Tampa Bay Buccaneers Brian Ford drafts ‘Gronk’ to help raise awareness, and money, for pediatric cancer (VIDEOS)

Tampa Bay Buccaneer Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford is trying to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. Fortunately for him, he has a partner many people are aware of.

Ford will be involved in two activities over the next two months to raise awareness – and money – and his sidekick is none other than Rob Gronkowski who, in his brief Buccaneer career, was a key cog in the path to the Super Bowl LV title, three years ago.

The first event takes place in Boston, where Gronkowski was part of three Super Bowl-winning Patriot teams before his Buccaneer stint.

That would be the Boston Marathon, the 128th edition, next Monday, April 15. Ford has run 19 marathons in Florida and California. But the 20th will be unlike the rest, as Ford will tackle the grueling 26-plus mile course at the granddaddy of all marathons.

Did Ford suddenly up his game to be promoted to the world’s most famous run? Well, not exactly.

Ford got a lift from Gronkowski, who happens to be the grand marshal of this year’s parade and challenged Ford to celebrate his 20th marathon in Boston.

“He had me at hello,” Ford said about Gronkowski’s invite. “He heard I was doing my 20th and said, ‘Why don’t you run Boston.’” Ford admits that his usual run time – around 4 ½ hours – has stayed relatively consistent over the years.

Ford, who joined the Buccaneers in 2006, ran the Disney Marathon 15 times, and his need to shop elsewhere for marathons coincided with the arrival of Gronkowski and Tom Brady to the Bucs.

“I didn’t have a lot to do,” when Disney is normally run, Ford said with a laugh. You see, the Disney run is usually during the NFL playoffs and, until Gronkowski and Brady’s arrival, the Bucs were usually already on holiday. It should be noted that even with the two stars’ retirements, the Bucs last year advanced to the postseason, for the fourth straight year.

The desire to run this year’s marathon, and reconnect with his former star tight end, has to do with a lot more than the challenge and rigor of a marathon; the event is the first where the Gronk Nation Youth Foundation is teaming up with the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation to raise awareness about the disease.

“Every day, 43 parents are given the news that their child has cancer,” Ford said. He lamented that only around 5% of all cancer research funding goes towards pediatric cancer.

That’s where Gronkowski’s foundation – and Ford’s participation – come in.

The second event will be the 10th annual Cut & Color Funds the Cure, on June 6, where Ford and Gronkowski will have their heads shaved by pediatric cancer patients.

Ford said a major motivation of this event is to remove the stigma faced by children who lose their hair during what, for some, can be as many as 1,500 chemotherapy and radiation treatments. “That’s what gets me up every day,” said Ford, who has two sons, 26 and 28 years old.

As far as teaming up with the ubiquitous Gronkowski, he added, “Rob has a much bigger platform than me.” Many Buc players and staff are expected to participate.

Those who donate at least $100 will be invited to the event at the Bucs’ facility and anyone who donates at least $87 can get an autographed Gronkowski picture.

Ford has a tremendous amount of respect for Gronkowski, and not just because he was part of the Bucs’ second-ever Super Bowl run.

“When Rob was here, I gained a tremendous amount of admiration for him,” Ford shared. “Not just his competitiveness and relationship with Tampa Bay, but his desire to give back, especially to kids.”

Ford confirmed that all proceeds from the Cut & Color event will stay right here in the Tampa Bay area, which happens to be home to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Ford is proud to note that this year’s event has a good chance at pushing overall donations during the past decade past the $1 million mark.

The foundation’s goal is “to research more fast-tracked, less toxic and more targeted treatments,” a Bucs’ statement said.

Other than Disney, Ford has also run marathons in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and, last year, Los Angeles. To help him prepare for the biggest stage yet, Gronkowski brought his dog Ralphie to the Bucs facility to help Ford train.

Watch the fun promotional videos that Ford and Gronk filmed here.

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