TAMPA - Just when you think football players couldn't care less about the little things, up comes the efforts of linebackers Ryan Nece and Shelton Quarles, who recognized the caring of bay area fathers at a luncheon on Thursday.
As part of the All Pro Dad program, a subsidiary of the Family First program, Nece and Quarles honored 47 dads who were finalists from 500 nominees.
Tampa's Matt LeBlanc, a missionary who has worked in Nicaragua, Honduras, Peru and the Dominican Republic, was selected by the players as the area's "Top Dad."
LeBlanc's nomination was sent in by his 6-year-old son Victor, after Matt built a backyard fort, with a Bucs flag, for his son.
"I realize how important the role of a parent is, whether it's mother or father, and that the more successful you are as a parent, the better the chance your child will have to become a good adult," Nece said. "The other thing is that I don't think that in our society we have enough solid role models for young boys. I feel it is important to honor those men because we need to have more of them."
LeBlanc received two tickets to a Bucs game, a set of Bucs golf balls, AMC movie passes, a $50 Winn-Dixie gift certificate, a weekend getaway at the new Renaissance Hotel at the International Plaza and a spa package from the Difference for Men.
Runnersup Harold Floyd of Tampa and Tom Samonek of Zephyrhills also received prizes.
The son of Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, Nece grew up in a single-parent home and said his experience has been part of the inspiration for his involvement in the program.
"My relationship with my dad had both negatives and positives," he said. "The negatives made me realize the need to have those influences in everyday life and the positives allow me to realize how much you have to honor those who can have an influence on who you are as a man."
"I wanted to do the best I could to help send a message to other people about the process of (raising children)," said Quarles, who has two children. "We defintely would like to see them more involved."
Quarles, whose father died when he was 2, said the void has been a source of deep motivation.
"I didn't have a dad growing up so I understand the important role a father has and I want to be an integral part of my kids growing up," he said. "My wife tells me that all the time. She says I'm more hands on because my dad wasn't around."
ROMAN PRAISES: After left tackle Roman Oben was traded to the Chargers, some of his former teammates did not hesitate to show regard for his contributions.
Defensive end Simeon Rice called Oben to wish him well and to "chat" about their meeting in San Diego on Dec. 12. New left tackle Derrick Deese, whose presence made Oben tradable, also called the former starter.
"I hate to see him go, but it is part of the business, I understand that and I'm sure he does," guard Kerry Jenkins said. "The past few years have been great and I can't say enough about the guy. Not only is he a good ballplayer, but a great individual all around. I'm happy I got to play next to him. We roomed together on the road and got to be good friends. We had a pretty good run. We won a Super Bowl together."
WAIT TILL SUMMER: Speaking of Deese, the veteran tackle, who was born in California and, to this point, had played his college and pro career in that state, has found one particular challenge moving to Florida: the heat.
"It's been pretty good, but the biggest thing has been the heat factor," Deese said. "Getting up at 6 a.m. and stepping outside and it feels like it's already 85 degrees. Man! It's been fun getting used to it. I thought California had good weather, but Florida has real good weather."
No word if teammates have pointed out he's about to go to training camp in Orlando in August when temperatures routinely soar into the upper 90s.
DOUG ON A MISSION: If you think this NFL executive thing is a passing fancy for personnel executive DougWilliams, think again. The former quarterback, who joined the Bucs front office this offseason, is expected to attend the NFL-Stanford Program for Managers today through Saturday. The program, which will be directed by Stanford professors and Hall of Famers, is geared toward enhancing skills in areas of marketing, financing, personnel and negotiation strategies.