The Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-year defensive tackle out of Oklahoma, Gerald McCoy, spoke to the media on Tuesday regarding the passing of one of his childhood heroes -- Lee Roy Selmon. McCoy, who grew up a fan of the team, was just happy to have personally known the legend himself and have him as a mentor.
“Grew up a Tampa Bay fan,” McCoy said. “Blessed enough to be able to come and play here. When I got here I was fortunate enough to meet him and he took me under his wing and he just mentored me as far as life -- nothing really football related -- just as far as life goes. It sucks losing a legend like that, especially somebody who I was close to.”
McCoy spoke on hearing that his mentor had passed on Sunday, just two days after suffering a stroke. He was shocked and saddened by the news, especially since he had recently seen Selmon and he seemed to be okay. Selmon was a big supporter of McCoy and never doubted the defensive tackle’s playing skills.
“It was not something I wanted to hear,” McCoy said. “He was one of our biggest supporters. He never doubted me for a second. Even through my tough season last year he never doubted me. He was so looking forward to watching me play this year and I saw him two weeks ago. I am going to go there and I am going to do it, man. I am going to do it. He said ‘I know you are going to do it.’ Then I heard he was sick and I had just seen him and he looked practically fine. It sucked to hear that.”
The 6-foot-4, 295-pound tackle spoke on some lessons that he learned from Selmon. Those lessons learned were not necessarily about football, but rather about life itself.
“It's not really about yourself, but about what you do for others,” McCoy said. “It's not necessarily what you do on the field, but what you do off the field. How you use the talents you have been given [and] how you use those to give back. He was clearly great for that. He played well on the field [and] got in the Hall of Fame. He used that platform to do great things for people off the field.”
McCoy learned a lot about how to act off the field by watching Selmon give back to others. That giving back is something that McCoy himself would like to do.
“I never tried to play like him, but more honestly the things I try to do like Mr. Selmon are the things he did off the field. How he gave back. And that’s really what I learned from him. I modeled my game after other players, but how I use my platform, that is what I got from him.”
Since both McCoy and Selmon are from the state of Oklahoma, Selmon was very popular back in their home state. Selmon was from Eufaula and McCoy from Oklahoma City. If anyone mentioned the name Selmon, everyone knew who he was.
“Oh you think he is big here? Back home in Oklahoma if you sound like you are about to say Selmon everybody is like ‘Oh my God!' That’s just how it is. With him being who he was, he's huge back home.”
McCoy and Selmon both went to the same college, the University of Oklahoma, and shared the same number on their jersey. It was tough at times for him to have the same number as a legend, but he hopes to be the player that Selmon was one day.
“It was,” McCoy said. “It was, but I can only be me. Lee Roy Selmon is one of a kind -- once in a lifetime type guy. You know I could never compare to him [and] I can only be me. I pray that one day I can be as great as he was.”
One reason the University of Oklahoma graduate plays so hard on Sundays is because people see a similarity between him and his mentor.
“Definitely with us wearing the same number at OU,” McCoy said. “And people saying I remind him of him when I was at OU. Thinking [about] how many defensive tackles that [have] been here, people know him the most. Like I said, he was one of my mentors and I really looked up to him, so I am just trying to keep his name up.”
McCoy recalls the first time he got the opportunity to meet one of his heroes at a Bucs rookie camp. Even though Selmon did not know who McCoy was, he still made him feel like he was somebody important.
“Rookie minicamp, on the last or second-to-last day, and somebody was like, 'Hey, there's Lee Roy Selmon,' and I just ran to him. I'm not one of those shy guys. If I see somebody I looked up to I am going to run up to you. If you don’t like it, hey, get over it. He embraced me. He didn’t even shake my hand, he immediately gave me a hug. That’s just the type of guy he was and I am going to miss him.”