ORLANDO - Pop Warner Little Scholars Inc., the largest national youth football and cheerleading organization in the United States, will present its NFL Team of the Year Award to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at its 49th Annual All-American Scholar Banquet May 23rd at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, FL. Pop Warner will also present Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham, a former Pop Warner player with its Inspiration to Youth Award.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are being awarded Pop Warner's NFL Team of the Year Honor for their commitment to developing programs that support youth football and cheer in the Tampa Bay area as well as their involvement with Pop Warner efforts nationally. In the last year, the Buccaneers participated in national Pop Warner events including the 48th All-American Scholar Banquet and the Pop Warner Super Bowl and National Cheer and Dance Championships, wherein the Bucs sent their mascot Captain Fear to interact with fans and participants. The Buccaneers were a sponsor and partner of the Donruss Pop Warner Classic that involved Tampa Bay area football teams and cheerleading squads participating in an exhibition the day before Super Bowl XLIII. The event included participation by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers players Vinny Testaverde, Steve DeBerg, Dave Moore, Dave Lewis and Harold Hart, as well as participation by the Buccaneers mascot Captain Fear and Buccaneers Cheerleaders.
In June 2008, the Buccaneers also hosted a youth football camp for over 50 Pop Warner scholar athletes at the second-annual Rookie Club Youth Football Camp. The Buccaneers Rookie Club, which consists of all first-year Bucs players, spent the day teaching football drills to children on the field and in the classroom before coaching the youth in a flag football scrimmage. As a follow up to the camp, the Bucs invited close to 1,000 Pop Warner scholar athletes to Raymond James Stadium for its August 23rd preseason contest versus the Jacksonville Jaguars in support of Pop Warner's commitment to positively impacting the lives of youth across West Central and Central Florida. The Buccaneers also donated a $1,000 scholarship towards the post-secondary education of a student from the Foundation for Youth Development, the governing body of Tampa Bay's local Pop Warner League. Throughout the year, the Buccaneers generously donated many items to assist local and national Pop Warner in their fundraising efforts as well.
"Over the last year, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have emerged as a vital and committed partner to Pop Warner at both the national level and in the Bay area community. In these challenging times, the support of NFL Clubs like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is invaluable and enables us to carry out our mission of providing kids across the world with safe and structured athletics coupled with a strong focus on academics. We are grateful for the support of such an outstanding NFL franchise," said Mary FitzGerald, Chief Operating Officer of Pop Warner.
Past NFL Team of the Year award winners include the Philadelphia Eagles (2008), San Diego Chargers (2007), New England Patriots (2006), Kansas City Chiefs (AFC-2005), Arizona Cardinals (NFC-2005), Jacksonville Jaguars (AFC-2004) and Carolina Panthers (NFC-2004).
"The Buccaneers are honored to be recognized as the Pop Warner NFL Team of the Year," said Buccaneers director of community relations Miray Holmes. "It is our goal each and every year to enhance the educational opportunities for youth by working with organizations that stress both academics and athletics, and Pop Warner has set the standard on both a local and national level. Thanks to their help, West Central Florida youth are growing up in a more positive, structured environment. The Buccaneers look forward to continually developing its relationship with Pop Warner and building on our success for years to come."
Among the other awards to be given out on Saturday night will be Pop Warner's most prestigious award, The Warner Award and will be presented to NCAA President Myles Brand for his tireless commitment to reform academics in intercollegiate athletics. The most significant change to restoring the scholar-athlete in intercollegiate athletics came two years into Brand's tenure when the NCAA established the Academic Progress Rate in 2005 that measures the success or failure of collegiate athletic teams in moving student-athletes towards graduation. Teams that fail to meet the standard could be penalized with the loss of scholarships.
"I am honored and deeply touched by this award. Pop Warner is synonymous with commitment to youth, sports and education. Those are values that the organization shares with the NCAA and with me personally. It means a great deal to me that Pop Warner would select me for this award," said Myles Brand, President of the NCAA.
Past Warner Award winners include: Former NFLPA President Troy Vincent (2008), AFL Commissioner David Baker (2007), New England Patriots Executive Vice President Jonathan Kraft (2006), San Diego Chargers Owner Dean Spanos (2005), Former U.S. Congressman and USA Football Chairman Jack Kemp (2004), Kansas City Chiefs President Carl Peterson (2002), Jacksonville Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver (2001), Kansas City Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt (1997), NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus (1995), and Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1993).
The banquet honors the most academically advanced student-athletes from Pop Warner programs nationwide and recognizes several individuals and public figures for their commitment to academics, athletics, communities, and the betterment of youths across America. More than 2,000 people are expected to attend the event.
Pop Warner is the only youth sports organization that requires academic guidelines for its members to participate in its programs. Each year participants with high academic standings (96% GPA) are encouraged to apply for recognition at the event. Also factored into consideration are school-oriented extracurricular activities and community service commitments from the previous year.
This year's All-American Scholars comprise the top one percent of all Pop Warner participants nationwide. Over 8,000 scholar-athletes were named to the First Team, Second Team or Honorable Mention All-American Scholars, based on a score calculated from the student's grade point average and addendum activities.
First Team All-American Scholar is the highest achievement a Pop Warner student-athlete can achieve, with only 35 football participants and 35 cheerleaders and dancers selected per grade level. First Team All-American Scholars in eighth grade and higher are also eligible for one of many scholarships awarded at the banquet.
About Pop Warner:
Founded in 1929 and headquartered in Langhorne, PA, Pop Warner Little Scholars is the largest national youth football and cheerleading organization in the United States and the only youth sports organization that emphasizes academics as an prerequisite for participation. Currently there are over 400,000 children in Pop Warner organizations in 43 states, Guam, Scotland, Germany, Russia, Japan and Mexico. The NFLPA estimates that 70% of all current NFL Players got their starts in Pop Warner programs. For more information on Pop Warner and its programs visit www.popwarner.com.