By Naji Tobias
DELRAY BEACH – It was a career day to remember at Plumosa School of the Arts on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Atlantic 2016 punter John Pecaro (Tuskegee signee), along with NFL punters Pat O’Donnell (Chicago Bears/Palm Beach Central alum) and Ryan Quigley (New York Jets), paid a visit to the Delray Beach elementary school by hosting a special punting clinic for more than 200 students.
The three punters teamed up with Tony Bugeja, 4th Down Solutions Founder/Owner, and Lee Bugeja, Plumosa School of the Arts teacher, to make this special teams-based event possible.
There were scores of fourth and fifth graders who were excited about the opportunity to receive lessons from Pecaro, O’Donnell, and Quigley. They lined up in groups to learn about the technique of punting a football.
It was a positive vibe for everyone involved, and the punters were all appreciated for their work with the school.
“I was all for it,” Pecaro said. “I want to help kids find their career path and become successful. Hopefully we’ll see some punters out of this group one day.”
Pecaro said he was surprised to be in a position to be highlighted for giving back to his community of Delray Beach.
“A punter’s position is usually kept in the dark,” Pecaro said. “I was blessed to play for a great Atlantic team that let me do my thing and have a chance to do well. I’m just thankful to everyone who has supported me along the way.”
Pecaro said he was happy to have worked with O’Donnell, who graduated from Palm Beach Central in 2009 and went on to become a punter in college football for the Miami Hurricanes from 2009-2012.
“He’s a great teacher and person to be around,” Pecaro said of O’Donnell, who has played for two seasons with the Chicago Bears. “I have been watching him play since he went to the University of Miami. He’s been a great representative of Palm Beach County with his play and his character. I look up to him because of it.”
“It was a great day,” the 6’4″, 220-pound punter said. “We got to
teach them a little bit of what we do on a daily basis. It’s really important to have an influence on our kids in Palm Beach County. We have a lot of talent here, and we got to see some of it with the kids we worked with at this clinic.”
O’Donnell spoke highly of Pecaro’s progress as a punter.
“It’s great to see him growing in the position,” O’Donnell said. “He loves to help kids from kindergarten up until 12th grade. He’s going to do great things at Tuskegee University. I’m just proud of what he has accomplished so far in his life, and I will be supporting him along the way.”
O’Donnell also thanked Quigley for his help with the school’s career day event.
“He drove down from North Carolina to work here with me,” said O’Donnell, who met Quigley at a kicking camp in Daytona Beach during his high school days. “Since he’s moved on to the NFL, I have been looking up to him as a role model. It’s good to have a friend who could bounce off good ideas to help me grow in the league and get better at my craft.”
O’Donnell and Quigley are considered as two of the NFL’s most promising young punters at this time.
“I like to just bang the ball on my punts,” O’Donnell said. “Quigley is just really good at strategically placing the ball in a certain direction. He’s definitely one of the great punters in the league.”
O’Donnell said he faced off against Quigley and the New York Jets during his rookie season with the Chicago Bears.
“He didn’t want to speak to me before the game,” O’Donnell said. “It was funny to see that happen. He was just focused on practicing his kick routine. But after the game was over, I did get to catch up with him. It was a great experience for us to remember.”
“They told the kids what it’s like to play in the NFL,” said Lee, who is the wife of Tony Bugeja. “They are very nice young men who just enjoyed spending their time here with them. I wish them all the best moving forward.”