TAMPA, Fla. - A fire inside a shed at Blake High School destroyed nearly all of the football team’s equipment, but the newest Tampa Bay Buccaneer is stepping up to help.
It was back on May 16 when the Blake maintenance shed caught fire. Crews had the flames out in less than an hour, but the gear inside was destroyed – everything from game-day equipment like field markers, pylons, and chains, to workout gear like pop-up dummies and pads.
Principal Jesse Salters said there was $11,000 worth of damage, including to the shed itself, which was destroyed.
"I knew it was going to be devastating to the students only because it takes so much for us to actually get equipment," said Salters.
The lost equipment included pylons, yard markers, field paint and tackle dummies.
"I hope they learn there are consequences when you do stuff like this," said Blake High School junior Kavon Willingham. "Why would you do that?"
Some of the equipment had been bought by the team's coaches, who said they’d been hoping to resume practice in mid-July.
To help make sure that’s possible, the Bucs’ new tight end Rob Gronkowski said his Gronk Nation Youth Foundation, along with the Buccaneers, plans to replace everything that was lost in the fire.
“To the Blake High School Yellow Jackets, you’re getting a brand-new storage unit and new football equipment to replace everything that was lost,” Gronkowski said in a Twitter message Tuesday. "Keep working hard this summer, stay active, and stay healthy, and my new teammates and I are looking forward to seeing you soon."
"It shows them that hey, we believe in you, we support you, and we have your back," said Salters 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.
The 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," said Willingham. "I really want to thank him from the bottom of my heart. That really touched me."