Initially, Charlie Crist recognized only the gesture, not the guy in the Mike Evans jersey, dark sunglasses and wide straw hat delivering it.
Like millions of others, Crist watched Sunday afternoon as CBS’ cameras captured the fan accepting the ball from Mike Evans (seconds after the Bucs receiver had caught it for a first-quarter touchdown), then returning it at the behest of a Bucs staffer upon learning it had been used for Tom Brady’s 600th career TD pass.
“And I’m like, ‘That’s an amazing story,’” said Crist, the former Florida governor and current U.S. congressman. “’It’s great the guy gave the ball back; he didn’t have to do that.’
“And later I come to find out it’s my nephew.”
Byron Kennedy, 29-year-old doctor of internal medicine at Largo Medical Center known by friends and loved ones as “Bo,” is one of three children of Crist’s sister and brother-in-law, Cathy and Byron Kennedy. His proud uncle, a candidate in the 2022 gubernatorial election and fellow St. Petersburg High alumnus, calls him a quiet and cerebral young man.
“I’m just so damn proud of him,” Crist said Wednesday morning.
“We live in a time where there’s so much divisiveness and negativity going on, and then you see a story about a great kid — I call him a kid because he’s been a kid to me — but a great young man who does the honest, right thing, and it just stands out like a burning sun, a shining sun.”
Kennedy, seated in the first row of Raymond James Stadium’s north end zone Sunday, has been chided by many for giving back a memento that some sports memorabilia experts say could be worth up to a half-million dollars.
Since then, the Bucs have guaranteed him two signed jerseys and a helmet from Brady, an Evans jersey and his game cleats, two season passes for the rest of the 2021 season and all of 2022, and a $1,000 credit to the Bucs’ team store. Additionally, Brady told Eli and Peyton Manning on Monday Night Football he would give Kennedy one Bitcoin.
In addition to that haul, tack on the undying admiration of a prominent relative.
“I’m a big believer in the golden rule — do unto others as you would have done unto you — and man, Bo Kennedy lived it,” Crist said. “That’s his heart and soul, that’s who he is.”
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