TAMPA, Fla. — After the pandemic pushed it back a year, the "USAA's Salute To Service NFL Boot Camp" was back in action at the Bucs practice facility on Wednesday afternoon.
Local military men and women took part in actual NFL combine-style drills on the same field as the Super Bowl champions. Boot campers ran the 40-yard dash, tested the strength of their throwing arms, measured their vertical leap, and showed their receiver skills.
"It’s crazy. Being around this atmosphere is really good. I used to play football myself, so it brings back memories," Army IT Specialist Isaac Griffin said after the QB arm-strength exercise. "This is great. Just having someone to help spread this community's wealth of knowledge and experiences. Even with COVID, everything’s still great, and everyone’s still having fun."
Army Staff Sergeant Courtney Gonzalez said NFL boot camp is a great way to spend a Wednesday, but she said there was still plenty of competitive juice flowing on the practice field.
"It’s really exciting, very nerve-racking," she joked. "A little bit of butterflies, a little bit of nervousness being put on the spot. But it’s a lot of fun."
USAA provides financial services to more than 13 million military members and their families. Their partnership with the Bucs includes Tampa Bay players and staff touring MacDill Air Force Base, and getting a glimpse of military life.
"We bring the players out, and they see what it’s like to be an airman or a soldier, or a sailor, a Marine, a coast man- a day in the life," said USAA Military Affairs Rep Shelina Frey. "Now, today, we’re bringing the military out do a little bit of precision and preparing for Game Day as an NFL player."
Frey, a Saints fan, said she's happy to be able to have the event again, so servicemen and women can get the full NFL experience.
"Even if the Bucs are not their team, they’re an NFL team," Frey laughed. "Come out here, watch them practice, and then go through some of the things they go through to get prepared for game day."
"It helps bring up lots of morale. Doing something different than just being in the office or going out in the field. This is a whole lot more fun," added Gonzalez.