Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

How Buccaneers are observing NFL's My Cause, My Cleats campaign

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TAMPA — On Sunday, as the Bucs play the Chargers in San Diego, some of their cleats might stand out from the usual pewter and red, loudly and proudly.

The quarterback will be sporting powder blue high-tops. One defensive back will be wearing gray and green cleats, and the kicker, punter and holder will be wearing matching tie-dye ones.

The NFL, which usually mandates its uniforms be rigidly uniform, is allowing players to wear customized shoes as part of its "My Cause, My Cleats" campaign. Several Bucs players are proud to be able to raise awareness for causes important to them.

"The players are always good about supporting their charities," said coach Dirk Koetter, who does a slide show of players' community involvement each Wednesday during team meetings. "You couple that with these guys getting to design their own shoes, it's like kids in a candy store. It's really a great idea. Whoever thought of it should probably get a raise."

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Defensive back and special teams ace Josh Robinson's custom Nikes were made with heels bearing the name of Evie Graber, a close friend in Minnesota from his days with the Vikings. Graber, a mother of five whose husband, Chris, is a pastor, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in April and is having chemotherapy treatments.

"They're like family to me," said Robinson, who chose gray as the color for brain cancer awareness and green because "I knew her color was green."

"When you have this platform, when you can speak about different issues, it's a great opportunity to give players a voice that people will actually listen to."

Some of the Bucs' biggest stars are taking part. Jameis Winston's cleats will be powder blue, the color of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. His grandmother has Type 2 diabetes.

"Seeing what my grandmother goes through, I can only imagine what a young kid is going through," Winston said.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy chose his cleats to support single-parent homes, knowing the challenges they face from experience.

"My mom was a single parent before she met my dad. A lot of my aunties were. My wife was before we got married," McCoy said. "I've seen it at my church, seen it with kids at my school. It's very hard to deal with, and they need any help they can get."

Quarterback Mike Glennon, whose father, John, is a prostate cancer survivor, is wearing cleats for Moffitt Cancer Center, and cornerback Alterraun Verner is supporting Athletes for Charity. Tackle Donovan Smith, who has a nephew who is autistic, chose his cleats to support children with intellectual disabilities.

Kicker Roberto Aguayo and punter Bryan Anger are joining long-snapper Andrew DePaola in wearing tie-dyed cleats for Bo's Effort, a charity named for a cousin of DePaola's who died last year at age 20, a year after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The campaign seeks to "break the stigma of mental illness through education and guidance."

"I'd never want to put my name on something unless it really means a lot to me," said DePaola, who chose a blue-green heel for the charity's colors and a front that is tie-dyed, something his cousin liked.

More than 500 players are expected to take part in the cleats campaign. Bucs receiver Mike Evans is one of 10 who will wear gold cleats for the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), which is using Sunday as part of its "Sideline Racism" campaign.

"I hope the league continues to allow us to do this," Evans said. "A friend of mine came to me with RISE, and I liked what they had going on. That was a good fit, and the cleats are real nice as well."

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