Bucs' Joseph working hard for Tampa's youths
In the lobby of Blake High School near downtown Tampa, a group of young men huddled around a figure sitting in a chair.
Each waited patiently, and happily, for a chance to shake his hand.
A large hand reached out, and the man wore an even larger smile.
Teachers and staff who passed through the lobby stopped to wave and smile. It seemed like he was familiar to everyone. Considering his day job, it was a little surprising, and refreshing.
In the past few years, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Davin Joseph has become a fixture in the Tampa community. Through the Davin Joseph Events for Cause Foundation, inner-city schools are provided resources to improve athletics and performing arts programs.
In November 2012, he donated $10,000 to Blake to revamp the weight room and purchase supplies for the arts program. In April, he delivered a $7,500 check to Tampa's Middleton High. He also sponsors Hallandale High in Broward County, where he excelled in football and wrestling.
“I want to make it more of a permanent fix instead of a one-time give,” Joseph said. “It's coming all together, because the kids are responding to it and having great success. The parents, teachers and administrators are all getting involved. We have some real leaders in the community that have also partnered with us.”
Joseph's foundation also provides free physicals for student-athletes and team meals for Blake and Middleton sports events. Through partnerships with other community groups, he funds college bus tours and athletic camps.
For every Bucs home game, he invites youths to attend, free of charge.
“It means everything,” said Blake athletic director Jesse Salters, a former University of South Florida men's basketball standout. “It means someone actually cares about them. It humanizes the guys who are in the NFL ranks. They know where they came from.”
Joseph's passion for community service started with the Buccaneers' volunteer program.
“Really, I just fell in love with the community and fell in love with giving back,” he said. “Instead of having that widespread approach, I locked in on two schools here in the Tampa Bay area that I can help build their resources and help provide them with the tools they need to succeed. We're doing it for specifically the arts and athletics.”
Joseph's foundation rewards students for academic excellence and attendance, in addition to providing scholarships. Each participant is encouraged to volunteer for special projects and events.
Joseph learned at a young age the importance of hard work, in the classroom and on the field.
“My father was a Haitian immigrant, and my mom is a small-town Georgia girl,” he said. “My father has a GED and my mother never completed high school, but they always stressed the importance of education.
“Growing up and watching them work, one lesson I learned very quickly is to be consistent. I can't remember a time my parents missed work. They took a lot of pride going to work, therefore I take a lot of pride going to work, whether it's a voluntary day or mandatory day.”
It's a characteristic he wants the youths in his program to have.
“That's the kind of attitude I want to bring to Blake, Middleton and Hallandale High School, is that consistency part. It's OK to work hard and have pride in what you do.”
Blake and Middleton were all-black schools in Tampa until they closed during desegregation. Blake reopened in 1997 and Middleton in 2002. When Blake opened, the weight room was stocked with used equipment.
When Joseph donated the check to Blake, it was presented before the entire student body during a pep rally.
“He decided that was a big need,” Salters said. “He took a tour, took the bull by the horns and said, 'I want to do something about this.'”
Davin's Dream Team tries to get to the heart of issues affecting inner-city youths and uses round-table discussions to open channels of communication. His goal is to decrease high school dropout rates.
“I can't wait maybe five years from now or 10 years from now, when we're talking about Blake and Middleton athletics and performing arts as a high standard of performance and education,” he said. “That'll be the day I'll be really happy. I believe they can do it.”