The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially started the 2016 pre-season Friday with players reporting to One Buc Place. Could fantasy football be far behind? 500 fans gathered for what was billed as the world’s largest fantasy football draft party at Raymond James on Sunday with Buccaneers players past and present in attendance.
Mike Alstott, Ronde Barber and Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, were in attendance, shaking hands and posing for pictures with the draftniks.
“I didn’t care much for fantasy football when I was a player, but let’s face it — this thing is blowing up,” said former Bucs tight end Anthony Becht, who found himself at one of the 55 tables in the West Club at Raymond James Stadium as a draft participant. ”It’s getting more people into the NFL because they have a stake in it. Almost every fan I know has a team. The league may not be all in yet, but they know this is growing.”
Participants arrived to a tailgate party atmosphere, with Hooters serving up chicken wings, beverages and giveaways.
“I was all in on this event as soon as I heard about it,” said Tampa’s Debbie Shifferd, who sat with her husband, Kevin, eagerly awaiting the draft’s opening bell. “For 15 years, we’ve had our own 12-team league online … no money involved. This draft party was very well done. It’s a good idea and I hope this is only the start.