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Lynches reach out to bay area youth

As the son of an All-Pro safety and a former Southern Cal tennis player, Jake Lynch has the chance to be athletically gifted.

But even if John and Linda Lynch's 13-month-old doesn't reach a lofty status in athletics, he will have an active childhood.

"If he wants to be a pianist, fantastic," Linda Lynch said. "But I at least want to expose him and encourage him to be physically active. I think it's so important in today's society to keep our kids out playing, moving, competing and to be challenged by athletics."

Those words are backed by the Lynches' commitment to their Star of the Month and Lynch Family Legacy Scholarship program. The Star of the Month program recognizes outstanding middle-school and high-school athletes, while two scholarships are awarded to student-athletes who need a boost in pursuing college dreams.

Thursday, the second year of the program was concluded with Durant High's Sarah Edwards and Plant City's Michael Latimer receiving the $5,000 scholarships. Edwards is undecided about college; Latimer will use his money to further his football career at Columbia University, which doesn't offer athletic scholarships.

Four athletes were recognized as the stars of the year: Crystal Williams and William Bergen of Young Middle School; Seminole's Aaron Paraoulek and Plant City's Elizabeth Raburn.

"We do this for a couple of reasons: to bring attention to these kids and to recognize them for their outstanding efforts," John Lynch said. "In today's society, everybody has the perception that there's not a lot of positive things going on with the youth of America, yet alone in our Tampa Bay community.

"I think these are examples to the contrary. There are numerous examples of kids who are not only doing what we're asking of them, but going above and beyond."

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE BENJAMINS: Linebacker Don Davis signed a waiver so he can continue practicing with the team even though he is an unrestricted free agent.

The Bucs have said they will try to re-sign Davis once the salary cap is more certain, but the promise is only part of the reason he has remained in Tampa Bay. For a player who was second in special-teams tackles with 17, there were other opportunities in the league but Davis wants a Super Bowl title.

"I want the ring," Davis said. "Some people don't realize that you might go somewhere and somebody might give you X number of dollars more, but in the long run, it might cost you. We've got a good team here, we've got good camaraderie and I think it's going to work out here. I think this is where the Lord wants me."

KEEP AN EYE ON: There are a number of newcomers and upstarts who are off to good starts in trying to find a roster spot on this veteran-laden team. Here are three names to look for in the coming months:

Drew O'Connor, wide receiver: The 6-foot-3 O'Connor spent most of 1999 on the developmental squad after leaving the University of Maine, but coaches like his size. Unlike many teammates, O'Connor is not from a big-time college program, but a year of seasoning may give him the improved skills he needs.

Of course, receiver may be the most competitive spot in training camp. Second-year pro Darnell McDonald, Purdue rookie Chris Daniels and receiver/returner Yo Murphy will be in the hunt.

Earthwind Moreland, defensive back: Moreland played a lot of bump-and-run coverage at Georgia Southern, but if he can adjust to the Bucs' style, he may break through. In a predraft workout, Moreland ran a sub-4.4 in the 40.

DeMarcus Curry, tackle: To the untrained eye, linemen have a difficult time standing out. But Curry returns after a year on the practice squad. If he can show significant improvement, he could contend at backup tackle.

COACHES FOR A DAY: Bucs defensive end Steve White, left, and offensive tackle Jason Odom share a laugh during the "Bucs on the Beach" volleyball tournament. The players coached teams in the fund-raiser at Clearwater Beach.