The new head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the highlight for winners of the team's reading challenge. The students were treated to a tour of One Buccaneer Place, including the players' locker room and an appearance from Lovie Smith.
Smith congratulated the students on their accomplishments and encouraged them to keep reading by sharing a few stories about his seventh-grade teacher, with whom he still keeps in contact.
"Way back, a long time ago, I had great … teachers, too, that convinced me how important reading was," Smith told the students. "I'm still reading to this day. Believe me. This is something that's going to carry you on for a long time."
The coach also took time to discuss football with the students by asking about their favorite players and promising to make the Bucs into a team that will make them happy to watch again.
"Of course you want fans of all ages, but my early memories in sports were based on having a favorite team growing up that I cheered for," Smith said. "It's our responsibility to put a good product on the football field and hopefully we can become, for some of the kids today, their favorite football team for life."
Eighteen schools participated in the contest and students from kindergarten to fifth grade read more than 1 million pages in the challenge, which started in October.