TAMPA — Upon hearing the news that he was a member of the Tampa Bay Bucs, Gerald McCoy wept.
Soon, if the Bucs are correct in what they think of McCoy, it will be opposing offensive coordinators who weep.
Upon reaching the stage, he threw his long arms around NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Soon, if McCoy becomes the impact in the middle the Bucs believe he will be, it will be opposing quarterbacks who find them in his arms.
If the Bucs are right, they drafted 300 pounds of greatness Thursday night. If they are right, they have drafted a penetrating, pressure-producing defensive tackle who is going to make everyone around him better. If they are right, they have added a roadblock in the middle of their defense.
And if they are wrong?
Um, maybe this is not the time to think about it.
For now, at least, there is a lot to like about McCoy, the defensive tackle from Oklahoma. The Bucs, in fact, will tell you they liked McCoy better even than Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh. According to general manager Mark Dominik, McCoy was a better fit on the Bucs defense. According to coach Raheem Morris, McCoy will be "a cornerstone of the franchise."
Ah, but will he be (drum roll) the … next … Warren … Sapp?
Let's wait a while on that, okay?
To the rest of the world, it seems to be a natural enough comparison. For weeks now, McCoy's quick burst off the line has brought back memories of Sapp, whose arrival 15 years ago sparked the best era of football the Bucs have seen. If you have read McCoy's name lately, you've probably read Sapp's in a nearby sentence.
At this point, that's a silly expectation. Sapp was the defensive tackle of his era, one of the best who ever played the game. McCoy is still at Go waiting to roll the dice. Right now, he has a ways to go to catch up to Brad Culpepper or Santana Dotson or Mark Wheeler. Right now, he has to prove he is better than Chris Hovan.
Still, you have to like his chances.
"I want to be a great player," McCoy said. "I plan to do that for Tampa Bay."
It doesn't always happen. In recent years, defensive tackles who went in the top 10 picks have flopped with a concerning frequency. Remember Gerard Warren? Remember Ryan Sims? Remember Glenn Dorsey? In all likelihood, you don't remember any of them. And why should you?
The Bucs think it will be different with McCoy. If you check off the reasons defensive tackles fail (They get fat, or they don't handle their money, or they get stuck in the wrong system.), the Bucs don't think any of that will happen with McCoy. They like his character. They like his mother's influence. They like the private workout he went through with the team a week ago.
Eventually, they think you will like him, too.
Want to know who likes McCoy? Josh Freeman, the Bucs quarterback, was as excited as anyone to see the Bucs pick him. After all, he remembers what it was like to play against McCoy.
"Stressful," said Freeman, a fellow Big 12 alum at Kansas State. "He lived in our backfield. He was chasing me all day. He really is a stud. He's just so quick. I remember one play when I took a three-step drop, and by the time I took my third step, he was hitting me."
Want to know who likes McCoy? Morris, the Bucs coach, was here when this defense worked the way it should have. He knows what an impact player in the middle can provide.
"You need a guy who is going to cause disruption, a guy who can make people game plan around him, a guy who can just be a disruptive force on your football team," Morris said. "He makes everybody else around him better.
"This is exactly who we wanted. He is a perfect fit for what we do. We got us a leader on this football team."
Want to know who likes McCoy? You should listen to Brian Hudspeth, the Bucs' area scout who has spent the past few months looking for holes in McCoy's game. He didn't find any. After completing his research, his summation was "put him up there and move on to the second pick."
Said Hudspeth: "His grades compare with the best of any defensive tackle in my nine years of scouting. I don't see any reasons he can't be a star. Turn on the tape, and it speaks for itself. He wants to win on every play. He wants to win every game. He creates plays that go far beyond the statistics. One of his coaches told me he was the most dynamic leader they've ever had at Oklahoma.
"The person excited me as much as the player. I talked to his college coaches. I talked to his high school coaches. I talked to his junior high coach. All of them had great things to say. The Bucs got better today."
Of course, McCoy has to prove it. Doesn't everyone? He has to be quick enough, strong enough, punishing enough to live up to his draft position.
If the Bucs are right about the player, he has to be a star.
Right now, nothing is guaranteed. But, yeah, the kid sounds like a good bet.