TAMPA, Florida – A fire inside a Blake High School hangar has destroyed nearly all of the football team‘s equipment, but Tampa Bay’s newest Buccaneer is mobilizing to help.
It was on May 16 that the Blake maintenance hangar caught fire. Crews extinguished the flames in less than an hour, but the equipment inside was destroyed – from match-day equipment like field markers, pylons and chains, to outdoor equipment. training like mannequins and pop-up pads.
Manager Jesse Salters said there was $ 11,000 in damage, including to the hangar itself, which was destroyed.
“I knew it was going to be devastating for the students just because we need so much to get equipment,” Salters said.
Lost equipment included pylons, yard beacons, field paint, and hoist dummies.
“I hope they learn that there are consequences when you do things like this,” said Kavon Willingham, Blake High School junior. “Why would you do that?”
Some of the equipment had been purchased by the team’s coaches, who said they hoped to resume training in mid-July.
To make sure this is possible, Bucs new tight end Rob Gronkowski said his Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, as well as the Buccaneers, plan to replace whatever was lost in the blaze.
“For the Blake High School Yellow Jackets you get a whole new storage unit and new football gear to replace whatever has been lost,” Gronkowski said in a twitter message Tuesday. “Keep working hard this summer, stay active and stay healthy, and my new teammates and I look forward to seeing you soon.”
“It shows them that hey, we believe in you, we support you and we support you,” Salters said of Gronkowski’s gesture.
Gronkowski came out of retirement to join the Buccaneers after his former teammate Tom Brady signed with the team earlier this year.
Students are excited about his move to Tampa, now for more than one reason.
“We want to meet him. I also want to thank him,” Willingham said. “I really want to thank him from the bottom of my heart. It really touched me.”