TAMPA — His end-zone saving tackle, made just minutes before the end of Super Bowl 55, wasn’t shown on the live CBS broadcast. But videos of the moment when Deputy Clint Stearns pancaked a partially clad prankster at the Buccaneers’ goal line Sunday are the stuff of legend.
“I definitely felt a little sore from the hit, but it was worth it,” Stearns, 30, told reporters during a play-by-play.
The trespasser sprinted across the field at Raymond James Stadium, dodging security personnel and bearing his behind in a one-piece, neon pink sling swimsuit known as a mankini — the kind comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen made famous as Borat.
In the end zone, though, Stearns — wearing the green pants, white shirt and utility belt of his Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office uniform — dove at him to make the most-talked about tackle of the NFL postseason.
It brought back a few memories for Stearns.
He has spent the past seven years patrolling the Brandon area as a deputy in the Sheriff’s District 5 street crimes division. But in a former life, he played quarterback and safety for Plant City High School and went on to join the University of South Florida Bulls.
“I walked on but it didn’t work out,” Stearns said. “That’s when I started doing ride alongs and then got hired as a deputy.”
According to MaxPreps stats and Tampa Tribune archives, Stearns was named the Raiders’ Most Valuable Player his senior year in 2008 after going 3-7 in head coach Jason Strunk’s first season. Stearns was the team’s rushing leader and threw for 710 yards. He graduated high school with eight touchdowns, 18 interceptions, two tackles and a fumble recovery.
As a deputy, Stearns has always jumped at opportunities to get close to the action on game day, he said. He signed up for extra volunteer shifts when Tampa hosted the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship game. He was at the top of the list when it came time to volunteer for the Super Bowl.
Stearns was up in the nosebleeds for much of Sunday’s game, stationed in Section 344. But by the fourth quarter, as it became clear that the Bucs were headed for a crushing victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, Stearns got the go-ahead to begin making his way to the field for the trophy celebration, he said.
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Just as he walked through the tunnel and onto the field, he heard the crowd scream and commands blare over his radio. Someone not wearing any uniform at all was running down the field.
Yuri Andrade, 31, of Boca Raton, jumped the fence along the north end zone, stripping off his face mask and raising his arms in victory as he sprinted past a visibly perturbed Kansas City Chief quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“Someone is running on the field, some guy with a bra,” radio sportscaster Kevin Harlan said in his now-famous description of the spectacle. “He’s pulling down his pants! Pull up your pants, my man! Pull up those pants!”
It’s hard to say which was more worrisome, Stearns said — no pants or no mask.
But as he watched Andrade slip past the security guards in his direction, there was no doubt in his mind he could take the guy.
“It was a surreal feeling. All my old football coaches telling me forms of tackling just kind of played through my head and it played out perfectly.”
Just as Andrade slid into the south end zone, Stearns dove toward him, bringing him to the ground as a team of law enforcement officers piled on top.
“He definitely made statements that it was done for publicity, for money,” Stearns said. “It was just a brief conversation we had. We wanted to get him off the field and secured and transported to the jail.”
After the game, Stearns got some kudos from Bucs receivers Mike Evans and Antonio Brown as they passed through his security gate on their way to the team bus.
“Mike Evans just thanked me and said, ‘Thank you for helping out, you know, on the field and for everything you do.’” Stearns said. “That was a real positive moment for me.”
Andrade left the stadium facing a misdemeanor trespassing charge. He was released from jail Monday after posting $500 bail. His arrest records list Andrade’s occupation as “self employed” in “international business.”
A second man, 28-year-old Douglas Charles Schaffer Jr., also of Boca Raton, was also arrested and charged with trespassing after he jumped the stands and ran onto the field to distract security from Andrade, according to an arrest report. He was released Monday on $500 bail, records show.
The words “Vitaly Uncensored” were printed across the front of Andrade’s leotard, linking the stunt to “the official website of world famous prankster & playboy Vitaly Zdorovetskiy,” a YouTube personality. The site claims to feature “wild, uncensored nude party videos, pranks & more!”
Whatever the duo’s motivations, Stearns said, he’s certain he stopped his opponent from crossing the goal line.
“Some people say he did, some people said I lead with my head,” Stearns said. “I definitely think he was short and that’s what helped the Bucs win.”
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