Jamiko Sapp walked through the $5-million, 12,000-square-foot Villa Theresa modeling the same Harry Winston diamond necklace actor Queen Latifah wore to the Academy Awards ceremony in March.
No, not the same design, the same necklace: a 75-carat cascading waterfall of 167 diamonds.
Sapp was among 14 wives of athletes who modeled glamorous Winston jewels at a star-studded party Friday night at the Avila home. Their participation symbolized a unique convergence: professional sports, corporate entities, charity and jewels worth more money than I'll make in a lifetime.
"Gems and Giants" was an event designed to shine the light on the Champions Fund, a public charity comprising professional athlete funds and foundations. The jewelry was the perfect magnet for the athletes and business professionals, and it gave the famed House of Winston a chance to bring a $50-million collection to Tampa.
"I'm very pleased," said Liz Willyoung, president and chief executive officer of the Champions Fund "We had more than 250 people here learning how to give. To me, that's really what it's all about."
Willyoung's company includes some of the area's top athletes, including Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, Devil Rays outfielder Aubrey Huff and Lightning centers Brad Richards and Vinny Lecavalier. But Willyoung stressed that because the fund is a national program, it can accommodate athletes even when they are traded or leave as free agents. In the past, some of the more successful efforts of athletes have gone defunct because of relocations.
The athletes maximize their contributions by sharing operational costs, expertise and resources. What they shared Friday, however, were wives deeply desirous of the stunning collection.
Along with Jamiko Sapp, the models included Carol Brooks (wife of Brooks), Genevieve Lecavalier Bale (sister of Lecavalier), Claudia Barber (wife of Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber), Mary Delgado (from ABC's The Bachelor), Linda Everett (wife of White Sox outfielder Carl Everett), Cindy Gruden (wife of Bucs coach Jon Gruden), Linda Lynch (wife of Bucs safety John Lynch), Melissa Pittman (wife of Bucs running back Michael Pittman), Damarus Quarles (wife of Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles), Deleon Sheffield (wife of Braves outfielder Gary Sheffield), Charisse Strawberry (wife of retired Yankee Darryl Strawberry), Nina Wells (wife of Yankees pitcher David Wells) and host Theresa Woodside.
As the models glided around the room, they often waltzed by pictures of women who have worn the Winston collection at various Academy Award presentations: Glenn Close, Halle Berry, Renee Zellweger, Jada Pinkett Smith.
The models wore an array of earrings, rings and necklaces. The most expensive piece was an "exceptionally rare, fancy intense pink oval diamond ring" valued at more than $2-million, so I'm told. You know, this stuff doesn't come with price tags because if you have to ask, well ... you know.
A portion of the sales, and I'm told they actually sold some stuff, went to the Champions Fund. Winston managing director of communications Carolyn Brodie Gelles said the company would be interested in returning to Tampa for the "right kind of charitable event."
The evening also included a silent auction and the presentation of a special award to Brooks. The Derrick Brooks Diamond in the Community Award will be awarded annually, and its namesake was a worthy inaugural recipient.
Although Brooks has received an array of honors because of his Brooks Bunch efforts with Tampa youths, he said it's not difficult staying on solid ground.
"It's easy when you realize everything is bigger than you and it's all about God living through you," Brooks said.
When asked about end zone celebrations, the late, great NFL coach Paul Brown told his players to act like you've been there before. I try to take the same approach with events like this one, but between the stars, the house and the jewelry, it was a little difficult not to be in awe.
I'm always impressed when good people come together for a good cause.