CLEARWATER, Fla. — We are two weeks away from the Bucs’ first regular-season game, and Raymond James Stadium is going to look a little bit different than it did during the Super Bowl.
Instead of cardboard cutouts, all the fans will be real.
However, one of those cutouts went viral and continues to make an impact eight months later, and it all started with Bucs’ fan LJ Govoni.
“Length of seat is never my issue, it’s width of seat, so I was very happy to see a cardboard cutout next to me,” said Govoni.
He immediately took a liking to his Super Bowl seatmate. He was well mannered, always smiling and not once did he get up to go to the bathroom.
“And as the game went on, I started buying my cardboard cutout beer, my wife wanted to know where the popcorn went, it went to, I called him Frank, it went to our cardboard cutout,” said Govoni.
Govoni enjoyed Frank’s company so much that he was determined to find the real Chief’s fan behind the cardboard.
“If we can find him and invite him to Florida, invite him to Tampa Bay and show him what he missed because no one just goes to the Super Bowl and goes to the game and leaves, they spend time in that community and that city exploring everything,” said Govoni.
Through the power of social media, LJ soon got a call from a Clayton Whipple in Iowa a.k.a. Frank. Before you knew it Clayton brought the whole family to Tampa Bay.
“And they must have had 30 people there welcoming us and dozens of cutouts and balloons and beach balls,” said Whipple describing the St. Pete Airport. “It was unbelievable; it was like winning the lottery. We had such a great time down there.”
Govoni, the president of Big Storm Brewing, made sure Clayton returned to Iowa with plenty to drink, while Clayton brought gifts of his own, some mid-west Barbecue.
“Coming off of the year that we had where you couldn’t take trips like that, and you were certainly afraid to meet new people, so this was so welcoming and so important and so awesome,” said Whipple.
As for Frank, he ended up at Chiefs’ Training Camp, where the team is in the process of covering him with signatures. Clayton plans to then auction it off for charity.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, the message is be nice to people, do things for other people, don’t be selfish, and I really think this is what this has all been about,” said Govoni.