- June 15, 2020
Former Tampa Bay Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles had some simple advice for all the dads standing in line to get his autograph June 15 at the Mall of University Town Center.
"My motto is that it's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice," said Quarles, the Bucs' director of football operations who has been with the team for 23 years, the last 13 in the front office. "Remember that kids will model your behavior."
Quarles, who has a daughter, Gabriela (18), and two sons, Shelton (17) and Carlos (15), was signing autographs along with former Tampa Bay Lightning player Adam Hall during the mall's annual Dad's Day Block Party.
"I wasn't there a lot when the kids were young," said Quarles, who played in the NFL from 1997 through 2006. "My wife (Damaris) took that role, but I laid down the law."
Shelton and Damaris have been married 20 years and he still looks forward to Father's Day. He said his kids still get him a gift, and he was expecting perhaps a gadget, since "I'm a gadget guy."
He said being a good father has its rewards.
"You feel good just knowing you put them in a good position to succeed," he said. "You see how well-mannered they are and how they respect people. I know my boys will open doors, and they always let the lady go first."
Bradenton's Eric Davy, a huge Bucs fan, was excited about meeting Quarles, and he brought his 18-month-old son, Braden, and his wife, Heather Jourdan.
Still a fairly new father, Eric Davy said it takes a lot of patience to be a dad. "There is so much responsibility," he said. "It has changed me for the better."
Jourdan said the patience is starting to come in her husband, who she called "a great father." But she said he even needs to get better because she is expecting their second child.
Parrish's Kevin Stiner watched as his two boys, Alex and Tyler, posed for photos with Hall.
"Being a father is a full-time job," he said. "But every moment is precious. You enjoy it as they grow up."
Sarasota's Ron Testa watched as his daughter, Gianna, tried throwing footballs in a game set up for the party.
His advice to fathers was to "stick with your family and take care of them."
University Park's Vincent Smith and his 4-year-old, Paxton, met Thunderbug, the Lightning's mascot.
They were having a great time, which is part of Vincent Smith's strategy as a father.
"A lot of people get frustrated with little things," he said. "You need to take every day and make it the best day."
He will be able to test out that theory for a long time. His wife, Stephania Smith, is expecting another boy in July.