TAMPA, Fla. — You know you’re special when you have three names.
But Mary Frances Smith is more than special. She’s extra special.
You could tell how special by the way she lit up the Tampa Bay Bucs indoor facility. Like the moment when she met Quarterback Baker Mayfield and got her picture taken with him.
There were plenty of reasons to smile and pose for photos. The Bucs hosted their annual Special Olympics clinic, where athletes from all over the Sunshine State got to play where the pros do. They ran through a variety of drills that tested their football skill level. They got autographs. And they got hyped up about the upcoming season.
This Special Olympian had no problem moving around the football field. And why would she? Mary Frances is the reigning Florida Special Olympics Athlete of the Year. She knows her sports. And she loves football. Her favorite drill? The ones where she got to throw the ball.
“I like to pass and make a touchdown,” Mary Frances said.
Her mother, Audrey, watched in awe as her daughter played with the pros. And she cheered her on like she always does. It got her thinking about a possible roster spot for Mary Frances.
“What’s going through my mind is give her a contract,” Audrey Smith said.
Mary Frances didn’t need to put pen to paper to feel like a part of the Bucs organization. That’s what this clinic does. It makes these Special Olympians feel included. And for a group of people who sometimes feel left out, that inclusion is everything.
“Whether it’s either playing, doing the reps with the players or getting their autographs, they just feel like they are the most special people in the world. And they are,” Audrey Smith said.