Jon Gruden honors coaches at Tampa Hooters

The Fired Football Coaches Association (FFCA) and Hooters teamed up to recognize local high school football coaches.

click to enlarge Former Buccaneers coach and current color analyst for ESPN Monday Night Football with players from Pinellas Park High football team. - Chris Girandola
Chris Girandola
Former Buccaneers coach and current color analyst for ESPN Monday Night Football with players from Pinellas Park High football team.

click to enlarge Former Buccaneers coach and current color analyst for ESPN Monday Night Football with players from Pinellas Park High football team. - Chris Girandola
Chris Girandola
Former Buccaneers coach and current color analyst for ESPN Monday Night Football with players from Pinellas Park High football team.
  • Chris Girandola
  • Former Buccaneers coach and current color analyst for ESPN Monday Night Football with players from Pinellas Park High football team.

Saturday night at the Hooters Restaurant in Tampa was supposed to be just a recognition of area football coaches by Jon Gruden and the Fired Football Coaches Association, but it suddenly turned into a reunion of the 2002 Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers team.

Gruden, who began the FFCA soon after he was let go by the Buccaneers organization in 2009 after seven seasons as the head coach, honored eight area high school coaches for their contributions to the sport at the Hooters on West Hillsborough Avenue with a $1,000 check for each school's respective program, as well as a gift certificate to Hooters and a GoPro camera. The coaches recognized included Antez Brinson (Boca Ciega), Dale Caparaso (Spoto), Kenneth Crawford (Pinellas Park), Earl Garcia (Hillsborough), Elijah Freeman (Bayshore Christian), Rick Rodriguez (Largo), Brian Turner (Sickles), and Paul Maechtle (Bradenton Southeast), who just retired after a 33-year career at Southeast.

"I didn't think this whole FFCA would turn into something like this when I first started it (in 2008)," said Gruden, who now serves as the color analyst for ESPN Monday Night Football. "It's grown into something where we can help give back to the community in a positive way. With all the negativity surrounding football now with the concussion issue and this whole (Richie) Incognito thing in Miami, it's important that we point out the positive aspects going on with high school football coaches and how they are creating future leaders and good people. If we give back like this, then these kids will see the value of how they can contribute to society in a positive and important way."

Gruden was joined by fellow MNF broadcasters Mike Tirico and Lisa Salters, who arrived in the ESPN bus.

In addition, former Buccaneers players Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp, who both were members of the Super Bowl-winning club, made impromptu visits, literally surprising Gruden as he was speaking to the plethora of players and coaches and their family members and friends. Sapp, who was the starting defensive tackle for nine seasons with the Buccaneers, recently was inducted into the Hall of Fame and will be the fifth Buccaneer player included in the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium in a celebration before the Monday Night Football contest between the Bucs and the Miami Dolphins.

"Hey, it's the Super Bowl all over again," exclaimed Gruden upon seeing Brooks.

click to enlarge Gruden talks with area coaches before his event recognizing high school football coaches from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee Counties. - Chris Girandola
Chris Girandola
Gruden talks with area coaches before his event recognizing high school football coaches from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee Counties.
  • Chris Girandola
  • Gruden talks with area coaches before his event recognizing high school football coaches from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee Counties.

click to enlarge Jon Gruden honored area coaches with $1,000 checks and GoPro cameras for the school's football programs. - Chris Girandola
Chris Girandola
Jon Gruden honored area coaches with $1,000 checks and GoPro cameras for the school's football programs.
  • Chris Girandola
  • Jon Gruden honored area coaches with $1,000 checks and GoPro cameras for the school's football programs.

  • Former Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who will be inducted into the Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium before the Buccaneers' Monday Night Football contest against the Miami Dolphins, spent some time talking with area high school players, including several members of the Pinellas Park High football team.

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