The XFL returns to action this weekend and the Tampa Bay Vipers are focused on getting their first-ever win. They’re not too busy in the film room to lend a helping hand when the United Food Bank of Plant City could use it, though.
The Vipers visited the food bank Monday morning shortly before it opened and, after touring the Alsobrook Street facility, were put to work along with players and coaches from Plant City High School’s football team.
“I think with everyone coming together, it’s such a happy thing to give back,” tight end Colin Thompson said. “To give is a lot more fulfilling than to receive. Our time is always precious during the season, but to be able to give back with our group of guys is really special.”
Starting shortly before the food bank opened for the public to use its services, the football teams tackled two projects. First, they put together roughly 200 tote bags in the kids’ room for local students to have while on their upcoming spring break vacations. Next, Vipers players helped with the heavy lifting of loading up trucks in the pick-up line just outside the food bank.
It was the Vipers’ first community service event as a team and the players couldn’t have been happier to help give a hand up to their new home community, especially just a few minutes away from their Plant City Stadium practice field.
“Utmost respect for everybody here in Plant City,” Thompson said. “We’ve loved our time here, and then to come to this food bank and be a part of something special in this community… to give back to where we get to practice and play every day is pretty special.”
For the Raiders, the event was a cool, fun way to get more involved in the town they represent on the gridiron.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity for our kids to mix it up here with the Vipers trying to do this community outreach,” Raiders head coach James Booth said. “It’s good for our kids to offer perspective for what the food bank does for Plant City High School and our community.”
Raiders running back Zamir’ Knighten and his teammates were also grateful for the opportunity to meet professional football players who never gave up on chasing the dream of going pro in the game they love.
“It’s been cool,” Knighten said. “They helped us football-wise and life-wise. We were talking to them for about 10 minutes before we started working. They taught us to believe in ourselves.”
Many of the Vipers were thankful for the opportunity and even talked to each other about coming back to the food bank soon to volunteer some more. Thompson said among the reasons being in Plant City has been a great experience for the team is that the community has welcomed the Vipers with open arms.
“We’ve done a little bit in Plant City, a little bit in Lakeland, pretty much everything around (Plant City Stadium),” Thompson said. “I went to Fred’s for breakfast this morning. I’ve done a little bit of everything, the staples, but to support local business in the community is what we’re here to do. We’re working in Plant City, we’re giving back to Plant City, this is a super special place and it’s not far from us, so I’m sure the Vipers will be here all the time.”
You can catch the Vipers on FOX at 2 p.m. Sunday as they open the season on the road against the New York Guardians. The team’s home opener against the Houston Roughnecks at Raymond James Stadium kicks off at 2 p.m. Feb. 22, and that game will also be televised on ABC.