A True Gamer

Thursday December 4th, 2014

It was a busy October for Gerald McCoy. After the Buccaneers started 1-5, all but killing their playoff aspirations, the typically soft-spoken Pro Bowl defensive tackle characterized Tampa’s defense as soft, called his own play “very average,” and deftly shot down sports radio criticism for helping up opponents after plays (seriously).

“That’s who I am and that’s who I’m going to be,” McCoy said in October. “If you don’t like it, get over it. I’m going to help people up because I’m a good sportsman and because football is temporary; sports is temporary.”

Indeed, something larger drives McCoy, a devout Christian from Oklahoma City whose wife, Ebony, gave birth to twins in July. Perhaps it was the addition of Gerald Jr. and Germany that inspired his streak of October candor. Or maybe it was the seven-year extension he was negotiating at the time, which makes him a Buc for the foreseeable future and could net him up to $98 million. Nearly two months later, the Bucs are 2-10, yet McCoy is having his best pass-rushing season to date, with 8.5 sacks through 11 games (he missed one with a broken hand). The MMQB reached out to McCoy to ask him about his drive and how he stays motivated as the Bucs slog through their third straight losing season since he was drafted with the No. 3 pick in 2010.

The MMQB: You had a play this year against the Browns where you come all the way from the outside shade of the right guard, destroy the center, Nick McDonald, and then sack Brian Hoyer. What’s the film room like when you’re watching that on Monday?

McCoy: Coach had been telling me to just run that guy’s number. He told me, ‘Trust me. It’ll work.’ It’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that guys were coming at me so fast I couldn’t get to him. Well, I figured I’d do it no matter what, and it worked, and in the meeting the coaches just say, ‘See?’ It’s great to make plays like that, especially early in games because it gets momentum on our side.

Meeting of the Minds
 
 
He revived Brett Favre, he built Aaron Rodgers and on Sunday he outdueled Bill Belichick. The Packers' victory over New England in Lambeau showed just where Mike McCarthy belongs in the hierarchy of NFL coaches. And a moment right after the game confirmed it.

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The MMQB: This summer, your wife Ebony gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. What’s it like to care for babies during the season?

McCoy: It’s tough. On my off nights I try to stay up with my wife and stay up with the babies. This past off day my son killed me. He was up all night, wouldn’t sleep, just wanted to watch TV. I’m like, a 4-month-old should not be wanting to watch TV. But he does. He just wants to watch whatever’s on, and when I have SportsCenter on he’s totally glued to the TV for some reason. The whole deal gets tough, but my wife does an awesome job of letting me get sleep. Honestly, I don’t do too much.

The MMQB: You had your first child when you were 17. What would you tell your younger self if you could go back and talk to him right now?

McCoy: Do whatever it takes to be in your child’s life. Do whatever it takes to make sure your daughter doesn’t have to worry, that her mother doesn’t have to worry, for anything. I was really busy when I got to college. Back then I didn’t have the mind-set of, OK, after you finish you need to make sure to spend time with your daughter. I took care of my daughter, but with me being down at OU, I wasn’t around because of my schedule. So if I could tell myself something I would say, spend as much time with your daughter as you can.

The MMQB: Warren Sapp, a defensive tackle from Tampa and a Hall of Famer, has become a mentor of yours. Tell me about the first few times you met him.

McCoy: Well, he’s always been my favorite player. So the first time I saw him I was starstruck. It was before the draft, and I was getting ready to go on this NFL Network show. And I asked somebody, ‘Is Warren Sapp here?’ And they said, ‘Yea, you’re going on the show with him, he’s right over there. Can’t you hear him?’ And I turned the corner and he was right there. And he hollered at me to come over and I walked over and I was starstruck. And he said, ‘Oh, you don’t speak?’ And he walked off. I had no words. Later on he said, ‘I tell you, young fella, if I’m anything I’m consistent.’ We still laugh about that.

When the draft came I had a good idea of where I might go, and it was Tampa. The next time I talked to Warren he told me of the history of the position and what it means to this city. He told me, ‘Whatever happens with your career, you’ll get out what you put in.’

The MMQB: You said back in October that this team was undisciplined and you were disappointed in yourself. Now the record is 2-10. Do you still feel that way, about the team and yourself?

McCoy: We’ve improved. There are a lot of areas where we can get better, but we’ve made strides. Individually, I feel like I’ve progressed. There’s a lot more I can do. I wanted to get more consistent and a little bit better at everything. I wanted to be better at playing the run and adding a bull rush. I think I’m doing that.

The MMQB: I hear you’re a gamer of sorts. Favorite game of all time? And what do you play nowadays?

McCoy: That’s so hard. There’s too many. I’d say the original Streets of Rage on Sega Genesis. Now I play any game that has a story mode, first-person. I’m not really big on the other ones.

David Bergman for Sports Illustrated/The MMQB David Bergman for Sports Illustrated/The MMQB

The MMQB: How did you deal with the pressure of being drafted No. 3 overall, and in the last NFL draft that offered huge contracts for players taken near the top of the first round?

McCoy: The contract is a plus, but being drafted as high as I did, there’s always some added pressure. I’ve always felt like you’re either receiving pressure or you’re applying it. Early on I received a lot of pressure and then I made the decision that I was going to apply it, and that’s when my career started to change.

The MMQB: When you get that first check, is that when everybody is looking for a hand out, or trying to sell you something? How do you deal with that?

McCoy: That pretty much happens to everybody. Basically, I just tell people I have a plan and this is what I’m going to stick to. If I can fit it in, then OK, but if I cant, it’s a no. Straightforward, it has to fit in with what I want to be in a few years.

The MMQB: Best investment as a pro?

McCoy: My wife’s wedding ring. We got married last year.

The MMQB: What do you want to be when you grow up?

McCoy: I’d like to go into TV, go into acting of some sort. Being on The League was a great experience. I went to the media boot camp that the NFLPA camp provides and we got to see what goes into TV production. And then having the opportunity to see what actually goes into it was an awesome experience.

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The MMQB: Anything surprise you about TV behind the scenes?

McCoy: It took a long time to shoot one scene, just the small part I was in. It took an hour, shooting the same scene 30-40 times. It was ridiculous.

The MMQB: Biggest player mentors?

McCoy: Tommie Harris and Warren Sapp. Tommie has been like my older brother since I was in high school. He lived up the street from me and I got the chance to meet with him. He was my mentor for a while and when I got to the league Sapp took over. Tommie always told me to ignore all the noise and focus on what you’re here for. The big picture. The now.

The MMQB: Your mother, Patricia, died of complications from a brain aneurysm in 2007. How often do you think about her?

McCoy: Not every day. When certain stuff comes up. I’ll think, the reason I do this is because of her.

The MMQB: What’s one example?

McCoy: The way I put my socks on. I put my foot up on my knee. She used to do that. Dad used to do it on the ground, but mom propped it up on her knee, and I think of it every time. I guess I think of her every day because I think of her every time I put on socks.

The MMQB: Is there a feeling of being around a winning culture like at the University of Oklahoma, like symptoms that you can identify? Can you tell immediately when you’re in it?

McCoy: Yeah. At Oklahoma we didn’t lose many games. We had that bad season when a lot of guys, including Sam Bradford, went down. But while I was there we won three Big 12 championships, so winning was something I got used to. But in high school we didn’t win much. I know both feelings, and I can deal with both. And you can just kind of sense when it’s there. There are things that aren’t happening here yet, but when they happen, things will change.

The MMQB: You are the top paid defensive tackle after this recent contract extension, but you could’ve made significantly more with a franchise tag and asked for more money the next season. You had options. Why sign the extension now?

McCoy: I was drafted by Tampa to win a championship for this city. They believed in me, and even though the [front office and coaching] personnel is different, the Glazers are still here. If they believed in me enough to draft me and they offered me an opportunity to stay here, I don’t see why not. They gave me an opportunity to play in the NFL, so I want to bring them a championship.


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