What initially sparked your interest in wanting to help bring a Super Bowl to Tampa Bay?
It started when we built our new stadium here in Tampa during my playing years. At the time, the league was awarding teams who built new stadiums with Super Bowls. It just dawned on me what a process it truly was and what goes on behind the scenes. I would say the person the sparked my interest the most initially was Lee Roy Selmon. I met with Mr. Selmon as he was in the midst of getting the football program going at USF. At that time, he was negotiating for the team to start playing in the stadium. We started having talks about these things and he asked me, “Why don’t you get involved? I think you would really be an asset to understanding what this process takes.” So, I started asking Mr. Malcolm Glazer questions whenever he was around about what it was like being in the room and what it would take to bring another one to Tampa. He just started sharing behind the scenes information with me that led to a multitude of conversations. These discussions influenced me to want to be a part of things that this city was involved with, not just the NFL. As my career has come full circle, I have had the opportunity to meet people like Rob Higgins along the way that have allowed me to be involved in the business side of what this city can do in terms of major events.
Do you feel the same type of adrenaline rush helping bring a Super Bowl to Tampa Bay as you felt playing in one?
It really is when you start to dive into the weeds of everything. Will Weatherford and I are not just figureheads of the Super Bowl coming here. That was one thing – if I had to say the requirement that I had of Rob, was to really have me involved. With the skill set that I have, I wanted to not only be able to display it in a leadership role but also in a serving role as well. That is the basis that I accepted this position on is knowing how important this was to our area, not just our city. From the time we started to bid on this knowing we were going against some giants such as Los Angeles with their new stadium to New Orleans and Miami, the typical ones that are at the table and get the bids. We were not shying away from those efforts and making sure we put our best foot forward. I knew I wanted to be involved in this effort to bring a Super Bowl here to Tampa.
For the last two and a half years, I have had the privilege to see Rob up close and personal working through a plethora of events; Women’s Final Four, College Football Playoff, NHL All-Star game, Frozen Four, USF athletics to now planning WrestleMania and the Super Bowl. You name it, he has been a part of it. I’ve been fortunate enough to watch Rob go to work and be an ambassador for our region to make sure the world understands that we are capable of putting on a great event. You name it, Tampa can be a destination to host your event. Rob does it with a great sense of humility and that is why a lot of people pick up the phone when he calls. His work impacts a lot of individuals in a lot of areas and I am glad that he invited me to be a part of his team for the Super Bowl.
How did you get involved with the Tampa Bay Super Bowl LV Host Committee?
I have always cared about serving and I do come from a football family. I played college football at Jacksonville University. I have six brothers, we all played college football at different levels. We are a football family and we understand the importance that sports can bring. When I ran for office, I enjoyed that public service, but when it was time to leave and I was term-limited out in 2014, I wanted to stay engaged and what better way to serve your community and make a difference in your community than participating in the biggest event that takes place around the world and that is the Super Bowl, so I volunteered. As soon as I knew that Tampa Bay was going to be blessed with the opportunity to host this event again, I reached out to Rob and asked how I could help. How can I use my resources and my time and my relationships to bring value to this effort, so it has been a lot of fun.
How important is it to get the businesses in the Tampa area rallying around Super Bowl LV?
It is critical. It is a movement and in any movement, it requires people working together and moving in the right direction and we have such incredible organizations that saw this as a real value-add. We have a whole host of companies that are involved and see the value in what this can do, not just their company. I think that is one of the most impressive things that really struck me is that our team isn’t in it for just their company or for their organization, they are in it for our region. They see the benefit for Tampa Bay and the community and therefore, they want to step up and participate with volunteers, resources, aligning their brand with our brand, so that has been really fun. This is unable to happen without the private sectors and we are blessed to
live in Tampa where they get it.
In your eyes, what would a successful Super Bowl look like in our hometown?
We are going to have hundreds of thousands of individuals come in, international press from around the world and two incredible teams in that game. I think we want people to walk away from this event talking about it being a world-class experience in a world-class city. We want to make sure from the minute their plane touches the ground or the minute they step foot in the Tampa Bay region, that everything they do and see and touch and participate in is world-class and that the experience is just overwhelmingly positive. We are giving people a flavor for our community and we want it to last. We want it to be a legacy. We want the Super Bowl impact to last beyond just the Super Bowl. We want it for years to come to have an impact in our community and our schools and for our families that live there. I am looking for that lasting impact, that feeling that people feel like they were a part of something special in a special place and that also, it continues to benefit the community for years going forward.