One Buc’s support of Tampa Bay restaurants sparks circle of giving

Alex Cappa’s idea spreads from the offensive line to other teammates, then gains traction in the front office.
Offensive guards Alex Cappa (65), right, and Ali Marpet are two of many Bucs helping support Tampa Bay restaurants during the pandemic.
Offensive guards Alex Cappa (65), right, and Ali Marpet are two of many Bucs helping support Tampa Bay restaurants during the pandemic. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published April 15, 2020|Updated April 15, 2020

TAMPA — You don’t hear much about Alex Cappa. You won’t hear much from him, either.

The Bucs guard is the strong, silent type. At 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, he overcame the odds of making the transition from a Division II player at Humboldt State to an NFL starter in his second season.

And that rare achievement became even more so; Humboldt State dropped football the year after Cappa left.

So Cappa has remained blissfully anonymous. That served him well until his idea to help feed families during the COVID-19 pandemic — by purchasing meals from struggling restaurants — resonated with so many teammates.

Related: How sports are helping in the coronavirus fight

Cappa decided to support one of his favorite local businesses — Tour De Pizza in St. Petersburg — while also donating meals at Metropolitan Ministries.

He called guard Ali Marpet, who took the charitable football and ran with it. Marpet partnered with Noble Crust in St. Petersburg. Tight end Cameron Brate extended a hand to Fresh Kitchen in Tampa to buy meals for families. When Bucs general manager Jason Licht and wife Blair learned of the idea, they put their own spin on it by purchasing meals from Michael Stewart’s 717 South and donating them to health care workers.

A few minutes after that offering, Bucs coach Bruce Arians called Stewart and matched Licht’s donation and now the south Tampa restaurant will produce 500 meals for healthcare workers in Tampa Bay.

“I worry about those front-liners," Licht said. “This is the least we can do. (They’re) heroes. Society will hold these men and women with the highest regard moving forward."

Ali Marpet, here as a rookie in 2015, is a regular contributor to  Metropolitan Ministries.
Ali Marpet, here as a rookie in 2015, is a regular contributor to Metropolitan Ministries. [ Courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ]

Marpet has done a lot of work with Metropolitan Ministries since he came to the Bucs as a rookie in 2015.

“There’s so many people that are doing such excellent work and so many that are struggling because of this (pandemic). They’re sort of down and out. There’s a lot of different ways you can help," Marpet said.

Marpet enlisted the aid of teammates such as offensive tackle Donovan Smith, center Ryan Jensen, tight ends Brate and linebacker Lavonte David.

It’s a win-win for the Bucs. Some local restaurants that furloughed or fired many of their employees can be helped in order to put people back to work.

Related: Dr. Anthony Fauci: Sports could return from coronavirus hiatus this summer without fans

“So Jason called me last night and said, ‘Blair and I would like to be involved and 717 is our spot,’" Stewart said of Licht. “'Could we make a donation to you and then you could go out and maybe do meals for some front-line health workers?'

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

”I said, 'One, we’d love to.’ And I just love the fact that 20 minutes later, Bruce Arians called and said, ‘I’m going to match his donation.’ I believe we’re going to be able to feed, based upon what they’re doing, over 500 people. We’ll be coordinating. We did Memorial Hospital and we’re doing Tampa General next Monday. We’ll probably do St. Joseph’s."

Steve Lanza, president of Fresh Kitchen and partner of CRG, said he was forced to furlough some employees after the stay-at-home orders hit. He still provides them each with one free meal a day.

The takeout business, however, has become more robust and offers hope to a small business just trying to survive.

“An order this big, it will be well over $1,000, is a huge amount of revenue around these times and definitely helps bring in consistent business," Lanza said. “And as sales increase, we’re going to be able to bring on more and more people as long as it’s consistent."

Lanza says the transition has been seamless. All the transactions are done outside the restaurant for takeout and patrons don’t have to enter.

Why help hospital workers?

“They’re putting their lives at risk," Stewart said. “They’re working incredible hours. My neighbor is an ER doctor and he has two young children, like 4 and 2. They do 14-day shifts, so he won’t come home for 14 days. And then when he came home, he sat in the front yard instead of coming inside with them. He’s very involved with his kids, but now he has to wear a mask.”