TAMPA, Fla. — What could be better for a young football player than winning a scholarship for your dedication to the sport? Maybe finding out the news from Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski!
That's exactly what happened for four young women who have paved the way for a future generation of female football players.
Gronk surprised Shivanie Ghansiam from Bradenton, along with Jordan Bryant, Malia Hollins, Lydia Houle with the 2021 Buccaneers Girls in Football Scholarship.
It all went down on a video call where the 4-time Super Bowl champ recognized the girls for the incredible work they've done on and off the field.
“These young women are showing the world that football is a sport for everyone,” said Gronkowski. “They’ve earned this scholarship through their hard work, dedication and love for the game. It’s an honor to meet them and I’m excited that they’ll get to kick off the season with us at Raymond James Stadium.”
The first-of-its-kind award was designed to benefit graduating female high school football players pursuing a career in sports.
In addition to getting money toward their education, the winners will also get to celebrate at the NFL Kickoff Experience at Julian B. Lane Park on Sept. 9 and attend the Bucs' season opener aboard the pirate ship in Raymond James Stadium as guests of Gronkowski.
“From a young age, girls are often told no, you can’t do something because it’s a boy’s sport,” said Houle, who is starting her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and pursuing a career in exercise science. “By seeing other girls in areas such as football or as executives in companies or really prominent positions, it gives girls somebody to look up to and say, ‘I don’t have to be told no. I can do that if I want, it doesn’t matter that I’m a girl.’”
“The Buccaneers see the passion, the drive and the love that we have for the sport,” said Ghansiam, who is pursuing a degree in Political Science at the University of Florida. “I truly want to impact the sports industry."
In addition to the scholarship, the Buccaneers have made several moves toward promoting gender equality in football. This year, the team launched the Women’s Summit for Careers in Football, an ongoing program that strengthens the pipeline of women pursuing NFL careers. It also hosts the largest girl's flag football tournament in the country.
You can watch the video of the surprise call from Gronk here.