The Tampa Bay Buccaneers donated $100,000 to the North Greenwood Panthers, a youth football and cheerleading organization of Clearwater, to help build a field through the NFL Grassroots Program Tuesday.
With the Bucs’ donation, the Panthers will get new uniforms and a field that will be open next summer. Formerly, the field was used by the Philadelphia Phillies as an overflow parking lot for Jack Russel Stadium during spring training. This field will now be used by the Panthers, participants in the Buccaneers’ Play 60 program, and the community.
The Panthers have not had a field of their own, bouncing between various Clearwater school fields and sharing space. Now ,they will finally have a place to call home, and it will be created by Clearwater for Youth Inc. The stadium will be getting lights, grass, an irrigation system and goal posts.
Buccaneers in attendance for the groundbreaking ceremony were quarterback Josh Freeman, kicker Connor Barth, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and rookie cornerback Leonard Johnson, along with the Buccaneers cheerleaders and Captain Fear.
Johnson grew up right around the corner from the field and played for the Panthers as a child. He and his mother started the College Connect football camp to help out the North Greenwood community, with a mission to push for positive change in the neighborhood. There has been a lot of violence in years past, and Johnson and his mom wanted an outlet for the kids. He said that some make it out of the neighborhood, and he hopes this field can help even more do something positive with their lives.
When Johnson spoke to the group of kids that came out for the ground breaking, he asked how many knew him, and almost all raised their hands. They all know Johnson because of his camp, where hundreds of students came out to take part last summer. He hopes to put on another camp this summer.
Josh Freeman commented that if there is no field or a place for the kids to expel their energy in a positive way, such as through sports, they may turn to other, less positive activities. “…I think this field is going to make a huge difference to this community,” said Freeman.
The Panthers in attendance got to interact with the Bucs, learning, playing and catching passes from their heroes before scoring a few autographs. The kids took part in the groundbreaking ceremony, digging dirt with their gold shovels.
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said that it is great to have another place for the children to work on their natural talents.
Most of the players on the Bucs grew up playing community football or had some kind of football field to play on as a kid. Now, as professionals, it’s good to see them give back to the local communities that support them every Sunday and all season long.
The Buccaneers are huge on youth development and health education. They try and support youth organizations throughout the Tampa Bay area.
Seeing Johnson come from a tough neighborhood shows the children of North Greenwood that, with enough dedication and hard work, anything can happen.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Buccaneers news, see CBS Sports Tampa.
Kyra Hallett is a freelance writer covering all things Buccaneers. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.