Yesterday, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles surprised the recipients of the fourth annual Buccaneers Girls in Football Scholarship. The scholarship is the first-of-its-kind academic scholarship program designed to benefit graduating female high school football players pursuing a career in sports. Three of the four 2023 scholarship winners – Mia Decker (University of North Florida), Jessica Jenkins (Tennessee State University), and Eryn Klaus (University of Florida) also received a tour of the facility from wide receiver Mike Evans, linebacker Lavonte David, and quarterback Baker Mayfield.

“In 2019, we broke new ground by introducing the Girls in Football Scholarship in order to provide young women with scholarship opportunities that would reward student-athletes while also creating a pathway for them to follow their career dreams,” said Buccaneers Co-Owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz. “It has been extremely satisfying to know that we have played a role in helping many young women on their educational journeys as they aspire to work in professional sports. Every year, we host the nation’s largest girls preseason flag football tournament, and this scholarship is a natural extension of that commitment to growing our sport and broadening the candidate pool for opportunities to work in the NFL.”

In conjunction with the Buccaneers Women of Red Day at Training Camp, the three student-athletes were recognized for their achievements on and off the field. Prior to practice, recipients toured the facility and enjoyed a catered lunch inside the team dining room. Afterwards, they were introduced in front of 2,000 Women of Red Fan Club members and presented with customized Buccaneers jerseys. While unable to attend yesterday’s festivities, Ana James (Howard University), the fourth recipient, received a surprise video call, signed football, and custom jersey.

“I am a big supporter of our organization’s commitment to providing young women with the type of exposure and resources to follow their passion of working in sports,” said Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles. “It was an honor to play a small part in surprising all the recipients of this year’s scholarship. Their energy and expressions said it all, and yesterday was the culmination of all their hard work and dedication on and off the field.”

The Girls in Football Scholarship, made possible through a $250,000 commitment from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation, was established for graduating high school seniors participating in a form of organized football with plans to enroll in a full-time accredited four-year college or university. Candidates were required to have earned a minimum 3.0 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) during their high school academic career and were asked to submit essays on how they planned to use their future career to make a positive impact in the sports industry.

“I wasn’t even expecting to be a finalist, let alone a winner,” said Mia Decker. “Winning the Buccaneers Girls in Football scholarship will help cover some of my honors college expenses and I’m really excited about that.”

Decker was not only the first female football player at Slidell High School, but also earned the honor of being the first-ever female All-State Academic Football player in Louisiana. She was named valedictorian for the Class of 2023. 

“The Buccaneers do things on a national level. The fact that they flew out winners from different states, and not just Florida, lets you know how much they really care about growing the game,” said Jessica Jenkins. “I want to work in sports, and I love how the Buccaneers are helping the women in the industry because it is a male-dominated space. It’s very important for younger girls to see that there are women out there performing the same jobs that men are typically seen doing.”

Jenkins played quarterback and center for Kennesaw Mountain High School in Georgia. She also served as the school’s head student trainer for two seasons.

“The Buccaneers have been so supportive and welcoming to all girls playing football. They have done a lot to grow the sport,” said Eryn Klaus. “I think it is really cool for such a big organization to take such pride and care to push the sport for girls.”

Klaus, a Tampa native, was named Varsity Team MVP and FACA 1st Team All-State after leading Alonso’s flag football team to the 2023 state championship. In addition to being a four-year varsity flag football player, she was part of the school’s soccer and swim and dive teams. Upon graduation, she was named valedictorian for the Class of 2023.

The recipients of the fourth annual Buccaneers Girls in Football Scholarship:

  • Mia Decker (Slidell, LA)
    • Attending: University of North Florida (Civil Engineering)
    • High School: Slidell High School
    • Future Plans: Pursuing a degree in civil engineering, with long-term goal of helping create facilities to cater to all genders and all jobs necessary to work a sporting event. 
  • Ana James (Freeport, NY)
    • Attending: Howard University (Finance)
    • High School: Freeport High School
    • Future Plans: James wants to create a proper support system to help professional athletes with their financial needs prior to retiring.
  • Jessica Jenkins (Kennesaw, GA)
    • Attending: Tennessee State University (Kinesiology/Exercise Science)
    • High School: Kennesaw Mountain High School
    • Future Plans: Jenkins will pursue a career in athletic training with a desire to become a head athletic trainer for a professional sports team.
  • Eryn Klaus (Tampa, FL)
    • Attending: University of Florida (Behavior and Cognitive Neuroscience)
    • High School: Alonso High School
    • Future Plans: Klaus will pursue a career in neuroscience and research athletes’ body-brain connection as it pertains to their athletic performance.

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