Two and a half days after the Buccaneers gained a championship on their residence area to present Tom Brady his seventh Super Bowl ring, they discovered a approach to have a good time in true Florida style. For town of Tampa, this was a much-needed supply of pleasure in the course of a pandemic — and one in every of three boat parades in a span of 10 months, with the Bucs’ title sandwiched between the Lightning’s two Stanley Cup wins.

And wait, Brady did what?

It’s been practically a yr and a half since that memorable February afternoon — 80 levels and exquisite climate — and we sought to look again on the chaos of the parade and Brady’s unbelievable toss, throwing the Lombardi Trophy from his $2 million boat throughout open water and into the fingers of tight finish Cameron Brate on one other boat.

“Let me preface any answer I have with: We were consuming alcohol, so my memory is a little hazy on some aspects,” mentioned Brate. “But looking back on it, my wedding and the boat parade are probably the two best days of my life. It really was one of the most fun days I’ve ever had.”

For Bucs coach Bruce Arians, a part of two earlier Super Bowl parades as a Steelers assistant, the expertise was “unbelievable” due to the crowds that confirmed up after a complete season with restricted attendance.

“It never hit me that we’d won the Super Bowl until we were about halfway down the river and ‘We Are the Champions’ came on, and I’m holding the trophy,” Arians mentioned. “I had tears running down my face. I just said, ‘Play it again.’”

Bucs common supervisor Jason Licht, who shared a ship that day with Arians, different prime assistants and their households, can bear in mind seeing hundreds of followers lining each banks of the river, listening to Van Halen’s “On Top of the World” and trying to his spouse, Blair, to understand how excellent all the pieces was round them.

“To live in that moment, with your family, it was so special. It was so awesome. There’s nothing better,” Licht mentioned. “I looked at my wife and I’m holding the trophy up, and I said, ‘Besides our wedding day, this is the best day of my life.’ And she looked at me and said, ‘Oh, this is way better than our wedding day.’”

(Julio Aguilar / Getty Images)

When Brady first signed with Tampa Bay in March 2020 and wished a spot for private exercises along with his new receivers, lifelong Bucs fan Bennett Barrow — described as “the Bruce Wayne of Tampa” — helped set him up at his alma mater Berkeley Prep, the place Barrow is now on the board. Barrow was there with Brate and receivers Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller when Brady pulled as much as campus for the primary time in his truck with coach Alex Guerrero. There had been no coaches as they labored out three days every week, and Barrow acquired to know the gamers properly whereas proudly sporting a shirt his spouse acquired him that learn “WATERBOY.”

As the 2020 season started, Bennett was speaking with gamers concerning the Lightning’s first boat parade on the Hillsborough River that September, and the problem was set. The hockey celebration, restricted by COVID-19 protocols, was cool, the gamers mentioned, however how may they do it higher?

“Win me a Super Bowl,” mentioned Barrow, a well-connected boater. “And I’ll throw you a boat parade.”

Fast-forward to the Bucs’ win on a Super Bowl Sunday, with a lot of Monday serving as one lengthy jubilant afterparty. The Bucs, NFL, Tampa mayor Jane Castor, native police and even the CDC talked a lot of the day Tuesday. School was out in Hillsborough County that Friday, which might permit extra households to attend, however with COVID-19 nonetheless going sturdy, did they need to maximise the group, even for an out of doors occasion?

“We were going back and forth, back and forth — everybody in my conference room, from law enforcement to special events to parks and recreation — batting around ideas,” Castor mentioned. “Then I started getting these power texts from (Bucs co-owner) Darcie Glazer (Kassewitz): ‘Call me quick. Call me quick. Call me now.’ So I called her, and she goes, ‘Listen, we’re having a team meeting tomorrow and then everybody’s going to scatter. We have to do this on Wednesday.’”

The announcement went out Tuesday at 8 p.m. that the parade could be held Wednesday at 1 p.m., whereas the events concerned labored out how gamers would float down the parade route in downtown Tampa 17 hours later.

The NFL wished bigger boats, and far of the staff ended up on 4 StarShip yachts, large 90-foot multi-level ships that often run dinner cruises, in addition to an authentic-looking pirate ship referred to as the “Lost Pearl.” Barrow was tasked with discovering a ship for the Berkeley gang, borrowing a neighbor’s 41-foot center-console Valhalla and discovering a captain on the final minute. On it could be receivers Godwin, Miller and Mike Evans, in addition to tight ends Brate and Tanner Hudson. Also within the group was Anthony DelPercio, Godwin’s brother-in-law and former highschool teammate, who was celebrating with Godwin and different gamers at Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa on Tuesday evening.

“I’m in the middle of a hand of blackjack, and Chris was like, ‘Yo, can you text Bennett? Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) wants to be on our boat now,’” DelPercio mentioned. “I wasn’t even thinking and I go to pull my phone out, and the dealer’s like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I was like, ‘Oh sh–, I’m sorry. I forgot I’m sitting at a blackjack table.’ So I finish the hand and shoot Bennett a text.”

Bucs gamers met on the staff facility and took buses to the place they boarded their boats. DelPercio and the gamers’ wives and girlfriends met on the Tampa Yacht Club, then went to the Davis Islands home Brady was renting from Yankees nice Derek Jeter throughout his first season in Tampa — a seven-bedroom, 30,000-square-foot mansion affectionately often called “St. Jetersburg.” Brady introduced his personal boat, on this case a $2 million, 17-ton, 53-foot cobalt-blue yacht named “Viva a Vida,” Portuguese for “live life” and the title of one in every of his wife Gisele’s charities.

“Brady had asked me if he could have his own boat (in the parade), so I had to call the proper people, say, ‘Can he have his own boat?’ and he could, of course,” Licht mentioned. “He was so excited about it, and that got me jacked up that he was so jacked up about it.”

Everything was on the water that day, together with a Coast Guard ship with water cannons that sprayed clear a path on the entrance of the parade, with Tampa Police and Tampa Fire and Rescue boats everywhere in the procession as properly. The media masking the parade had their very own boats, and TV stations had helicopters overhead as a part of three hours of stay noon protection.

Tampa’s COVID-19 protocols for the parade requested for masks to be worn at any time when individuals weren’t consuming or ingesting. Many followers countered by ingesting nonstop, and the Bucs had been no completely different. Center Ryan Jensen gave each teammate a bottle of Crown Royal, so gamers acquired a head begin on the staff facility.

“All of us are waiting two hours in the locker room for the bus, and we all have four glasses and a bottle of whiskey in our locker, so we started pretty early,” Brate mentioned. “Then I had a celebratory drink with Mayor Jane before we even got to our actual boat. It gets a little fuzzy, but I do remember everything.”

Godwin and DelPercio acquired Hennessy cognac. Others requested Casamigos, the tequila firm co-founded by actor George Clooney. Brate and Miller every introduced a case of Bud Light, whereas Jensen (a Colorado native) carried a case of Coors Light to his boat. Plus there was ample champagne to be sprayed and/or consumed.

“We might have been 15 minutes into the boat parade and the Casamigos was gone and the Hennessy was halfway gone. It was like, ‘Holy sh–, we’re going to run out of drinks,” DelPercio mentioned. “We had plenty of other bottles and beers and seltzers.”

The “Gronk boat” was the middle of the social gathering, with stay broadcasts anticipating the second he went shirtless amid hours of dancing with teammates on the sting of the boat. The solely true casualty was Godwin’s cellphone, which acquired knocked into the river, prompting Evans to live-stream a request to Verizon for a alternative.

“We informed him, ‘Look, Tom, you can have the fancy boat, but we definitely had the best time,” DelPercio said. “People are asking, ‘Are you a player? What position do you play?’ and by now, I’m half a bottle of Hennessy deep, so I used to be signing autographs at one level. It was hilarious.

“It was almost more exciting that we put it together at the last minute. Some of the best things in life are unplanned. We had no idea how many people would turn out for the city, and it was amazing.”

The now-famous Lombardi Trophy toss was additionally unplanned, coming simply over a half-hour into the parade.

Viva a Vida and the Valhalla had simply handed by means of a drawbridge on the Platt Street Bridge. Brady stood on the stern of his boat, with the receivers on the entrance of theirs, legs dangling off the bow. Brady’s left hand lay on the soccer atop the trophy, his proper hand beneath it, and after a number of underhand apply swings, he let it fly as his 8-year-old daughter Vivian screamed, “Dad, no!”

Stephen Lynch, the Bucs’ director of manufacturing, was on Brady’s boat standing straight subsequent to him, taking pictures video.

“He had the trophy in his hand, and I’m pondering like, ‘Ha-ha. How long are you going to commit to the bit?’” Lynch said. “The Godwin boat starts to get closer and that gap is closing. Suddenly, for me, it’s like, ‘OK, this is not a bit. Here we go,’ and I’m wanting into my lens and I see that crimson mild.

“Thank God you’re recording. Let’s throw this thing.”

The trophy did a half-turn in midair, such that when it reached the opposite boat, the regulation-sized soccer atop the bottom landed completely within the fingers of Brate, who made a gentle seize, with Hudson additionally getting a hand on it.

“It was incredible, like the bottle-flip challenge, with the perfect rotation,” Brate mentioned. “There’s no way he’s ever thrown one before, but it was perfect. It turned over perfectly, and the football portion came right to me. I remember: ‘Holy crap, I got it.’ I lifted it up over my head. It was easy for me.”

“If there’s anybody that you’re going to expect to understand the ergonomics of a Super Bowl trophy and the weight distribution and everything, of course it’s going to be the guy who’s held it the most,” mentioned Lynch. “After the fact, our boat is chuckling and I look at him, and I’m like, ‘You’re a madman, bro,’ and he’s like, ‘Ah, not really. Two things happen. Either Cam catches it, or you’ve got 10 drunk guys diving to the bottom of the river trying to get a trophy.’”

One of the explanations Brady’s Lombardi toss is so celebrated is as a result of there are superb photographs and movies from all angles.

Perhaps essentially the most iconic shot got here from Kyle Zedaker, one of many Bucs’ staff photographers, who spent the day on the Gronk boat. Zedaker had stopped taking pictures for a second as he tried to transmit photographs regardless of an inconsistent wi-fi sign on a ship in the course of an enormous crowd.

“I hear, ‘The trophy’s coming! The trophy’s coming!’ and I went into full panic mode,” Zedaker mentioned. “It was very fortunate for the moment, having a little spot to sneak in and grab a few shots. Looking at the screen on the back of the camera in broad daylight, I didn’t even know if anything was in focus.”

There’s a lot to understand within the shot: the trophy completely upside-down in midair, the outstretched fingers on the receiving finish, Brady smiling and his daughter (completely framed in between fingers) in full terror.

“I tell Kyle all the time: That photo should win all the awards, ever,” Lynch mentioned. “I’m getting goosebumps talking about it right now. It’s hauntingly beautiful. That trophy being upside-down, Tom in the background, Vivian screaming, the hands reaching out to grab it. It exemplifies the beautiful chaos of that moment.”

That the toss had so many good photographs and movies was all of the extra spectacular contemplating how overpacked the river was that day, with police attempting to implement a tough perimeter across the boats, particularly Brady’s.

“I say this in a fun way, but it was overwhelming,” Lynch mentioned. “It was shoulder to shoulder, standing room only, floating room only, but it was chaotic. I was admiring the restraint of the fans, because there is a Beatles-esque, Bieber-esque, whatever you want to call it, with Brady where you want to rush the stage.”

For native TV stations carrying the parade stay, the occasion created all types of logistical challenges, beginning with having a ship that may keep in optimum place round the important thing boats.

WFTS was stay from a ship subsequent to Brady’s when he made the throw. “That was the most important catch of the season,” anchor Paul LaGrone mentioned seconds later. A lifelong Bucs fan who referred to as the parade “a mosh pit of boats,” LaGrone mentioned he was so desirous to cowl the parade that he forgot an attachment he wanted to listen to producers in his ear.

“I’m in total disbelief that he did it, and that the guys caught it on the other boat,” LaGrone mentioned. “It was essentially the most joyous second. It was an ideal day. I knew immediately I used to be watching a second in Tampa Bay historical past … you realize that is going to be immortalized endlessly.

“I’ve been to Iraq, I’ve interviewed presidents. This one tops all of it. It was like meeting Santa Claus for real.”

There stays some query as as to if the Lombardi Trophy would sink or float. In September, ESPN had Randy Moss toss a purportedly actual copy of it within the East River on air, and it floated. But everybody concerned in Tampa operated as if sinking was an actual threat.

“I had no pressure on me in that moment,” Brate mentioned. “If I dropped it, nobody’s like, ‘Cam Brate dropped the trophy.’ It’s all, ‘Tom Brady throws trophy in river.’ But alternate reality, I’d be very curious to see what would happen if it went in the river.”

Brady mentioned in a single interview he thought the river was 80 toes deep the place the throw was made, echoing one thing that Pro Football Talk’s Chris Simms, himself a former Bucs quarterback, reported to be the case. But it’s nowhere close to 80 toes deep the place Brady threw the trophy in accordance with the individual whose very job would have been to dive in after the trophy that day, Officer Chris Audet of the Tampa Police Department, who was driving the boat shadowing Brady’s within the parade.

A fellow officer had warned Audet that Brady was taking “a couple little practice rocks” backwards and forwards, and positive sufficient, as he regarded over, the trophy was within the air, flying from boat to boat over open water.

“My first thought was, ‘That is absolutely epic. That is the most amazing thing,’” Audet mentioned. “Simultaneously, I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, if this thing goes in the water, it’s going to be absolute chaos.’ It’d be the coolest thing in the world for me as a diver to go down and get it and come up with the Lombardi Trophy.”

Audet, a Tampa native and lifelong Bucs fan, mentioned the water depth across the Tampa Convention Center, the place Brady threw the trophy, is barely about 12 to fifteen toes relying on the tides. The actual concern isn’t depth, however visibility.

“It’s brackish, it’s pitch black,” he mentioned. “The bottom of the basin is all silted, so the trophy would have gone straight down and plugged. It wouldn’t have moved around. But the average swimmer, especially if you’ve been drinking, when it’s completely pitch black, is not going to have any sense of bearing. The concept of everybody jumping in, with boats and propellers, God knows where you come up at.”

One of the day’s most memorable moments got here after the parade because of Ryan Griffin, who continues a exceptional run as a seldom-used backup, having been with the Bucs since 2015 regardless of making solely 4 profession passes. The picture of him holding up a drunken Brady after their boat docked instantly grew to become synonymous with the celebration.

“It was totally unexpected,” Griffin mentioned. “It’s one of those things where it happens, you go through the day, you go to the next day, you wake up and are like, ‘Oh, dang. This is how you go viral.’”

After a personal gathering for the staff on the Port of Tampa, Licht and his household acquired a trip residence and he crashed exhausting, falling right into a deep sleep. He wakened satisfied he had slept by means of a celebration dinner for the coaches and entrance workplace. But it was solely 7 and their trip to dinner had simply arrived, so he didn’t miss something.

“It was just an amazing experience,” he mentioned. “I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.”

For the hundreds of followers in attendance and extra who watched on tv and on-line, the boat parade is among the most vivid recollections of the Super Bowl season. The Bucs will search one other ring for Brady at age 45 this fall, and one other win would undoubtedly imply one other parade, however it could be exhausting to match the primary, particularly for the novelty of Brady’s trophy toss.

“There was no talk about this beforehand,” Brate mentioned. “I thought he was giving us pump-fakes, and all of a sudden, it was in the air. Kind of a bold move in retrospect. I know Tom had a few drinks as well, but all’s well that ends well.”

(Illustration: Sean Reilly / The Athletic; Photos: Mike Ehrmann, Julio Aguilar / Getty Images)

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