The hallways of All Children's Hospital were filled with big men dressed in red and sporting Santa caps early Tuesday afternoon, winning over surprised patients and families by spreading holiday cheer to those in heavy need of it.
Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie class of 2012, along with a handful of the team's cheerleaders, flashed broad smiles and lifted spirits during their visit - the 14th year that new players from the NFL club have visited All Children's as part of an going holiday tradition.
Many donned yellow gowns over their Tampa Bay jerseys to spend some time with sick kids and delighted parents: posing for photos, handing out dozens of Teddy Bears in custom Buc backpacks, and sharing words of support and encouragement as they went.
"We're a football family and this was very exciting" said Crystal Schuller, mother of ailing newborn daughter, Claire, after star tailback Doug Martin, tight end Danny Noble, and a pair of practice squad players - defensive end Ernest Owusu and safety Sean Baker - crowded into their room during their hour-long goodwill tour.
"That was a really nice surprise," added her husband, Chris. "It's been a great time for us here and that was just icing on the cake."
The visit appeared to be just as meaningful for the players, a group that also included linebacker Lavonte David, cornerback Leonard Johnson, running back Michael Smith, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo, linebacker Najee Goode, tight end Drake Dunsmore, wide receiver Chris Owusu, free safety Keith Tandy and guard Desmond Wynn.
"It means a lot to help make the day for a kid who wasn't doing so well, or give their parents a boost," said David, a defensive standout this season out of the University of Nebraska. "It feels great to be able to put a smile on their faces."