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Monday, Oct 23, 2017
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Sapp kicks off his STEALTH camp series in Pasco County

HUDSON -- That distinctive laugh could be heard halfway across Veterans Memorial Park.

The voice? Unmistakable.

Yes, Warren Sapp was back in a 3-point stance as defensive linemen from Pasco County high school football teams hung on every word.

“Have a plan, gentlemen,’’ Sapp barked as players went through their pass-rush drills. “Without a plan, you’ve got no chance.’’

Tampa Bay’s first-ballot Hall of Fame defensive tackle bought current Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and some former Bucs along for his STEALTH (Students Taking Education Athletic Life To Heart) camp in Hudson before moving on to Texas, Ohio and California this summer.

“You give me 75 smiling faces on a Saturday morning ready to go out and work in this hot sun and good Florida grass and I’ll do this all day long,’’ said Sapp, a two-time all-decade selection who earned seven Pro Bowl berths in his nine seasons in Tampa. “If we can give our children another chapter of the book, maybe they’ll start thinking a little bigger. I came from a small town (Apopka), just like the ones in Pasco County, so we’re going to touch these kids and let them know somebody cares.’’

Sapp, 43, was joined by McDonald and former Bucs Dwight Smith and Reidel Anthony. Former Notre Dame and Kansas coach Charlie Weis, who earned three Super Bowl rings as Bill Belichick’s offensive coordinator in New England, came by to check out Sapp’s coaching technique.

“No. 99 set the standard for the position,’’ McDonald said, “and the tenacity he played with was unmatched. To be out here with him today is a great honor. He’s still moving like butter. To see him so enthused with the kids is amazing.’’

Sapp is also quite enthusiastic about Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, who is coming off an impressive rookie season.

“We got ourselves a quarterback,’’ Sapp said twice for good measure. “I love everything about Jameis except the crab jokes. When do the crab jokes stop for our quarterback? He’s one of ours now, so when are we going to make him feel like he’s home?’’

A 10-6 victory against Dallas in November, when Winston shrugged off a fourth-quarter interception to direct a late game-winning touchdown drive, convinced Sapp that the Bucs drafted the right player at No. 1.

“When Jameis won that game, I said this kid’s got it,’’ Sapp said.

What about an embattled Tampa Bay defense that added some veterans in the offseason?

“I don’t know (new coordinator) Mike Smith,’’ Sapp said, “but remember, I wasn’t a Monte Kiffin guy until I got to know him. I like the acquisition of (cornerback) Brent Grimes. I hope his old lady (Miko) stays off Twitter and leaves people alone.’’

Sapp’s daughter Mercedes, his presenter during his 2013 induction into Canton, is a soccer and track standout at Lake Highland Prep in Orlando who will be attending the University of Missouri.

“She went to the senior prom the other night,’’ Sapp said with a sigh. ”Mercedes has all the characteristics of her mother -- and she’s got the grit of her old man.’’

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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