TAMPA — Meeting Vernon Davis, Steve Christie, Garo Yepremian, Jeff Hatch, Andre Collins and other NFL stars had never crossed the mind of Largo artist Susan Kubes.
"My husband, Tom, likes football, but I wasn't all that interested," Kubes said.
Kubes and her husband not only met those players, but also found plenty of common ground for discussion last weekend.
She was chosen to participate in Smocks & Jocks, a jazz brunch and art auction that features the artwork of former and current NFL players and takes place each year in conjunction with the Super Bowl.
More than 30 paintings, metalworks and sculptures created by NFL players were on display Saturday as the Starship Yacht hosted the NFL Players Association event at Channelside. The financial results of the silent auction were not available.
The NFLPA partners with a local nonprofit group to host the event and share in the fundraising. This year, VSA arts of Florida, based at the University of South Florida, was the partner.
"They were intrigued by our work," said Marian Winters, VSA executive director. "We assist artists with disabilities, and they had never chosen an organization with that sort of mission."
Kubes was one of five artists Winters invited to represent VSA.
"This honor was a way to thank Susan for her participation in VSA activities," Winters said. "We like her art and we know it sells well. She represents VSA well."
For Kubes, the event was magical. Dozens of players and former players turned out to support the cause, including many with art on display.
"We were made to feel like shining stars," Kubes said. "All three decks were crowded with people having a very good time. It was like a big reunion.
"We talked with Garo Yepremian about what got him started in art. Jeff Hatch is a former Buc who does very abstract art. It's very cool. He's such a nice guy."
The idea of brawny football players as artists may seem incongruent to many. Kubes, who uses an electric scooter due to spinal degeneration, said the contradiction was especially evident to her.
"From my low point on my scooter, I gaze up and see the power, agility and athleticism in these men," she said. "It is a contrast to see their paintings. There is energy, emotion and feeling there. It is easy to forget that side of the players.
"These are not football players that, by the way, paint. These are very good, true artists."
Being counted among artists is a dream come true for Kubes. In the last year, she has sold enough art to open a small studio in Largo, where she also gives art lessons.
"My art now supports my expenses," Kubes said. "I've become a professional artist with plans for the future, thanks to the support and encouragement of the VSA.
"Imagine my surprise when I was greeted by Andre Collins saying, 'You're Susan Kubes, I've seen your Web site.' "