The Hillsborough County Buccaneers Wheelchair Football Team hosted the second of three meets in the USA Wheelchair Football League (USAWFL) tournament at the Tampa Convention Center from August 24 through August 28. Eight teams competed for the title, with the Kansas City Chiefs emerging victorious at the end of the tournament.
“Everybody can play football. Just because you are in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t play football,” encouraged Hillsborough County Buccaneers Wheelchair Football Team coach Wayne Bozeman.
This is the first time Hillsborough County has hosted the tournament and only the second time the Hillsborough County Buccaneers have participated. The team of 20 athletes, from 20-50 years of age, have been practicing since May and placed fourth at the end of August, losing to the Arizona Cardinals.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed their support through the partnership and provided helmet decals, shirts and a pep talk by former Buccaneers safety and Superbowl MVP Dexter Jackson. Jackson spoke to the team during the Friday night banquet that served dinner and drinks to the athletes as they got to know one another better.
Football is not the first sport made accessible to those with disabilities in the area, but USAWFL is the first of its kind for those with physical disabilities looking to play football, according to its website. The league was made possible by the NFL Salute to Service Award and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
“The wheelchairs run from $4000 to $7000, just for a sports chair to play in,” said Bozeman. “With the support of the community, they can get these for the kids [and] put it in the program. [Then,] the program has a chair they can use for everybody, not just one person.”
Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation hosts year-round sports, from archery to basketball to track and field, through its Adaptive Sports program, which now includes football. The availability of these sports to those in wheelchairs promotes a healthy and active lifestyle for all participants while encouraging a fun and supportive community.
For more information on the Hillsborough County Buccaneers Wheelchair Football Team, visit its website at www.hillsboroughcounty.org or contact Mary Cales at 813-416-0467.