TAMPA — As the draft's highest-rated prospects gathered in commissioner Roger Goodell's posh Park Avenue office in Manhattan this week, the group of broad-shouldered young men seemed downright intimidated.
That's when Gerald McCoy, social butterfly that he is, sprung into action.
"Everybody was sitting there and … everybody was (silent)," McCoy said. "I was like, 'What are ya'll so nervous for? Ya'll want to go to the NFL, right? Well, unbutton your jacket, sit up and let's talk to him.' (Goodell) was like, 'I like him. I like that guy.' He told me to be myself and have fun."
For that, McCoy needs no invitation.
He lights up any room he enters, as he did Friday at One Buc Place when he was introduced to Tampa. He was witty and loose despite the bright television lights, probing questions from reporters and the pair of Glazer brothers sitting in the first row.
It's enough to make some wonder whether he has the nastiness necessary to play a position as physically demanding as defensive tackle. But when the subject turns to football, McCoy's tone turns very serious.
"That was sort of a knock on me from the beginning because I am so nice off the field," said McCoy, 22. "But I am who I am."
"I love this sport. I can't wait to play at the next level. When I step across those lines, football is what I do and what I love. I have so much passion and drive that I turn into something (else). I don't know what it is."
McCoy is a longtime Bucs fan, becoming enamored with them after watching former defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Friday, he recalled being stuck in a church service the night they won Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003, a friend sneaking out to peek at a TV and give McCoy updates.
And he spoke about the role of his daughter, Nevaeh, in his life (that's heaven spelled backward) and how he wants to give her a life he could only dream of. McCoy and the child's mother split custody of the 4-year-old.
The best way he can take care of her is to dominate the way the Bucs hope he can. And he might just do it with a smile.