All Pro Dads keeps Dungy legacy alive

Jameis Winston

 

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

TAMPA – Over a thousand dads, kids and moms converged in the center of Raymond James Stadium last Saturday, Nov. 5 for the annual All Pro Dad Father & Kids Experience, featuring sports warm-ups, skills drills and bonding activities.


President and Founder of Family First Mark Merrill, with the support and help of Tony Dungy, held the first All Pro Dad event in the old Houlihan Stadium in 1998.

“We expected at that event to have just a small crowd, but we had several thousand dads and kids come out,” said Merrill in the Buccaneers locker room.

This year’s event highlighted nearly 20 years of a partnership between Family First and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, which provides the opportunity to share the resounding message about fathers developing safe and healthy relationships. This year’s “hero” theme punctuates the power of fathers being in the lives of their children. Merrill said that such an event should not be limited to Tampa.

“So we’ve over a 100 events like this with 18 different NFL teams around the country,” Merrill said.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Clinton McDonald teamed up with Merrill to host the event this year. McDonald personalized the significance of the day in his own life.

“My father was kind of like a neighborhood dad,” he said, continuing on about how his father reached out to all the kids in the neighborhood and helped them participate in organized sports throughout the community.

“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, didn’t have a lot of resources, but my father had a lot of love for us and the kids in our community,” said McDonald, who has three brothers and two sisters.

Like father like son.

“That’s what I want to emulate in my life with my children—that it’s alright to think about others and not just about themselves.”

Former Buccaneer tight end and recent retiree Alex Smith was also on hand to help McDonald out with the morning’s activities on the field. Smith is the father of two twin six-year-old boys, and he said he brought his kids to the event to enjoy the experience.

“Kids wanna stay inside all day with their technology, and there’s true value in getting outside and running around with your kids,” said Smith.

Just as Smith was leaving the locker room, retired Buccaneer wide receiver Frank D. Murphy strolled in. The 10-year veteran with the Bucs was part of the golden era lineup that would go on to win the team’s first Super Bowl in 2003.

“It’s all about motivating kids,” said Murphy, who has been a part of All Pro Dads since 2012.

“It’s all about family. It’s things we have to learn as men, especially as athletes about how to be better role models in the household as well as on the outside,” Murphy added.

As everyone began moving outside for the morning’s activities, the announcer called for everyone to line up with their team captains in the middle of the field with the same team colors. Each family had been assigned a color as they registered for the event.

Teams rotated through multiple activities, such as throwing footballs through targeted spaces, kids tackling dads and family sprints. By noon, many children and adults had worked up an appetite for the snacks provided for attending families.

Everyone received a gift backpack with a t-shirt, an All Pro Dads medallion and two inspirational books for encouraging fathers to be on time, all the time heroes for their children.

To reach Allen Buchanan, email abuchanan@theweeklychallenger.com

scroll to top