WEST TAMPA -- Some of them had just returned from their first semester of college 24 hours earlier, but several former and current high school football players assembled at Rey Park Community Center in West Tampa on Friday afternoon to participate in a holiday toy giveaway.
The event, organized by Unsigned Preps, gave presents to about 25 kids at the rec center ages 5 to 14.
“It makes you happy to be able to see the kids smile,” said former Jefferson quarterback and last year’s Florida Mr. Football Quentin Williams, a freshman at Bethune-Cookman. “I remember growing up I always had people I always had people I looked up to. You never know, maybe you can be that to one of these kids. I think it helps motivate you more. You don’t want to let the little ones down.”
The student athletes participating included Williams, Andre Davis (Jefferson/USF), Kenny Spain (Jefferson/ Eastern Arizona Community College), Darius Lee (Brandon/Central Connecticut State), Josh Celerin (Brandon/Central Connecticut State), Jarrett Miranda (Brandon High Class of ’11), Rashad Dunnigan (Jefferson/Iowa Western CC), Manny Cromuel (Jefferson/South Dakota), Deontae Florence (Armwood/College of the Desert), Jyhadd Grant, Will Watson (Jefferson Class of ‘12) and Lamar Woods (Jefferson Class of ’12).
Former University of Florida and Tampa Bay Storm defensive lineman Thaddeus Bullard, who is now a WWE wrestler under the name Titus O’Neil, was also there handing out WWE T-shirts to the kids.
Some of the players gave their game-worn gloves to kids. Davis handed out a USF football. Cromuel took the South Dakota hat off his head and offered it to another kid.
Unsigned Preps founder Ricky Sailor, who is also the defensive coordinator at Jefferson, preached about the importance of giving back to the community.
“I remember being their ages and knowing what it’s like to get a gift from someone,” said Watson, one of the county’s top cornerback recruits. “Maybe one of these kids had a bad day at school you made their day. It’s going to be something I will always remember.”
To read more about Unsigned Preps, click HERE.
Reach Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @EddieHometeam.