They say that Christmas is a time for giving. And 27-year-old Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Sealver Siliga certainly took that seasonal sentiment to heart during a recent post-match visit to a local Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar. The defensive tackle definitely scored big with employees at that particular branch of the restaurant chain on Christmas Eve 2017.
Born in 1990, Siliga first drew breath and grew up in the city of West Jordan, Utah, with his 11 older biological siblings and a younger adopted sister. He first enjoyed success as a powerlifter in high school before fully switching his attention to football. Following Siliga’s senior season, he won through on the football field, earning all-conference, all-state and Class 5A all-region honors.
Siliga then played college football for three years at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He started 21 out of 37 games with “The Utes,” finishing his time there with 97 tackles, five passes defensed and 2.0 sacks. In addition, Siliga was also given the honorable mention title All-Mountain West following both his sophomore and junior years. His subsequent football career would see the defense player travel all round the States.
In 2011 Siliga signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers but unfortunately was let go by the franchise less than two months later. Shortly after this disappointment, the young footballer joined the Denver Broncos’ practice squad and was later promoted to its active roster. In August 2013, Siliga was traded for offensive lineman John Moffitt in an exchange deal with the Seattle Seahawks.
Siliga then moved again in October 2013, this time to the New England Patriots where he played five games during his first season with the side. After recovering from an injury early on in the 2014 season, Siliga returned to the active roster. He then started the Super Bowl XLIX in which the Patriots defeated his old team, the Seahawks, 28-24.
Siliga then returned back across the country to the Seattle Seahawks in 2016 in a one-year deal worth $1.4 million. However, he only played four games for the side in a season disrupted by injury. Later that year, Siliga moved south to Florida where he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He registered five tackles and one sack in his first six games for the Raymond James Stadium team.
Siliga has turned out eight times for the Buccaneers so far this season, including their recent 22-19 defeat to the Carolina Panthers on Christmas Eve. Following the losing game with the team from Charlotte, NC, Siliga decided to eat his sorrows away by joining three friends at an Applebee’s in Tampa. And it was here at the diner on West Gandy Boulevard that the Buccaneer forged a new reputation for himself.
At about 10:30 p.m. when the group was given their bill of $256.93, Siliga asked the Applebee’s manager how many staff members remained on the clock. After being informed that the number still working was ten, the star underlined that he wanted his gratuity to be spread evenly between them all. And the tip the footballer touched down left the double-digit employees with a three-figure sum each.
Yes, Siliga left a whopping $1,000 thank-you sum to the Applebee’s workers, a figure which got one server all emotional. Speaking later in an interview with sports broadcaster ESPN, server Elizabeth Reyes described how grateful she was for the star’s act of generosity. She said, “I wasn’t even around that area. I had like a complete different area. And then this amazing man just blesses us – all of us.”
And Reyes was keen to point out that Siliga did not just reward the front-of-house Applebee’s staff. By asking the manager how many workers were there in total, the NFL star made sure he left a healthy amount of cash for everyone. Reyes said, “He was so thoughtful to think of like the cooks in the back that are cleaning up, the dishwasher too. That was extremely generous.”
Reyes told ESPN that her manager had informed the Tampa Applebee’s Christmas Eve crew of Siliga’s largess once their shift was over. “I went and called my boyfriend and was almost in tears,” she recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, you won’t believe what just happened.’ It was so awesome.”
An excited Reyes then described visiting her father after her Applebee’s stint to tell him of the glad tidings. “I didn’t even know who this man [Siliga] was,” the server added. “He didn’t know me from anybody – and not even that, but the people in the back too. That’s what had me completely flabbergasted.”
And Reyes wasn’t the only Applebee’s employee to talk about the NFL star’s generous gesture. Fellow server Ryan Preston – who was only working that night because he was filling in for a friend – spoke to NBC-affiliated TV station News Channel 8. “It was a really slow night,” he said. “I think I had maybe six or seven tables, total. There were these two big guys sitting at the bar. I did not know who they were.”
But Preston soon found out when his manager revealed the news about Siliga’s tip. Preston told News Channel 8 that he was initially skeptical about the situation. “Everyone was thinking the same thing, ‘This is not real,’” he remembered. “I did not believe it was really happening until I saw him writing on the tip sheet.”
Preston admitted that the unexpected $100 tip he received would go a long way to easing his state of mind. The server, who has worked at Applebee’s for two years, had been worried about the large amount that he had spent on Christmas gifts. But, thanks to Siliga’s gesture, now Preston was able to sleep a little easier ahead of the big day.
Preston was able to thank Siliga in person for the footballer’s random act of kindness on the night itself. But he took the opportunity to express his gratitude further while speaking to the News Channel 8 cameras. “Thank you so much,” he said. “We are not really used to that kind of stuff down here in South Tampa, but it was awesome – an amazing experience.”
Many pro footballers would have quickly taken to the internet to make sure their online community knew all about such a selfless act. But Siliga did not mention the $1,000 tip on any of his various social media accounts. In fact, the humble star even declined to give further interview as he didn’t want to draw any more attention to his generosity.
However, the Tampa Bay Buccaneer did take to Twitter on December 26 to give his 13,500 followers a festive message. As well as offering greetings of the season, the short tweet also alluded to his random act of kindness. The post read, “Be an example not by your words but by your actions. #MerryChristmas.”
A day later Siliga was moved to comment specifically on the story due to the public’s response. He tweeted “I want to take this time to say thank you to everybody that has sent their kind words over the past couple of days. My act of service at Applebee’s was not intended to go viral, however, I am grateful and blessed to be able to spread a little holiday cheer.”
Siliga’s Santa act also impressed one of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers bosses. Head coach Dirk Koetter addressed the issue on his weekly online radio call-in show. Describing it as a “cool story,” Koetter went on to add, “We have a lot of good guys on our teams that do little small deeds like that that make somebody’s day. It doesn’t surprise me because Sealver is a great guy, but it’s a heartwarming story.”