Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy No. 3 overall in NFL draft

Gerald McCoy Sr., his son Gerald and Gerald’s daughter Nevaeh, 4, celebrate after the Bucs take the Oklahoma defensive tackle with the third overall pick.

Associated Press

Gerald McCoy Sr., his son Gerald and Gerald’s daughter Nevaeh, 4, celebrate after the Bucs take the Oklahoma defensive tackle with the third overall pick.

Tonight: Rounds 2-3

When: 6 (seven minutes between picks in Round 2, five in Round 3)

TV: ESPN, NFL Network

Bucs Round 2: No. 3 (35th overall); No. 10 (42nd overall, from Chicago for Gaines Adams)

Bucs Round 3: No. 3 (67th overall)

NEW YORK — From the time he walked the red carpet at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, Gerald McCoy wore his heart on his sleeve.

The Oklahoma defensive tackle, whose mother, Patricia, died in 2007, said his thoughts turned to her when his name was called by commissioner Roger Goodell as the No. 3 overall pick by the Bucs in the draft.

"My mother was my best friend," McCoy, 22, said. "The person I was closest to. She was my heart, and I put her initials on my sleeve to honor her. I made it."

Tears flowed freely down the face of McCoy, who hugged his father, Gerald Sr., and lifted his 4-year-old daughter, Nevaeh, kissing her on the lips.

McCoy gave a bear hug to Goodell, pointed a finger toward the heavens, posed for pictures then pumped his arm with the draft card in his hand.

Of course, McCoy predicted ponchos might be needed for him and his family. He was not only thrilled to be headed to Tampa Bay to try to rebuild a once-proud defense, he had spent the week watching YouTube videos of players' reactions upon being selected in the 2009 draft.

Wednesday, McCoy asked Goodell, "Is it okay to cry?"

According to McCoy's oldest sister, Nicki, his personality is a gift from his mother.

"Mom was always very encouraging, always laughing," Nicki said.

In fact, it was Patricia who talked Gerald out of quitting football and leaving Oklahoma as a homesick freshman.

"My mother was a people person," McCoy said. "She loved people, and the fire and drive that I have came from my mother," McCoy said. "She's the one who taught me to be a leader not a follower and be the head not the tail. When I tried to quit my freshman year at Oklahoma … she told me, 'We don't quit in this family. If you quit, I'll kill you.' "

Nicki said, "She sure gave him a real talking-to."

So McCoy stuck it out. Patricia had been working as a human resource specialist at an Air Force base and returned from a business trip in San Antonio, Texas, to surprise her family on Father's Day.

"She had headaches all day, but she wasn't going to let it spoil her time with her family," Nicki said.

Patricia finally had to go to the hospital, and doctors discovered she had a brain aneurysm. She died 17 days later.

McCoy knew what he had to do. He returned to the Sooners a week later and was eventually named the Big 12's defensive freshman of the year. McCoy followed that up by being named an All-American two years in a row.

The Bucs figured they would have a shot at one of the draft's elite defensive tackles, McCoy and Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh. They actually believed McCoy was a better fit for their one-gap, penetrating defensive scheme that coach Raheem Morris reinstalled during the final six weeks of the 2009 season. The Bucs were last in rushing defense last season.

McCoy said he is keenly aware what playing the three-technique in Tampa Bay means: inevitable comparisons to former Bucs great Warren Sapp.

"If there's a great player who played there before and people feel you're worthy to be compared to him, of course you're going to be a little nervous about that," McCoy said. He's a great player, a Hall of Fame guy.

"No comparisons to Warren Sapp by any means. I don't like them at all. (Sapp) is too great. I haven't proved anything at all."

Even so, McCoy had more than a feeling he would be headed to Tampa Bay after Suh was selected second overall by the Lions.

"Raheem told me I was his guy all along," McCoy said. "I love it. I'm a defensive-minded person. I'm real, real nice off the field, so a lot of people think I'm kind of soft. But I'm a killer on the field. Once I step across those white lines, I turn into an animal. I plan to bring that to Tampa."

But when the moment arrived, the hulking McCoy with the Dolce & Gabbana eyewear sobbed and embraced his father, who told him, "I love you."

"I told myself, 'Ah, I won't cry,' " McCoy said. "Yeah, right. I really tried to hold it in, but I was overwhelmed with emotions. We probably were thinking the same thing, both missing my mother; knowing there should've been an extra chair there."

What would his mother have said of this extraordinary night?

"You did it. You did it. You went through a whole lot, but you made it," he said.

McCoy said Nevaeh is too young to understand what happened Thursday night but one day will grasp how prayers can be answered.

After all, her named is heaven spelled backward.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy No. 3 overall in NFL draft 04/23/10 [Last modified: Saturday, April 24, 2010 12:39pm]

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