TIERRA VERDE — Mike Alstott misses professional football. But retirement does have its benefits.
"I finally have time to fish," the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer fullback said. "During the season I was always so busy. I never had time to get out on the water."
After 12 seasons in the NFL, the six-time Pro Bowler said he is ready to take on new challenges.
"There is a lot I want to do," he said as he tossed a scaled sardine along the shoreline of a barrier island near Shell Key. "Right now, I'd like to get these fish to bite."
The 34-year-old scored 71 touchdowns during his NFL career, but when Alstott talks about his accomplishments, he doesn't mention football.
"I am a dad," said the father of three — a son, Griffin, and two daughters, Hannah and Lexie. "When I see my kids succeed, whether it's in school or in sports, I get a feeling that is better than scoring any touchdown. For me, that is what life is all about."
For more than a decade, Alstott has been a fixture at charity events on both sides of Tampa Bay. But in 2007, he and wife Nicole formed their own foundation — the Mike Alstott Family Foundation.
"I wanted to have more control on how the money was spent," he said. "There are so many worthy charities. But for me, it is always about the kids."
For several years, Alstott sponsored a "celebrity" fishing tournament that featured many of his friends from the NFL.
"It was successful financially, but I really wanted to do something that would encourage people to come out and do something with their kids," he said. "So we sat down and came up with this idea for a family tournament."
The Mike Alstott Family Fishing Tournament, scheduled for Aug. 2, will be the first "rodeo" style tournament in Tampa Bay.
"The tournament is based on a points system, so everybody has the same chance of winning," said Jill Foraker of the Old Salt Fishing Club, which is helping Alstott organize the event. "The guy fishing off the Skyway Bridge catching dozens of pompano can earn just as many points as the guy who runs 60 miles offshore to catch a 35-pound grouper."
When Alstott first came up with the idea of a family-friendly fishing tournament, he turned to the Old Salt club for help.
For more than 30 years, the Madeira Beach-based fishing club has sponsored the semi-annual King of the Beach kingfish tournament, which has raised thousands of dollars for marine conservation and youth organizations.
"They are just a great group of people," Alstott said. "They are serious fishermen, but they also like to have fun."
The club welcomes anglers of all ages and levels of expertise.
"We are a family-oriented club," Foraker said. "We want everybody to come out and fish."
Many fishermen don't enter tournaments because of the highly competitive, win-at-all-cost nature of many events.
"But this is not going to be like that," Alstott said. "We want people to have a good time and raise a little money for charity while they are at it."
The rules are simple: pay $175 per boat, then pick your division — inshore or offshore. Each species has its own points value.
For example, amberjack, which are fairly easy to catch this time of year, are worth 10 points. But dolphin, which are a little harder to find, are worth 40 points. Inshore species, such as snook and tarpon, must be photographed and released.
There are also special divisions for youth, women and family, as well as specialty awards for the ugliest fish.
Alstott won't say if he will take on another role with the Bucs or another NFL team. But the old-school fullback admits he does have a soft spot in his heart for the old Black and Blue division teams.
In the future, he hopes to help organize a kids fishing day to benefit one of his favorite charities, the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program.
And if he can, Alstott might set aside a little time for himself.
"I just got back from fly-fishing in Alaska," he said. "It was a once in a lifetime experience. … We'd be fishing, then turn around, and there would be these bears."
Real bears, he added, not the ones from Chicago.
"It was wild," he said.