New Tampa Bay first-round pick Gerald McCoy predicted earlier in the week that he would cry the instant he got drafted.
The newest Buccaneer kept his word, breaking down on national television with tears of joy and a few tears of sadness while thinking of his mother, who died of a brain aneurysm when he was 19.
There were probably a few tears of joys – and plenty of smiles – from the Bucs’ war room where head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik desperately needed the big, playmaking Oklahoma defensive tackle to help stuff the run for Tampa Bay’s 32nd-ranked rushing defense and get after the passer. The Bucs generated a paltry 3.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position last year.
“We are very excited,” Dominik said. “I think a lot of you got a chance to see him react. This is a young man that understands Buccaneer history. He certainly comes from the same school as Lee Roy Selmon, so he’s got that. He’s become friends with Warren Sapp, so he knows who he is. It was no secret to us that he was likely to become a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. A lot of you all how passionate he is about his life long dream of being realized tonight, and what he’s gone through with losing his mother, and having his little daughter. He is a young man that we are proud of on and off the field. The community is going to love him off the field and certainly what he does on the field. We are looking forward to him jumping into that three technique and playing for us.”
On a conference call with Tampa Bay-area media following his selection, McCoy admitted to breaking down while remembering his mother.
“It was very emotional,” McCoy said. “My mother who is not here today who wasn’t here to witness it, but she is seeing it. That’s really what the emotion was. This went to my mother and I’m excited I could make her proud today.”
Morris said he was pleased to see a lot of emotion from McCoy after he became the third overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
“It was a lot of fun to call a guy and see a guy be that excited,” Morris said. “You are talking about the cornerstone of what we want to do on defense. You are talking about the face of your franchise. You are talking about a guy who is going to come in and get fired up. For him to have that kind of emotion and the type of emotion that he is going to bring to the town is what you look for and what you covet. It’s what you love to see.”
McCoy, who grew up a Buccaneers fan, said he always wanted to be drafted by Tampa Bay because of the defensive system, which is very similar to what he ran at Oklahoma.
“I couldn’t wait to be a Buccaneer,” McCoy said. “I grew up as a [Buccaneer] fan. I know a lot about the history of the team, and I’m glad that I could come here to help and do what I can.
“I wanted to be a Buccaneer. I’m not going to lie. I couldn’t just openly say that. But now that I’m picked, I wanted to be a Buccaneer. When they were in the top three, I was happy about that. I’m looking at the draft here, and things I’ve been expecting haven’t happened. It’s been unpredictable, so I had no idea until [Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong] Suh was picked.”
The Bucs have struggled at the three-technique tackle position ever since the departure of future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp in 2004. In a Tampa 2 defense like the one Morris uses with the Buccaneers, the three-technique spot is critical to the success of the defense.
“The three technique position is so important – it’s so vital,” Morris said. “You need a guy that is going to cause disruption and a guy that is going to make guys game plan around him. He’s a guy that can be a disruptive force on the football team. He makes everybody else better around him. We got a guy today that is going to come in and provide that for us. Those are the things that have put this smile on my face. Whenever you are talking about the three-technique position you are talking about everybody else around him better. He makes the whole defense better. He makes his co-parts on the defense better. He makes the guys behind him – the linebackers – and the secondary definitely better because he makes he gets the ball out of the [quarterback’s] hands quicker. It gives them opportunities to make plays on the ball.
“[McCoy] has been in a similar system. He’s been at Oklahoma playing that position over the last couple of years. He’s been productive. He’s made his teammates better. He’s made everyone better. He’s the third pick of the draft.”
When asked which defensive tackle was rated higher by the Bucs – McCoy or Suh – Morris brushed it off by saying the team was elated to have McCoy, who played the three-technique position at Oklahoma, fall to Tampa Bay at No. 3.
“We get a lot of information and we go back and study guys and you look across the board and study them all and visit with them all,” Morris said. “We are very excited – I mean extremely excited to land the guy that we got. This is Gerald McCoy’s day. This is exactly who we wanted. We got him. He’s a perfect fit for what we do. He’s a three-technique. You saw it in college at Oklahoma. He’s going to come here and change lingo and be able to fit into our system and do what we want to do the way we want to do it. We’re just excited to have him.”
While addressing the media after the Bucs’ first-round selection, Morris refused to compare McCoy to Sapp.
“When you are talking about Sapp, you never compare anybody to Sapp. There are no Sapps,” Morris said. “This guy is Gerald McCoy. He’s going to come here with Gerald McCoy-like qualities.”
McCoy said he was excited to get to meet Sapp a few weeks ago on NFL Network and the two have since formed a friendship to the point where the Bucs rookie said he will get mentored by the Tampa Bay legend.
“I just met Warren Sapp a few weeks ago,” McCoy said. “He’s a great guy. He said he’s going to take me under his wing, and he is going to help me out. He’s going to work with me on the field and off the field. I’m going to be his guy. I’m not coming in here to be on the sidelines. I want to be a great football player, and I want to do that for Tampa Bay.”
Sapp endorsed the pick of McCoy prior to the draft, but Morris laughed at any notion that No. 99’s blessing was the reason why the Oklahoma defensive tackle is now a Buccaneer.
“Their endorsements do nothing but help, but that wasn’t the reason that we decided to go with who we went with,” Morris said. “We went with the guy because we liked him and we covered his skills. We were able to go out there and do our research and do all our homework. We were able to go out and get a captain from Oklahoma, a big-time stellar program.
“[McCoy] got a nice reference point for him to go talk to, for him to lean on. There’s no secret about it. Sapp is still well endowed to our program and we respect that. But he’s going to come here and be Gerald McCoy and that’s all we’re going to ask him to be.”
Aside from the athleticism, quickness and the fact that both Sapp and McCoy are three-technique tackles, the other common denominator is the fact that both were leaders. Sapp was one of the leaders of the Bucs defense, while McCoy was a three-time captain at Oklahoma.
“We got a leader,” Morris said. “The character, the integrity, the human, the player – the dynamic football player – the presence. He has the package.
“We look forward to him coming in and providing us with a spark. We look forward to him coming here and being up on the stadium and being one of the faces of our program. We look forward to him coming here and being the cornerstone of our defense for a very long time. That’s what we got today. We’re excited about that.”
Morris said that the reports about McCoy’s lighter than expected bench press total of 23 at the combine didn’t concern the team.
“The only reason strength was brought up was because of the comparisons at the combine,” Morris said. “I don’t know how much of that stuff translates to the football field. I don’t know anybody in this room that would turn on that man’s tape and question his strength.”
Instead of hitting the weight room, McCoy’s primary area where he has to improve is just learning how to play professional football and learning the Buc way of doing things.
“He has to come in and figure out what we consider a loaf is,” Morris said. “There are some of the things that we’ll do and teach him to make him better, and some of the things that we’ll do schematically to help him. When we sit down in the lab together, we’ll put him in position to be successful.”
Morris didn’t discuss whether McCoy would be counted on to start right away as a rookie.
“You never want to talk about who he’s going to compete with,” Morris said. “You guys know our D-tackle roster. You know all those guys are competitive. You know all those guys are hungry. You know all those guys are fighters. You know that [McCoy] will come in ready to go.”
However, McCoy has other plans.
“They didn’t bring me in to not play, I know that much,” McCoy said. “Whether I start or not, I know I will still get considerable playing time. I’m going to come in here and be Gerald McCoy for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and no longer for the Sooners.
“I want to come in and be a starter. I wanted to do that in college. We did the same thing in college with the Tampa 2. Tampa Bay thought I would be the best fit for them, so I can’t wait to get going.”
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