Bowl games are more than facing a tough opponent on the gridiron. In some cases, the toughest fight is overcoming childhood injuries or diseases. On Thursday morning, 10 senior student-athletes of the University of Tennessee football team had a chance to visit the St. Joseph's Children's Hospital of Tampa and spend some time with patients and their parents.
Associate Director of Student-Athlete Welfare Judy Jackson accompanied players Erik Ainge, Brad Cottam, Michael Frogg, Eric Young, Steven Jones, Chris Brown, JT Mapu, Xavier Mitchell, Jarod Parrish and Antonio Gaines on the sojourn.
St. Joseph's Children's Hospital of Tampa is a premier 164-bed hospital committed to providing everything needed for the health and well-being of children. St. Joseph's is best described as an innovative, family-centered hospital known for its high-tech medical care in a child-friendly environment. Bright, warm primary colors welcome children from the minute they walk through the hospital's front door into the spacious, cheerful lobby.
Senior Child Life Specialist Leah Frohnerath met with the group and escorted them on their one-hour tour. She stated that visits like this are cherished and uplifting to the patients, parents and staff.
"It's a friendly face and someone that is not coming to do a procedure," said Frohnerath. "A gift with a signature is something awesome for these kids. It's a nice break in what can be a stressful time."
In addition, a distinguished 200-member medical staff makes possible the hospital's international reputation for excellence. With more than 80 pediatric physician specialists representing 25 medical and surgical disciplines, the hospital is a valuable community resource for children and their families.
An excellent team of nurses, rehabilitation therapists and other health care professionals also offer an exceptional level of skill and dedicated service to children and their families.
The student-athletes split into two groups had the opportunity to go to different wards of the hospital to spend some time with patients that are bed-stricken. They gave out autographed caps, two styles of T-shirts, pennants, posters and orange and white shakers.
"It's fun to watch the kids smile," said Cottam. "It's nice to cheer them up with the tough times they are going through being here. It means a lot to guys on this trip to give them a moment of happiness in their day."
Earlier in the morning, the remainder of the Volunteers football players participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfast at the Hyatt Regency, joining in fellowship with members of the Wisconsin squad and local community leaders.
Coach Phillip Fulmer stressed that both Tennessee and Wisconsin players enjoy their bowl experiences because those are the memories that will stick with the players for years to come.
Temperatures neared 80 degrees Thursday as Tennessee continued its preparations for next week’s Outback Bowl matchup with Wisconsin. Donning full pads for the second straight day, the Volunteers practiced for two hours at the University of Tampa.
Tennessee concluded Thursday’s workout with a brief but spirited full-speed scrimmage. Head coach Phillip Fulmer said he is seeing signs the Vols receiving corps will make the most of its opportunity against the Badgers.
“They all are excited about it. We had a heck of a day Wednesday filling in, with (Josh) Briscoe taking some of the reps Lucas (Taylor) normally would have. Denarius Moore had a great day, and I’m hopeful that continues.
“They are stepping up and excited about it. They are treating it like an injury.”
Briscoe is coming off a career outing in the SEC Championship Game. The junior from Lawndale, N.C., who started four games this year, caught eight passes for 79 yards and a touchdown against LSU to finish third on the team in receptions (49) and yards (456) and tied for second with five TD catches. Sophomore Austin Rogers is the team’s active leading receiver with 53 catches for 587 yards and four scores.
Tennessee’s next practice is Friday after a morning press conference and the DeBartolo Team Luncheon. After the workout, the Vols have been invited to GameWorks at Ybor City.
Fulmer appreciates the Outback Bowl’s pace of activities.
“This bowl is not bad that way. They give you the minimal things to do and have made a couple of things optional. They’ve done a good job, the bowl has, minimizing the obligations you have.
“I learned from Coach (Joe) Paterno way back that you don’t do everything they’ve got scheduled. And I think the bowls have learned as we’ve gone along not to do too much. I must say Jim McVey (Outback Bowl president and CEO) and his staff have been incredible.”
Speaking of a welcoming attitude, the hospitality displayed this week by the University of Tampa calls to mind some prior history between the two UTs. Tampa no longer fields a football team, but the Spartans did compete on the gridiron from 1933-74.
In fact, Tennessee was the Spartans’ opponent when Tampa opened its home football venue, Tampa Stadium, on Nov. 4, 1967. The third-ranked Vols posted a 38-0 win that day under head coach Doug Dickey—who now resides in Jacksonville, Fla.—and went on to finish the 1967 season with a 9-2 record and claim one of the program’s 13 Southeastern Conference championships as well as the Litkenhous national championship.
Tampa Stadium, known as Houlihan’s Stadium from 1996-98 and nicknamed “The Big Sombrero,” closed in 1998 and was demolished in 1999. The NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers called the venue home from 1976-97 until the opening of Raymond James Stadium — current site of the Outback Bowl.
That 1967 triumph over the Spartans is one of three all-time Volunteer victories in the city of Tampa (defeated Florida 24-0 in 1916 and defeated Boston College 38-23 in the 1993 Hall of Fame Bowl). Tennessee has just one loss here, falling to Penn State 20-10 in last season’s Outback Bowl. The Big Orange are 19-16 all-time in games contested in the Sunshine State.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information