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Bucs rookies embrace ‘being a kid again’ at community event

TAMPA — M.J. Stewart proudly wore a pink feather boa picked out for him by a new friend. Carlton Davis and Ronald Jones wore sparkly party hats. Alex Cappa walked around with a star sticker on his forehead. Shaun Wilson and Jordan Whitehead competed to see who could hula hoop longest.

The Bucs rookies were having a blast on Tuesday afternoon, interacting with more than 100 homeless and at-risk children in Tampa, this week’s stop for the team’s rookie community caravan that previously took them to a middle school field day, a bowling excursion with Tampa Fire Rescue and a trip to MacDill Air Force Base to meet with service members and their families.

On Tuesday, they were able to let loose, throwing miniature footballs around, coloring and playing games with kids.

“I think this rookie class, it’s really good people here,” Davis said. “The team did an excellent job of selecting each individual, and when we come to events like this, it’s like this every time. We always interact because we love to see the smiles on people’s faces. We just like to be around it. Just look at the energy in there. It’s like a real party in there. It’s a lot of fun.”

First-round pick Vita Vea sat at a table and put the finishing touches on a orange pumpkin he colored as intently as the kids who flanked him, while other players took to a makeshift dance floor to do the cha-cha slide.

“These kids, a lot of them grew up in bad situations or are kind of dealing with bad situations, so to come here and give them some light into their lives and have fun with them, it really taught me a lot, too,” Stewart said. “It taught me what it is to be a kid again, because I’m an adult, dealing with adult things. So, to come here and hang out with them for a day, do a cha-cha slide, I ain’t hula hooped in ages, but I got to hula hoop today. I had a blast.”

Bucs defensive tackle Vita Vea colors with kids at Tuesday’s community event.

“You’ve got to (enjoy it),” Vea said. “It feels like you’re a kid again when you’re around these kids. It brings out the child in you. You’re just having fun. It’s so cool just seeing these kids, how worry-free they are. It just makes you take a step back and realize how good life is and just enjoying it.”

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at [email protected] Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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