’ve got a lot of confidence in the building in these guys and, you know, we’ll put them up against anybody.”
Kickoff for the Bucs' next game is scheduled at 7:15 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
Be sure to watch The Blitz at 8:30 a.m. every Sunday only on 10 Tampa Bay as Sports Director Evan Closky and Sports Anchor David Schiele give you full Bucs coverage leading up to each game.