By John Ingoldsby, Player Engagement Insider
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookies were cooking with gas and just about every other imaginable appliance and utensil recently when they got a taste of culinary school.
Not only did they get a crash course on how to cook, the Class of 2017 had some spice added to their learning experience with a contest that had the competitive juices flowing.
“This is a great time, and just cooking away during this really cool opportunity to hang with the guys,” exclaimed first-round draft pick O.J. Howard out of Alabama. “We are having a lot of fun and this is absolutely going great.”
Great indeed thanks to Bucs Director of Player Engagement Duke Preston teaming up with The Art Institute of Tampa (AIT) to create their annual high-energy event located a mere Jameis Winston throw away from One Buccaneer Place, where the first-year players are in the middle of their five-week Elite Rookie Academy.
“This is a good evening out for our guys, and one they enjoy each year, and as you can see everyone is having a great time during this team-building bonding experience,” observed Preston.
Everyone including third-round pick and Penn State receiver Chris Godwin, who said, “This is really awesome and is a great opportunity to do something new like learning to cook, which is just one of a variety of different experiences we have been exposed to since coming to Tampa.”
And one that AIT was well prepared for as the 20 or so players were immediately greeted by a bevy of cooking experts who divided them into separate teams.
From there, they quickly got their hands gooey as each table dove into making Cauliflower Mushroom, Chinese Chicken Salad, Tortilla Soup, Chimichurri Sauce, and Peanut Butter Pie.
This ignited a feeding frenzy of sorts as the players became immersed in their new kitchen world by referring to the separate menus to create each dish from scratch, all under the direction and watchful eye of their AIT teachers.
“I am enjoying this a lot, especially since I can take what I learn and fix dinner for the young lady in my life – my daughter – so she will have a father who can cook,” said former Alabama quarterback Blake Sims.
Another college quarterback, Sefo Liufau from Colorado, was all in for the gourmet gastronomic encounter as well.
“The closest I have come to making meals is pouring my cereal in the morning, so this is just an awesome experience and a lot of fun too,” he added.
Fun for all, as echoed by West Virginia draftee Reese Fleming, who stated, “This is great chance to do a team activity around all the guys, which builds team chemistry off the field that will hopefully lead to winning championships on the field.”
Chemistry is always key, especially when fun follows through, for instance, each team creating their own names, which included “The Cutters,” “The Hotboys,” “Good Eats,” “Team Drizzle,” and “The $$$ Team.”
Just what AIT Culinary Director Clyde R. Tanner likes to see.
“I always enjoy seeing the players having fun while also learning about cooking, and every year it’s great to have them join our community,” summed up the host in charge of the evening’s activities, who capped off the event by handing out chef’s hats.
John Ingoldsby is the President and Founder of IIR Sports, Inc. (www.IIRSports.com), a sports media firm based in Boston. He has covered the NFL throughout his career that began as a newspaper reporter/editor, which includes articles in Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine (NFL Player Engagement), London-based Financial Times newspaper (NFL's international strategy), the Philadelphia Daily News (annual NFC Coaches Breakfast) and the Boston Globe (Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll).