TAMPA — One after another, they lined up at the 30-yard line at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday morning, fathers racing to the back of the end zone, with their sons, with their daughters, and often with cellphone cameras out capturing the moment as they ran.
Five or six seconds later, they had answered a key question: Are you still faster than your kids? And, more importantly: Are you taking the time to find out?
That was the message to about 1,200 participants — some faster than others — at the All Pro Dad Father & Kids Experience: Take time to be active and engaged in your children's lives.
"A father is a major role model in a child's life," said Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who spoke to the group as part of the event. "That child grows up emulating his father, learns what he wants to be through his father. I know I did when I was a kid. This event just puts the emphasis on the father and his responsibility and role in a child's life."
McDonald, 29 and in his third season with the Bucs, had daughters Laila, 10, and Emerald, 1, with him Saturday, and he and his wife, Alicia, are expecting a third girl this month. He remembers his father, Larry, a retired Air Force veteran, showing him about hard work and dedication on Saturday mornings as he and his older brother worked with him on construction jobs growing up.
McDonald said it's important for his children to see him doing more than just tackling opponents.
"Here, they don't see me in a jersey or helmet, hitting somebody," he said. "They see me giving back, and it instills in their mind that it's better to give than receive. We can't be about ourselves."
Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston made an unbilled appearance at the event, and defensive line coach Jay Hayes was there as well. All Pro Dad is a part of Family First, a nonprofit organization based in Tampa, founded in part by former Bucs coach Tony Dungy.
The field took participants through different football challenges — running the 40, throwing footballs at targets, trying to get past padded would-be tacklers — with lessons for fathers sprinkled throughout as well.
Saturday's sold-out event was the organization's 18th in Tampa — they're nearing 100 nationally in other NFL markets — and the theme of this year's event is "HERO," challenging fathers to be heroes in their children's lives.
"All kids really want a loving dad involved in their lives, but they long for a hero to really lead them," said Mark Merrill, president of Family First. "We always have a huge crowd in Tampa Bay, and it's really an encouragement."
For more information or to donate, visit allprodad.com.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.