NFL Players Are People, Too

December 18th, 2016
Among Bucs who shared heartfelt moment with a fan.

Among Bucs who shared an act of kindness with a fan.

Joe is not and never has been much of a fan of tearjerker stories.

You know the kind, like Tom Rinaldi of BSPN trots out each week on GameDay every Saturday morning. They bore Joe and for Rinaldi, have become schtick.

But in this case, Joe was moved. It is a story worthy of filling your coffee mug to the brim, and nursing and maybe grabbing a danish while reading.

The story deals with the Bucs, a few players and a relationship with a devoted Bucs fan who has fallen on hard times and is going through a personal tragedy.

There is this long-time, hardcore Bucs fan known as “The Pillow Lady.” Her name, per a story typed by Jenna Laine of ESPN, is Jackie Riles.

Walk to the west side of the stadium an hour or more before a game and Riles is easy to find.

She began following the Bucs back in the 1970s, per Laine. She is a fixture at each home game at the entrance where players, cheerleaders, Bucs executives, VIPs, and yes, media, enter the stadium and go through a security checkpoint, not unlike an airport TSA frisk.

Each home game, there she is, sitting in her wheelchair out in the brutal Florida sun, no matter how hot or humid. Joe has seen the “Custodian of Canton,” eye-RAH! Kaufman, chat with Riles as well as Laine.

Riles doesn’t know Joe; Joe doesn’t know Riles — but knows who she is. Thus, Joe and Riles have never had a conversation. Joe doubts she has ever seen this here corner of the interwebs.

Riles got her nickname because, per Laine, she had crocheted pillows for many players and coaches dating back to the 1970s. She also baked them cakes and cookies. Just a devoted, passionate fan.

Recently, per Laine, tragedy struck Riles. Her husband, who in past years accompanied her to Bucs games, passed. That’s where the story, for Joe, is touching.

At his funeral service on Tuesday, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and offensive tackle Demar Dotson were on hand to pay their respects, along with Bucs COO Brian Ford.

Quarterback Jameis Winston sent a video message to play for Riles because he had already committed to a children’s charity event. The team’s thoughtful gestures and the way it has played on its first five-game win streak since 2002 have meant the world to her.

“This team is what’s keeping me going right now,” Riles said. “Ever since my husband died, the Bucs have won all their games.”

Now how cool is that? Mind you Riles is but one fan. Dedicated, devout, hardcore, sure. Yet, one fan. But she made enough of an impression on suits and players that guys like Dotson and GMC came to her husband’s funeral. Jameis was so moved he cut a video because he couldn’t attend.

Riles’ life and that of an NFL player could not be more disparate. She’s a senior citizen, now a widow, living humbly. The players are at least 45 years younger and live lavish, busy lifestyles.

This just goes to show that while NFL players may abuse their bodies each week for our entertainment and benefit, and in many respects are wealthy celebrities living in gated communities, they are people just like us, too.

Just like we would likely do, they pay respects to a neighbor at the loss of a family member.

No, Joe doesn’t care for tearjerker stories. This one touched Joe.

17 Responses to “NFL Players Are People, Too”

  1. Doctor Stroud Says:

    Win one for Riles, today!

  2. Pickgrin Says:

    My condolences to Mrs Riles on the loss of her husband. Wonderful gesture by the players and front office.

    “Win for the pillow lady – on 3….”

  3. I'm tired and 87 is right Says:

    I thought it was an awesome story as well. She sent them on their way to Dallas now let’s hope they bring home another Win! I also love the fact that right after her husbands service she said “Now let’s go get a win in Dallas!” For Riles! Let’s go Bucs it’s time to shock the world! Walk with a big f’n stick! This is our day, let’s seige the day! Go Bucs! Bucs fans keep the faith!

  4. Issic Haggins Says:

    @ Pickgrin and the Riles Family ; Second That !!!

  5. d-roca Says:

    All the stories are similar to this one, not sure why you dont like them. Gota love people who help strangers. Its a beautiful thing. Hey pillow lady the bucs have won 5 straight since i decided to start picking against them in the pool every week too. Go bucs

  6. TheBucsAnthem Says:

    …………media always has to do stories like this

    It makes people human in the news again

    Many people could care less about the news now because it’s spun into something else based off of that person’s/network agenda.

  7. Dan McKechnie Says:

    Nice story. True Joe– “they are people, just like us, too.” Many of them are very good people, despite how they may have played for the team. And this makes me wonder why you resort to childish nicknames– such as McClown that you love to use.

  8. James Walker Says:

    Yeah, these types of stories are double edged. They are best kept quiet as reporting them makes it seem like a publicity stunt even though we know it wasn’t. At the same time it shows us there is more important things than the games.

  9. orlbucfan Says:

    I share long-time Buc fanatic female fan solidarity w/Ms. Riles!!! Here’s to her having a safe and healthy New Year. You go, girl–bring us a win in Dallas! Go Mighty Bucs!!

  10. Fred E. Buc Says:

    The Jackie Riles story has come up now and again over the years. She used to sit outside the stadium before games at the Southwest entrance but didn’t go in because she didn’t have the money to buy tickets. The Bucs fixed all that, happily. Or that’s what I’ve heard and read. But kudos to Jackies, and Kudos to the Bucs, especially Brian Ford. The man is a class act. When a family member of mine got ill we were showered with support from the Bucs. Win one for the Riles’s, and go Bucs!

  11. Joe Says:


    NFL players are well-compensated for working in such a high-profile environment. If critique so unnerves them, they are free to soothe their psyche and work in the private sector away from the public klieglights.

  12. D-Mac Says:

    You’re missing the point Joe. All you said is that they are free to work at some other job. Well of course they are. It still doesn’t explain why you feel the need to use childish nicknames for someone who is a good person and never did anything bad to you. –I know you won’t stop doing it. I’m just making a point.

  13. MadMax Says:

    Great story….thanks for sharing Joe!

    D-mac, do you not get it? Its a game thats played on the field and in doing so, players know it exposes them to names and the ways people react towards their play, good and bad. But go ahead and micro analyze and criticize. McClown has nothing to do with this story and you shouldnt need your hand held in explaining things….look for your safe space elsewhere douchebag!

  14. Trubucfan22 Says:

    I dont get all ooie gooie over these type of stories. But they do play a role is keeping things positive. The media can not solely focus on negative things. It leads to angst and hate among it’s viewers/listeners/readers. So while i too am like joe and have little pull toward these emotional stories. They are important to the human is all of us. Positive humanizing is good for our society.

  15. BrainBashingBucsFan Says:

    Nice story! Happy to hear we have a team of good people on top of good players on the field.

    @TheBucsAnthem-Sad to see so many people can’t seem to tell the difference between fake news/propaganda and actual journalism with viable sources and information so they label all news as unreliable. Also a little funny saying so on a website that laces it news with elementary school level name calling and and opinions. A digital literacy class should be required to get online.

    I Love the Joes but their little additives rarely add much to an article, but hey it works for them so whatever. If that’s the price to get the best Bucs coverage around Ill pay it..

    Sir/Ma’am, a quick look at history will reveal that opinion writing, and news laced with commentary, was how journalism started and thrived well into the 20th century. Hell, there is loads of racism in “journalism” of the early and mid-20th century that you seem to yearn for. It’s comical to Joe how many folks romantically look back to a time that they think real news, old school journalism, existed in some regal form. It’s really not what you think it was. Joe does not hide that this site is opinion-driven with tons of info to be a well-informed Bucs fan. And news flash, most folks do NOT consider all news unreliable. That’s why they keep consuming it. –Joe

  16. Buc4Lyfe79 Says:

    First story of the day for me, couldn’t have been happier that it was this one, THANKS for caring and sharing. GO BUCS!!!

  17. I'm tired and 87 is right Says:

    For Riles! Never lose faith Bucs fans! Go Bucs!