|Members of the USF Football Team Spread Cheer at All Children's Hospital|
A handful of football players from the University of South Florida had just arrived in the lobby of All Children's Hospital Friday afternoon when a little girl and her mother walked past. The Bulls brigade was in the building for a goodwill visit with patients on the upper floors. But without missing a beat, they shifted to a hurry-up offense.
"Hi, how's it going?" several beaming players asked 9-year-old Bailey of Vero Beach.
She had completed a checkup on the cancer that remains in remission and her spirits were understandably high. They soared all the more as the players greeted her with smiles and good wishes.
It was the first time Bailey had ever met football players and she savored the moment, posing with the group comprised of Tashon Whitehurst, Sean Price, Nate Godwin, Marlon Pope, Mike White, Steven Bench, Thor Jozwiak and Darrell Willis, along with assistant director of football operations Trae Hackett.
"This was pretty cool," said Bailey, flanked by mom Britnie. "My dad loves football so I can tell him all about it."
Minutes later, the contingent moved upstairs to speak to children and families and do their best to raise morale. "We get a chance to play football with a lot of great guys, but many kids aren't blessed with the same opportunity," said defensive back Godwin, a graduate of Tampa's Freedom High School. "To be able to come in and spend time with these kids is just a blessing for us."
Bulls head coach Willie Taggart was unable to make the trip at the last minute, due to a scheduling conflict, but stresses the importance of his players becoming a positive presence in the community. "Coach Taggart is big on outreach," said Hackett. "He sees this as an opportunity for our guys to grow. It helps you understand how fortunate you are and not take things for granted. We feel we have a platform in the community. We're all in this together."
And that was evidenced as the players made their way, room to room, waving to sick children, making conversation and scoring big in the game of life.