TAMPA, Fla. — Each year, the Special Olympics Florida athletes head to Raymond James Stadium for the Sunshine Bowl, a daylong celebration that includes a flag football tournament.
The event draws some of the most talented Special Olympic teams in the state to compete on the Buccaneers’ home turf.
Father-son duo Thomas Shervington Sr. and Tom Shervington Jr. have been competing for years, and competing in the Sunshine Bowl is one of the highlights of their participation in Special Olympics.
Tom’s passion for sports started when he was in middle school.
He’s been on the bowling, soccer, and tennis teams, just to name a few. Football came in later for him.
“I got involved in football right here in 2018,” he said. “One of the coaches named Craig Gordon got us hooked up in flag football during a state competition for soccer.”
He had never played football then, but the overachiever in him wanted to give it a shot. He’s loved every moment of it.
“Whenever I call out plays, to my teammates, and supporting them whenever we make a successful play or getting a touchdown,” he said.
Tom, or “Moose” as they call him, is on the autism spectrum but that has not stopped him from pursuing his passion in sports.
He’s been involved in Special Olympics for a while.
“I started 12 years ago when I was in middle school,” Tom said. “Someone from there asked me to get involved with Special Olympics. I decided to give that a try and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Here’s where it gets special.
Thomas Shervington Sr. is his flag football coach.
“How I got involved when Thomas was in basketball, I made the mistake of saying, ‘Why don’t you do the drill this way’ and the coach at the time said why don’t you be an assistant coach and here we are,” he said.
The duo has been involved in all the different sports together ever since, never knowing that more than a decade later, they’d be competing at their highest level.
“When Thomas got involved in tennis,” the father said, “he started off in skills because that’s where you start and his first year, never picking up a racket, he ended up making the state team in the skills competition.”
It’s safe to say, he’s a natural.
The two compete all year round because they are involved in so many sports. Their focus now is football and hopefully, one day winning awards in that sport too.
When you ask Thomas senior why stays so busy,the answer is simple.
Thomas said, “The thing is with Special Olympics, it’s all about the athletes. It isn’t about me, it isn’t about our unified partners, it’s not about the leadership or any of that, it’s all about the kids, well relatively speaking.”
The team has athletes of different ages.
For Moose, it’s the freedom and the ability to prove that he can play a sport and excel the same way everybody else can that makes this so special for him.
He said, “It gives us many opportunities to develop physical fitness and confidence to compete and win even if we can’t.”
The Shervingtons have a busy schedule ahead. They competed at the State invitational for flag football last month where they won the state tournament.
They competed at the USTA national campus for the state tennis competition, where they were defending back-to-back titles. Tom did pick up the silver medal.
They will be heading back to Orlando at the Disney sports complex for a soccer tournament later in the month looking for the third straight State Championship.
They take maybe about six weeks off during the summer, but they are still training, working out every day to prepare to get right back at it again come the end of June.