TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Super Bowl Champion Ryan Nece spent plenty of time in the huddle during his playing career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Recently, he brought his own Morning Huddle presented by Suncoast Credit Union to a crowd of hundreds at Armature Works. The event honored several of his former teammates and current Buccaneers, as well as raised money for the Ryan Nece Foundation.
“It’s an honor and it’s a privilege to be in a huddle with great men and I’ve had a chance to do that a number of times over the years,” Nece said. I had an opportunity to huddle up with great people in the community and get a chance to hear from some elite athletes Lavonte David, Chris Godwin, Dexter Jackson, and Martin Gramatica, and hear what it takes to be successful. In short, a really powerful day.
Guests were treated to breakfast and a welcoming introduction by Ryan Nece Foundation CEO Melissa Neeley, who explained the organization’s mission and purpose, which is “to create opportunities for teens to embrace the power of giving through volunteerism and [our] inspirational leadership program; and empower teens to become leaders and impact giving in their communities.”
After a pair of student spotlights and a brief introduction of the panelists (see above), Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ reporter Casey Phillips moderated the roundtable discussion that started off by asking the athletes about their thoughts on leadership.
“You don’t have to be in the front to lead,” said Super Bowl XXXVII MVP Dexter Jackson. “You can also lead from the back.”
“Anyone can be a leader, just be yourself and don’t be something you aren’t,” added current wide receiver Chris Godwin.
As for what made their respective Super Bowl champion teams so special there were several consistent factors among the group.
“Unity and family were the keys,” said Gramatica. “Everyone loved each other. We played next to each other, but we went to battle for each other. To have those types of leaders taught us to be professionals.”
Hard work, accountability, and consistency were key for Godwin.
“We all worked hard from the beginning but just because we worked hard didn’t mean anything, that wasn’t enough,” he noted. “We wanted to change the culture to a winning mentality, at first we couldn’t gel and had to address our accountability and consistency.”
For their efforts in the community, David, Godwin, Jackson, and Gramatica received the prestigious Paragon Award from the foundation.
“We don’t give this award out lightly and recognize the men and women that embrace leadership, lean into service, and that is elite at what they do,” said Nece. “We try to make sure we acknowledge those people in our community because we need more of them. All four of those men got that award today because they are all doing amazing things to help others.”
While Nece and his foundation honored those recipients, hundreds in the room were there to support his cause as well.
“I’ve had the chance to win a Super Bowl and that is a highlight of my career, but there is nothing more powerful than when another human being says thank you,” he said. “That’s what the power of giving is all about and for our organization to be doing this for 16 years and to be able to help others, and most importantly educate young minds through our Student Service Program, about how they can too embrace the power of giving, is really important.”
For more information and to support the Ryan Nece Foundation visit ryannecefoundation.org.
Todd Grasley is a sports reporter for Florida National News Tampa. | firstname.lastname@example.org