Smith: Bucs can honor Glazer best by winning
TAMPA -- Bucs coach Lovie Smith said when the thinks of Malcolm Glazer, he sees the joy the former Bucs owner had in hoisting high the Lombardi Trophy after his team won a Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
"My lasting impression of him would be holding that up, knowing how important these Tampa Bay Bucs were," Smith said Friday, two days after Glazer died at age 85 after years of health problems following a pair of strokes he suffered in 2006. "As I told our football team, eventually we'll have a chance to honor him in a proper way, but the best way we can honor him is to have a successful football team on the field next year, which we plan on doing."
Smith's first comments since Glazer's death came, fittingly, at a community event, as the Bucs unveiled the first of 21 "Buccaneers Academy Fitness Zones," with a huge red canopy emblazoned with the Bucs logo covering the outdoor playing court and providing shade for exercise activities at B.C. Graham Elementary, not far from One Buc Place.
Smith was joined by running back Doug Martin, defensive end Michael Johnson and a large group of rookies, who engaged with fifth-graders in football drills in the new fitness area. He said the community outreach was a crucial part of the Glazers' mission with the Bucs.
"I know them and what they stand for, and it's something that's real important to them," Smith said. "This is important."
Smith also introduced the team's "Ticket to the Future" program, which gives all fifth-graders at the 21 "academy" schools a ticket they can redeem 10 years from now for a job interview after graduation from a two- or four-year college. Smith told one student that he plans on being the Bucs' head coach for at least 10 years, so he hopes to see him in person for the interview.
Johnson said the interaction with area students is important for him because of the inspiration it can provide -- he said he had never met a professional athlete until quarterback Michael Vick made an appearance in his locker room when he was at Georgia Tech.
"We get looked up to by these kids, whether we know it or not," Johnson said. "For us to reiterate some of the things their teachers and parents are telling them, it's big for them. They look at us as their heroes, so for us to be a positive influence in their lives, it's very important."
Ten years ago, current Bucs rookies Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins were fifth-graders in elementary school, and Martin said he had barely found football at that age, when his dream was still following in Michael Jordan's footsteps.
"My dream was to be an NBA player, and then a doctor after that," the 5-foot-9 running back said. "I was supposed to have a big mansion and live with a bunch of animals and stuff like that. Things worked out a little differently, and I didn't grow like everybody else did. I went to football and it worked out. ... It really makes me feel good to see the kids out here, to see them smiling, to be here, to inspire them to go to school, to go to high school and college and get that degree. You want to inspire them."