ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The excitement in Tampa Bay for this Buccaneers team as they look to win their first Super Bowl since the 2002 season.
However, not everyone in the Bay-area is pulling for the Bucs in Sunday’s NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday. Family and friends of Tampa Bay-native Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be pulling for the green and gold.
“He had his Bucs jersey, he wore it everywhere he went, carried a football,” Marquez’s father Marcellus Scantling said. “We just always rooted for the hometown.”
“I grew up watching the Buccaneers play,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I had been a big fan, I used to watch all their games. As of right now, they are just another opponent in the way.”
Valdes-Scantling is the big-play wide receiver for the Packers. He was the team’s second-leading receiver with 690 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season.
He grew up in St. Petersburg, went to Lakewood High School, and eventually played college football at USF.
“I actually didn’t make the football team my freshman year (of high school),” Valdes-Scantling said. “I was at a point where I didn’t want to play anymore.”
“The first time I saw M Marquez he was super small, super tiny,” Lakewood head coach Cory Moore said. “He was so small to the point where we didn’t have shoulder pads or a helmet that fit him.”
Moore recalls Valdes-Scantling being only a smidge over five feet tall.
“Then his sophomore year I’m looking up to him like Woah, Woah,” Moore said as Valdes-Scantling grew nearly a foot of that summer.
“I had to battle through some real diversity and I was able to overcome it,” Valdes-Scantling said. “I stuck with it and it all paid off for me.”
This is Valdes-Scantling’s third season in the NFL and like last season, he’s one game away from the Super Bowl.
“Right now, the whole city we’re pushing for him to go ahead and bring us home a Super Bowl champion,” Moore said.
Will Valdes-Scantling have any family and friends from Tampa come up for Sunday’s game?
“Nah, I catch them down in Tampa in two weeks for the Super Bowl.”