Santa Fe High School athletes Molly Wissman and Jazzi Gonzales were surprised, to stay the least, to be called to their respective front offices recently. Good students and two-sport athletes, neither is used to impromptu calls to the halls of disciplinary attention.
“I was really confused and I had no idea what they were calling me in for, so I was a little worried,” Wissman admitted.
Gonzales, who attends Mandela International School, “wondered if I did something wrong,” she said.
Far from being in trouble, the two juniors were instead handed packages from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. You know, of Tom Brady and Super Bowl championship fame.
Inside, each girl – both of whom are stars on the Demonettes soccer team and kickers on the school’s football team – found a Tampa Bay cap, a Buccaneers flag and a letter of recognition.
“On behalf of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I wanted to share how impressed we are with your skills on the football field,” the letter said. “We are always on the lookout for talented females in the football world and we wanted to congratulate you on your success thus far in your career.”
Wissman and Gonzales, both juniors, shared the extra-point duties for the Demons this season, their first as football players. They won an open tryout of fellow soccer players when the football team needed kickers.
Wissman handled most of the extra-point duties, converting 25 of 30 during the season, while Gonzales made both of her attempts. Gonzales did the kickoffs, getting the occasional touchback and converting all three of her onside kick attempts.
“Know that you can achieve anything you put your mind to,” the letter continued. “So continue to set your sights high both on the field and – most importantly – in the classroom. We are looking forward to following along!”
The girls were told that Tampa Bay officials saw newspaper articles on their gridiron achievements and reached out to the school district.
Gonzales and Wissman were quite taken aback.
“I thought it was crazy,” Wissman said. “I had no idea that anyone was really paying attention. I knew everyone in our small town knew, but to have someone from all the way across the country to recognize us, it was crazy and awesome.”
Both players said they plan to try to play both sports again next fall, and this just gives them greater incentive.
“In reading the letter, I was completely shocked,” Gonzales said. “To think this came from an NFL team who has had success like they have reaching out, first of all to notice us and sending those things, it was really cool to see and read.”
While both players are NFL fans, neither rooted for the Bucs previously. That, however, is likely going to change, they said.
“My favorite team is the Vikings,” Wissman said. “Just because my family is from Minnesota and they’re all Viking fans. But definitely, I have to have respect for the Bucs now. I never thought anything like this would happen.”
Gonzales, a 49ers fan, said of the Bucs: “They’re not my team, but I’ll take it.”
And the letter, which was signed simply, “Tampa Bay Buccaneers,” concluded with, “We wish you the best as you pursue excellence in football and all of your future endeavors.”
Gonzales said she’s keeping it with other items from her athletics career: “I’m hoping to frame it and hang it above my bed, I don’t know.”
Wissman plans something similar.
“I’m just going to hang it my room,” she said. “It will be there for me to see all the time.”