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Bucs’ Rob Gronkowski surprises four flag football players with $5,000 scholarships

The tight end said Friday that he was glad to help spotlight that the “sport is for everyone.”
Published Sep. 3

TAMPA — The Bucs are making a difference for girls in flag football once again.

The franchise announced four winners Thursday morning for the team’s annual Girls in Football Scholarship, which will gift them $5,000 to put toward higher education. The athletes were given the news by tight end Rob Gronkowski via video chat.

“That was pretty cool to deliver the news to the four recipients,” Gronkowski said at practice Friday. “They’re four young ladies who love the game of football ... but it’s just great to raise awareness that this sport is for everyone.”

The four 2021 scholarship winners are: Jordan Bryant (a Hialeah Gardens native who will attend Florida), Shivanie Ghansiam (a freshman at the University of Florida from Bradenton), Malia Hollins (a Powder Springs, Ga., native who will attend Howard) and Lydia Houle (a Westminster, Md., native who will attend North Carolina).

The Bucs’ benevolence didn’t stop there. Next Thursday, they’ll attend the NFL Kickoff Experience at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park ahead of the Bucs’ home opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

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After going on stage at the park, they’ll travel to Raymond James Stadium for the game and will watch from the pirate ship in the north end zone with a special recognition during the first quarter.

“The Buccaneers are committed to increasing awareness of the opportunities for girls and women in football and supporting them in this pursuit,” Buccaneers Co-Owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz said in a team release.

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To qualify, the girls had to earn a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) in high school and write essays on “how they planned on using their future career to make a positive impact in the sports industry.”

Houle knows about making milestones. She was the first girl in her county to play and score points in a varsity football game.

“From a young age, girls are often told no, you can’t do something because it’s a boy’s sport,” said Houle in the team release. “By seeing other girls in areas such as football or as executives in companies or really prominent positions, it gives girls somebody to look up to and say, ‘I don’t have to be told no. I can do that if I want, it doesn’t matter that I’m a girl.’”

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In February ahead of Super Bowl 55, girls flag football was showcased at the NFL Experience at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park where four local teams (Robinson, Newsome, Alonso and Lennard) competed in exhibition games.

The games followed the release of a national Nike commercial featuring Robinson and Alonso to help announce a $5 million grant through a partnership between Nike and the NFL to help grow the game across the U.S.

And later that month, flag football in the Tampa Bay area was put in the spotlight, again, when the Bucs kicked off the girls high school flag football season with its third annual preseason classic, the largest girls flag football tournament in the country.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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