TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Are you ready for some football?
Tampa Bay certainly is, and the area is about to get one heck of a game. Actually, make that two games, in 24 hours, much to the delight of Buccaneers fans.
After the team’s home opener against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night, there’s more football for the home team as the inaugural year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wheelchair football league as they join nine other teams across the nation.
The wheelchair football league allows players with physical disabilities to play the sport they love. In fact, the first game for the Buccaneers is on Sept. 10 in Phoenix.
There are twenty players on the team, according to a member of the coaching staff. Fourteen players will travel to Arizona for Friday’s game.
The Glazer family who owns the team surprised players on Wednesday at their practice facility in Hillsborough County, providing brand new Bucs helmets and uniforms.
Former Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson attended the practice, grinning from ear to ear as he gave the players a pep talk ahead of their inaugural season.
“We are behind you, we love you and support you,” said the former Buccanners safety. “We’ve got your back, and we’re going to be cheering you on in Phoenix. We ain’t going there to sightsee, we’re going there for the ‘W’ and we love you guys!”
In this game based on strategy and strength, the players were also seen smiling big, excited for Friday. The players say their goal for each game is simple.
If you want to win, you’ve got to have heart, since true success comes from the soul.
Just ask Carlos Quintanilla.
“Nothing can stop me, even though I’ve been through challenges, nothing is ever going to stop me from doing what I want to be,” said the 22-year-old.
The Alonzo High School graduate says he still can’t believe he’s on the home team, playing wheelchair football for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“Attitude is always everything,” he told 8 On Your Side. “As long as you can think you can do something, you can.”
The Tampa Bay native was born with Spina Bifida, and at the age of 13, became fully dependent on a wheelchair. Drastic changes to his body, he says, made his mind even stronger.
“Your only limitation is your mindset,” he explained. “That’s what I go with every day. I’m not going to let the chair stop me. I’m not going to let someone tell me I can’t do anything.”
For teammate Rick Evans, the driving force to be a Buccaneer has him driving to practice from another state.
Every single week, he travels from Savannah, Georgia to Tampa – all for the love of the game.
“There’s nothing I can’t do. There’s nothing we can’t do,” he said.
The married father-of-two who also served in the military describes his teammates as family, focusing on one thing in life. Nothing can hold you back but yourself.
“Keep moving, keep moving. these things allow you freedom to do anything. You just have to start,” Rick said with a big smile. “That’s what we’re doing here. We can do anything we set our mind to. That’s what this is all about.”