|Tampa Bay Buccaneer Rookies Brighten Spirits at All Children's Hospital|
For Banks, who has started all 13 games for the Bucs in his strong debut season, the annual visit of Tampa Bay rookies held extra special meaning being the father of a 2-year-old son.
"Just meeting these kids, it reminds me a lot of my kid and just how special it is to give back," says the former Mississippi State University star. "I can imagine how those parents feel because I have a child. It really taught me to just come out here and be involved with the kids who are hurt, sick or need a lift. It warms your heart just to be able to come out here."
Banks strolled the halls of the eighth floor with cornerback Deveron Carr and defensive tackle Akeem Spence, part of an entourage of 13 first-year Bucs - and four Tampa Bay cheerleaders.
Donning Santa hats and clad in their fittingly red Buc jerseys, the three display a natural touch with patients of all ages, joking, asking questions and doing their best to connect with each child
When they meet 9-year-old Troy Galloway, the conversation immediately turns to video games and sports - and Troy is more than up to the challenge of bantering with three real-life NFL players who've stopped in unexpectedly.
"I like to play football - a lot," he tells them. When they ask him what position he plays, Troy informs them that he's a wide receiver.
"Oh no, you don't want to be a wide receiver," Banks says, feigning consternation. "You want to be a cornerback. We all play defense - that's where you want to be."
They trade differing opinions on game systems (Troy likes Xbox, the players prefer PS4) but there's no disagreement when it comes to favorite team. "The team I always pick when I play is the Buccaneers," he says proudly, prompting a round of high-fives and approving comments from the guests.
Troy is a true fan, and clearly not concerned about the struggles the team has endured this season.
"I made you win the Super Bowl, too!"
The players thank him for that, but Troy and his mom, Selina Wiggins, are the ones who truly feel grateful - not only for the visit but for an autographed Buccaneers pennant and a round snapshots with the players.
"It was exciting," says Troy, who is trouble walking due to myositis. "I didn't even know they were coming!"
"He loves football, so for the actual players to come and see him - wow, it made us both feel really happy," his mother adds.
The players move to another room where 4-year-old Bryce Caffrey sits in bed, having recovered from accidentally swallowing a small round battery the night before. He's joined by 7-year-old sister Raegan and parents Michael and Gina - just moments from being discharged when the players knock on the door.
Upon hearing about Bryce and the battery, the three Bucs playfully give him some dietary advice.
"Only thing you put in your mouth from now on is food, candy and soda," quips Carr, drawing a big smile from the little boy.
"No, soda, water - water's good for you," adds Spence and Bryce nods as if he's got the message.
"Remember, no more batteries - gum, potato chips, but no candy," Banks teases.
Bryce isn't sure about the latter stipulation. "You can have candy," he corrects the cornerback.
They all agree as long as Bryce steers clear of swallowing any more nickel cadmium, then autograph pennant for him.
"You want to hold onto that now - hopefully one day it'll be worth some money 'cause all of us will be in the Hall of Fame," Banks jokes.
Then it's down the hall to more rooms, while fellow Bucs go make the rounds one floor below - spreading holiday cheer and making spirits bright in shades of pewter and red.
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