(Photo Credit: Buccaneers.com)
If there were to ever be a true die-hard fan base which could shake the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise for the better, it would be none other than the “Stick Carriers”!
For those of you who do not know what a “Stick Carrier” is, they are a group of dedicated Buccaneers fans who got their name from the infamous speech given by head coach Dirk Koetter following a victory in San Diego.
The speech ended with Koetter telling his team to,
“Speak softly, and carry a @#$ *&^%$# STICK!”
Justin Pawlowski of the famous Buccaneers podcast, “Bucs Uncensored”, created this fan group right after that game, and I’m not sure he even envisioned what took place on Saturday August 5, 2017 at the time.
Over the past few months, Justin had been planning, along with JoeBucsFan.com, a Stick Carrier takeover day at training camp.
He and the Joe’s announced the official date during the podcast, and many fans chimed-in saying they’d be there to support the movement and the team on that day.
The Podcast that Moved the Fans
The day before the takeover, Justin posted on the Stick Carriers Facebook page to send in a Buccaneers Take.
A “Bucs Take” – for those who don’t know – is a voice memo sent in to be presented during the podcast. Typically, these state where you came from and how excited you were to be at the takeover.
Tons of fans chimed in for their fellow Stick Carriers to know they’d be there. I myself sent in a take to show my support for the movement and Pawlowski.
The Morning of the Takeover
On August 5th, I arrived at Buccaneers headquarters, One Buc Place, at 7 o’clock a.m. to witness a line of vehicles leading into the facilities parking lot.
Keep in mind, the gates open at 7:30 a.m. and there was already a line of cars waiting to get in.
At around 7:15 a.m. they opened the gates to allow people in. As I pulled in I could already see Stick Carriers joining together and getting rowdy for our team.
A line started to form as it normally would to get into training camp filled with none other than Stick Carriers.
As the chants of “we ready” and “B-U-C C-A-N E-E-R-S, Go Bucs” kept going, Brian Ford and Justin Pawlowski started to get everyone even more pumped up to enter the facilities.
Palowski had a mega phone and started to tell everyone he had just received a texted from none other than Jason Licht stating,
“I can hear you guys from inside my office.”
As we all entered the bleachers, everyone was still very amped up.
We made our way to the stands to find our seats for practice. But, the seats weren’t being used to sit on. They were being used to stand in.
Making the Players Aware of the Stick Carriers
As always, the Buccaneers tight ends made their way to the field first.
Alan Cross and Luke Stocker were the first to enter the field. As players came onto the field, the Stick Carriers started a roll call of the players, chanting every player’s name until they acknowledged them.
Jameis Winston seemed the most fired up. As he made his way to the field, he started jumping and clicking his heels together.
On his last attempt he landed awkwardly but recovered with a half completed cartwheel.
At this point, I myself, was already soaked in sweat. The Stick Carriers were all kinds of crammed in the stands with the 100+ degree heat index beaming down on us.
Being the fans we were, we had not a single care for the heat.
We knew if the players were giving us all they had during practice with all their gear on, then we could endure the heat just as much.
Right before the beginning of practice, we all started to chant “Dirk, Dirk, Dirk” as the head coach made his way onto the field.
This had to be one of the biggest highlights of the day. Coach Koetter himself made his way to the stands to get us Stick Carriers.
Following him would be the General Manger of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jason Licht.
As practice went on, the Stick Carriers never faded out with the intensity of passion for our team.
Every time the offense went against the defense, the crowd started yelling for the defense, much how we would during a game.
We had one goal in mind. Make the offense go to silent count.
In one insistence, we were screaming so loud for the defense the offense had to call a “timeout” because they couldn’t communicate the play they wanted to play.
This is what we as fans want to happen during games. Be so loud the opposing offense has a hard time calling plays.
The Franchise Changing Moment
At the end of Buccaneers practice, one of the most touching and amazing things happened.
Dirk Koetter ran over to where we all were, still standing and cheering for our team.
He came to us and delivered a speech that gave not only me goosebumps, but everyone around.
Dirk told us in front of everyone he had been to millions of training camps but he’s never experienced a group of fans with so much passion for their team during a practice.
He seemed very overjoyed at this point and had us all quiet down.
Then he screamed,
“One time for HBO! Right back into this. Speak softly, and carry a big stick!”
— Justin Pawlowski (@CommishOnline) August 5, 2017
Passion and Emotions Were Expressed
As I looked around the group of die-hard Buccaneers fans, I stopped at Justin Pawlowski.
This man has been trying to unify this fan base for a long time, and I believe he did just that on Saturday.
As I watched him I could see tears coming from his face and just an overload of emotions.
I’ll be honest, I felt the same way and started to tear up myself.
At the end of the day, we are fans. We love our team no matter what happens on the field.
I cannot put into words the feeling I had on Saturday and what will come of this day.
The Buccaneers know who we are now. They know they have a fan base which will support them anyway possible.
This is what we live for as fans. We live for the moments we can share together with our team.
We embrace the emotional side of the team.
Stick Carrier takeover day at training camp made me realize football is truly back in Tampa Bay.
I’m going to leave you with a quote I overheard from Mr. Pawlowski.
As Dirk was finishing his speech, he leaned over to Justin. I don’t know what he told him, but Justin responded back with,
“You worry about building a bad-ass football team and I’ll build a bad-ass fan base!”
If you liked what you read and want to read more follow me on twitter @PhiliSchweg. As always guys, Speak Softly and Carry a BMFS! #StickCarriers #Bucs