On Monday in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 32-9 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL wild-card round, Todd Bowles earned his first-ever playoff win as a head coach.
It’s been a long time coming for the well-respected 60-year-old coaching vet, but in Monday’s postgame press conference, he wasn’t dwelling on his long-awaited accomplishment. His mind was already in Detroit, mentally preparing for the Bucs’ next challenge: a divisional-round road matchup against the Lions (13-5) on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.
“Once you win you’re very happy, and then as soon as you get through the press conference, you gotta get started on the next week,” he said when asked about his win in the press conference. “It goes kind of fast. It goes from high to low to even-keel to worrying about everything else. You gotta prepare for the next weekend and you move on; it doesn’t last long.”
Who's moving on to the NFC Championship? #NFLPlayoffs
— NFL (@NFL) January 17, 2024
Bowles’ steady style of leadership is exactly what the Bucs needed to advance within a game of the NFC championship game.
On Nov. 26, Tampa Bay was 4-7 after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts and seemed destined for disappointment in the franchise’s first season without future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Yet thanks to a four-game winning streak and a subpar NFC South, the Bucs finished 9-8 and beat the New Orleans Saints in a tiebreaker to capture the division and host a playoff game.
Now that his team is one of only eight NFL teams still standing, Bowles knows anything is possible. Yet he also knows there is much more to life than wins and losses on a football field. Regardless of the outcome of any given game, he will go home to his wife, Taneka, and three sons, Todd Jr., Troy and Tyson.
Tyson, who was diagnosed with autism in 2013 at 2 years old, never fails to give his dad a big hug.
“In that moment, I am just going to be honest, I was depressed,” Taneka told the Buccaneers’ team website last April about the day doctors told her of her son’s autism diagnosis. “I decided that I was going to shut the world out and I was going to live in a bubble, and it would just be us, with me and Tyson forever, because that felt like a safe place.”
Todd was with the Philadelphia Eagles at the time, but as is common for coaches, he was let go. He soon caught on with the Arizona Cardinals as defensive coordinator, and then leveraged his success there into a head coaching position with the New York Jets (in a city known for autism research) in 2015. All the moving was a welcome change for Tyson and Taneka.
“I am blessed that God changed our geography. In that, it changed my mindset,” Taneka said. “You know, you are in a different environment, and you are open now.”
Tyson received world-class teaching and therapy at every stop, and eventually, God gave a gift for which Todd and Taneka had been praying for so long: Tyson spoke.
“We got to hear our son’s voice for the first time, and I cannot even verbalize to you what that moment meant for both of us,” Taneka said. “… Our road has not always been easy but thank God we have always had our village surrounding us, whether it is family or friends or therapists or teachers.”
As Tyson continued to grow, Todd and Taneka carefully and slowly informed him of his diagnosis.
“We put a positive spin on it and now he wears autism like a Superman cape. He turns his limits into lemonade all the time. The main thing we prioritized was telling him that, ‘As long as you maintain your relationship with God, He is the One that is making sure you can get through this. He is the reason why you can talk now,'” Taneka said.
There is something unique about a father-son bond, and it’s no different in the Bowles household. In addition to the postgame hugs, Todd and Tyson share a number of meaningful routines. They watch their favorite movies time and time again, brush their teeth together, and even get an occasional McDonald’s milkshake. Perhaps the most important, however, is an early-morning call each day on Tyson’s way to school.
HEARTWARMING: After clinching the playoffs last week, #Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles youngest son Tyson ran up to his dad and gave him a major hug, he was so excited to see him.
The entire family then followed ❤️🧡
— MLFootball (@_MLFootball) January 12, 2024
“I have heard people say that if you want to see the ‘nice’ Coach Bowles, you go to him around 7:20 a.m. because that is when he has just had his morning conversation with Tyson,” Taneka joked. “… God made [Tyson] for us. We feel that way and we know it. Todd even says it. He knows he wouldn’t be the person he is if he wasn’t Tyson’s dad.
“We get things like this happen because God has a calling on us and has a higher purpose for us, and we are here to serve that first and foremost.”
“From where he came to where he is at, you would never believe it,” Todd said of Tyson. “He learns it differently, so you have to teach it differently. He does not get the normal conversation borders, but he understands. He is the nicest kid in the world, and you just have to make sure that no one takes advantage of him. He can be too kind to a fault sometimes and it is just a process every day.”
Todd and Taneka have now become advocates for the adult autism community as they prepare Tyson for his years after high school. Meanwhile, Tyson is now 12 and has become a talented and passionate videographer and athlete. He attends a private Christian school in Tampa.
Tyson’s story is not yet finished, and neither is the story of the 2023-24 Buccaneers. Todd and Taneka can’t wait to see how either turns out.
Speaking from wisdom and experience, Taneka had a final message for other parents with a child on the autism spectrum: “It is not your fault. There is no cause. There is no cure. There is just love and treatment. Focus on that and it will get easier.”
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