TAMPA, Fla. — Wendy Mann has been a Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season ticket holder for 26 years.
“I’m a die-hard fan, I’ve been a die-hard fan the whole time,” Mann said. “I don’t talk trash about my team even when they look really bad.”
There’s not much that can keep the 56-year-old Citrus County woman away from her Buccaneers. She told a story from several years ago when she was driving to a Bucs-Packers game at Raymond James Stadium and her car broke down on the interstate and it had to be toed.
“He said, ‘I’m taking you back to Crystal River.’ I said ‘no, you’re not. I’m not missing kickoff. I still have a tailgate. I don’t have an engine, but I have a tailgate,’” Mann said.
There’s no face paint or costumes for Mann. It’s her loyalty and passion that landed her the title to Bucs’ Fan of the Year.
She learned of the surprise during a pregame event outside the stadium.
“Absolutely astonished, flabbergasted, I had no clue,” Mann said. “I thought somehow it was a joke. Who does this, who gets this?”
With her new title, she gets a new Bucs jersey.
“I was holding the jersey, just looking at it. I can’t believe this is real. I’m reading on the back ‘Fan of the Year.’ I just walked into a dream. It doesn’t just happen to normal people,” she said.
Mann was selected to be the Bucs’ nominee from about 4,100 other fans. Across all 32 NFL teams, about 35,000 fans were nominated. Being the Bucs’ nominee, she gets an all-expenses-paid trip to the Super Bowl.
“I’ve never been to a Super Bowl without the Bucs playing and winning,” she said.
Mann is now in the running to be named the ‘Ultimate Fan of the Year.”
The NFL launched the Fan of the Year contest to celebrate extraordinary fans who inspire others through their love of football.