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Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott earns Gasparilla grand marshal honor

High above the interstate, you see him and his wife Nicole on billboards promoting the Ronald McDonald House.

Nonprofit groups throughout the area boast about the support they get from his foundation.

Fans still wear his No. 40 jersey at Raymond James Stadium.

And on Saturday, former Bucs fullback Mike Alstott will be front and center as grand marshal of the Gasparilla Parade of the Pirates. He will be in the ninth float, tossing beads and enjoying a spotlight some thought would dim after his 12-year NFL career ended.

But even after his official retirement in January 2008, Alstott's community popularity seems to be soaring as high as those billboards. Certainly, he holds a place in fans' hearts because of his blue-collar image, but the efforts of the Mike Alstott Family Foundation have helped him gain supporters outside the sports arena.

Alstott, of course, is just doing what he thinks is right.

"I'm not looking for the recognition or popularity," Alstott said. "I'm looking for the gratification of helping children and families and putting smiles on people's face, especially people in adverse situations.

"Like doing things at Ronald McDonald House, such as cooking dinner on Thanksgiving. We're actually helping out and giving something to these families who can't have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with family and friends. It's about taking their minds off their current situation."

It's those kinds of acts that drew officials from the parade, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla and a new sponsor, the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, to choose Alstott for the seldom-used honor. The parade has had only a handful of grand marshals over the years, but those involved with the parade said Alstott is ideal for the honor because he "combines leadership and integrity in their professional and personal life, while being recognized as an accomplished figure by their peers and their community."

All-Children's Hospital, Children's Cancer Center in Tampa, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas, Angelus House and Sallie House all benefit from Alstott's charitable efforts.

Alstott also is involved in various business ventures, including real estate development, a Durable Medical Equipment company and a Merchant Solutions company.

For now, however, he's warming up his arm for some bead tossing.

"Everyday, people look for a way to make their life a little better," Alstott said. "It's good for us to come together and vent and have fun and celebrate. It's going to be a great day and I'm truly honored."

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Mike Alstott earns Gasparilla grand marshal honor 01/28/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 30, 2010 12:16am]
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