"I'd like to speak to Gerald McCoy."
He went for it. He didn't make it.
Yes, meet Bill Barrett of Tampa, 47, a husband and father of four, a state and local government public relations consultant — and lifelong Bucs fan. He said that on Tuesday morning he sat in his car next to the security guard house at One Buccaneer Place, where none shall pass without an actual invitation.
Tampa Bill thought he had one. From Gerald McCoy.
On Monday, the day after being thrashed by the Vikings and Bucs receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson staged a peaceful protest during the national anthem, McCoy invited "social media tough guys" to come meet him.
"There's a bunch of people out there that say a lot of terrible things that I know they wouldn't say to our face," McCoy told media. "These social media tough guys, I would love to meet them. Just being honest … I would love to meet you. I work at One Buccaneer Place if you would like to talk to me."
Barrett, who says he is no social media tough guy, felt the urge to meet McCoy.
"I talked to friends and all (Monday) night. I'd like to be part of a solution, not part of a problem," Barrett said by phone Tuesday afternoon. "I wasn't looking to get in a war of words with Mr. McCoy. It's just the opposite. I read his words in the newspaper, but then I listened to the video. I heard him say, heartfelt, come on down and talk to me."
Barrett has been a Bucs fan since the franchise's first season, 1976.
"I sat in the top of the 'Sombrero' and watched us lose the NFC Championship Game in 1979," he said. "I've been a Bucs fan since I was 6 years old. My bedroom was painted Buccaneer orange."
Bill Barrett, come on down!
He said he moved his work schedule around and arrived at Bucs headquarters at about 10 a.m. His Buick eased up to the security station in front of secured iron gates and fencing.
Barrett said it was a pleasant conversation.
"Can I help you?"
"Yes, sir. I'd like to speak to Gerald McCoy."
"He looked at me really funny," Barrett said of the guard. "He looked down at his clipboard, then he looked back at me. He said, 'You want to speak with Gerald McCoy?' I said, 'Yes, sir. I read his comments in the paper that we could come down to One Buc Place and he'd be happy to talk with us.' "
Barrett said the security man made a phone call.
"He came and let me know Gerald was not in the building today," Barrett said.
During the season, Tuesdays are typically off-days for Bucs players.
McCoy said he was in the building Tuesday.
"I was here," he said. "I just didn't know anyone was out there."
Back to Bill and the security guy.
"I asked him if it was okay if I came back tomorrow," Barrett said. "He didn't say no, but he sort of implied that it's not going to happen."
As the Tampa Bay Times reported Tuesday, the Bucs said that to gain entrance to the facility, you must have either official business with the club, be an employee or have a visitor form filled out and left at the gate on your behalf.
The Bucs said they will not suspend those security measures. In these crazed times, who can blame them? Bucs security does not discuss visitor information. Wonder if anyone else showed up like Bill. Wonder if the Bucs bothered telling McCoy.
Bill Barrett said he created the first Twitter account in his life to reach McCoy after his attempted visit.
"Tried 2 take up on your offer 2 meet at 1 buc place, but was told no. Would like to have dialogue w/u."
"I was disappointed," Barrett said. "I wasn't mad. I wasn't angry. I tried to call the Bucs when I left. I told them why I was calling. I was immediately transferred to a voice mail. I thought I wasn't going to get anywhere with this."
What if he had met McCoy?
"There's the football, between the lines. The view from longtime fans. And the other thing would be the elephant in the room, the situation with the protests and what's been said and all."
Barrett is an Air Force veteran. His father served in the Air Force for 20 years.
"I don't have a problem with people making a political statement or peacefully protesting. That's one of the reasons we served, for freedom of expression," he said. "At the same time, we're there at a game to be entertained, to leave everything else behind. So, to some extent, it does bother me to see people who won't stand for the national anthem.
"I think one thing that gets lost in this is politics, no matter which side you're on, it's a very zero-sum game. It really turns people one way or another. I understand Gerald's frustration with social media. Believe me, I do."
Maybe it was a crazy thought, to drive to One Buc.
"I really did think Gerald wanted to meet us," Barrett said. "I heard a man who was sincerely trying to reach out. I'll still cheer for him. He's still one heck of a lineman. But I'd really like to have a dialogue. If people don't talk to each other, from different sides, we'll never understand each other. If you happen to talk to him, you can give him my phone number."
Maybe they will meet. McCoy seems sincere.
"I'll meet with real fans," he said. "Real fans. I'd love to talk to them."
Gerald, his name is Bill Barrett.
Just fill out the form and leave it at the guard house.
Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029.