August 3, 2006
For Anthony "Booger" McFarland, it's
all about the give and take.
In seven seasons at defensive tackle for Tampa
Bay, McFarland has helped the Buccaneers hold opponents to 94.7 rushing
yards per game, taking down opposing ballcarriers 292 times, with 20
of those tackles counting as quarterback sacks, while forcing three
turnovers and taking away five fumble recoveries.
He's given to his team — allowing the
Buccaneers to restructure his contract not
once, but twice, over the course of the past
year to help the team free up salary cap room
to bring in veteran talent. Last October, in
the middle of the season, McFarland's contract
was restructured so the Bucs could execute
a trade for quarterback Tim Rattay. McFarland
gave again in March, when his contract was
slightly tweaked to add more salary cap room
for Tampa Bay.
He's given to his family, and his hometown
of Winnsboro. He's also given to his new hometown
And along the way, he's taken in a Super Bowl
ring and the love and respect of fans everywhere.
Booger McFarland looks the part of a NFL defensive
tackle. Thick and muscular, at 6-feet and 300
pounds, the 1999 first-round draft choice out
of LSU doesn't appear to be a man too many
people would want to cross. He's not a vocal,
flamboyant player but instead gives the Bucs
a throwback to the blue-collar type of defensive
players found in the 1960s and 1970s.
But while he may not be a vocal player, he
is quite articulate. Armed with a business
degree from LSU, McFarland has become a fixture
in Tampa Bay, known for his weekly, in-season
radio show on WDAE and for numerous television
appearances on The Best Damn Sports Show Period.
"I like Tampa and I like being a Buccaneer," McFarland
said. "It's a good fit for me and I think
I'm a good fit for them. I've made a lot of
friends on the team. There's quite a few of
us with Louisiana connections. We have a good
team and we don't think we're too far away
from pushing for another Super Bowl. That's
why I don't mind reworking my contract.
BOOGER'S BIGGEST GIFT
McFarland's biggest gift has been to young
people in both Louisiana and Florida. His I
Can Wait Foundation has becoming firmly established
in both states and continues to grow with new
projects scheduled for the future.
The ideology behind McFarland's "I Can
Wait" programs is that children need to
be taught to consider the consequences of their
actions before acting.
"It applies to sports," McFarland
said. "It applies to school. It applies
to relationships with family and friends. It
applies to life."
Last weekend nearly 200 area youths packed
Brown Stadium on the Louisiana-Monroe campus
to attend the seventh annual Anthony Booger
McFarland I Can Wait Football camp.
McFarland and a handful of other past/current
NFL players like Shaun King, Chuck Darby, Lamar
Thomas and Ronnie Prude spent time teaching
football tips to young people, while all the
while trying to instill the idea of thinking
about your life and focusing on being the best
you can be at whatever you try.
"Booger's a big man and he's got a big
heart," said King, who quarterbacked Tulane
to a 12-0 season in 1998 before becoming the
Buccaneers' second-round draft pick in 1999. "This
program means so much to him, and that's why
I've become so involved with it. Booger and
I came into the league together. He was the
Bucs' first pick in 1999 and I was the second.
He's one of my best friends and we've remained
close even though I moved on to the Cardinals
and now the Colts.
"He cares about people. Especially young
people. I think Booger was fortunate enough
to have a strong mother and good teachers that
taught him the benefit of getting information
and thinking things out before making big decisions.
And that bad decisions can follow you the rest
of your life."
As he taught basic football techniques and
methods to the children attending his football
camp, McFarland often segued into a life lesson,
using his success on the football as a model
for success anywhere.
"Listen up, because this is important," McFarland
told a small group of youngsters. "It's
about hard work. You're not going to get anything
if you don't work for it. It's about focusing
and making the right decisions. And to make
the right decisions, you have to look for facts
to base that decision on. Life is about choices,
so make sure you get all the information you
need to help you make the right choice.
"Everyone has a chance to succeed at
what you do. It's about learning to take advantages
of the opportunities given you."
The message seemed to sink in for 15-year-old
Darrell Fobbs of Tallulah.
"I came because I like playing football,
so anytime I get a chance to get out and play
I do it," Fobbs said. "It's fun to
work with real NFL players. They're treating
us like we're friends and talking to us about
stuff. Hopefully I can be a better football
player and student by listening."
Thomas, a former receiver for the Miami Dolphins,
said it's McFarland's passion for his I Can
Wait Foundation that led to his own return
to the football camp for a second year.
"His love for the foundation and for
young people — it's contagious," Thomas
said. "It's the Fourth of July weekend,
but he's out here giving up his time and he's
got us out here giving up our time and feeling
good about doing it. Booger feels like he's
been blessed — that's why he's giving
back. I feel like I've been blessed — that's
why I'm helping out.
"If we can help some of these kids in
any way, then it's worth it. Coming back this
year, I've seen some of the same kids from
last year. Some tell me that they remember
something I taught them about catching a football.
Some tell me they remember me telling them
how important it is they work hard in whatever
they try. Those are the reasons Booger's doing
all this and the reason we keep coming back
McFarland spoke at several schools in Tampa
during the course of the 2005 football season
and has plans to expand his football camp into
the state of Florida next season.
"That's our next big plan — to
add a camp in Florida," McFarland said. "It'll
be like the one in Louisiana, we'll just start
doing two. This is a great way to get out and
reach kids, and that's something the Foundation
wants to take advantage of."
Monroe's Josalyn Turner, who watched her nephews
attend the recent camp in Monroe, is pleased
McFarland and his foundation are working for
even more growth in the future.
"It's nice because he doesn't have to
be here doing this," Turner said. "A
lot of athletes are great and give something
back to their communities, but a lot don't.
I'm just glad we have someone like Booger from
this area who is really concerned about our
BACK TO THE BUCS
While McFarland has spent much of the summer
working with his I Can Wait Foundation, he's
now ready to turn his focus back to football,
where he hopes to help the Buccaneers return
to the playoffs.
Tampa Bay went 11-5 win last year to take
first-place in the NFC South after edging Carolina,
also 11-5, in a tiebreaker. Along the way,
McFarland posted 27 tackles and a pair of quarterback
sacks while helping the Buccaneers hold opponents
under 100 yards rushing per game.
The Bucs went on to lose their first playoff
game to the Washington Redskins while Carolina
marched all the way to the NFC championship
game before falling to Seattle.
The Panthers have received much preseason
hype for the upcoming season, but McFarland
is quick to remind all within earshot that
he doesn't think Carolina looks to be the team
to beat in the NFC South.
"We won it last year — they're
going to have to come through us," McFarland
said. "Any team that wants to win that
division is going to have to come through Tampa.
Carolina is going to be good. Atlanta's going
to be good. You can't hold last season against
the Saints and they could turn things around
in a hurry. It's a good division — one
of the better ones in the league. But we're
the defending champs and we're looking for
more this season."
McFarland said one bonus of being in Tampa
is a group of Buccaneers with Louisiana ties.
Backup quarterbacks Tim Rattay and Luke McCown
both played at Louisiana Tech, fullback Jerald
Sowell played at Tulane, wide receiver Michael
Clayton played at LSU and defensive back Kalvin
Pearson played at Grambling State.
The Buccaneers also have former Super Bowl
MVP Doug Williams, a former Grambling State
quarterback and head coach, in place as a personnel
"Doug's a great guy and it's good to
have someone like him around because he's seen
so much and been through so much," McFarland
said. "He can really provide a good perspective
on things because he's been around.
"I've played golf with Luke and Tim.
I hang out with guys like Jerald and Michael.
It's a good little Louisiana group we've got
going in Tampa. I feel comfortable here. That's
why I've worked things to try to stay here.
It's a great staff and a great team. We're
want another Super Bowl ring and we're ready
to get down to work to get one."