TAMPA — For the past five years, Gerald McCoy has provided Christmas for 40 families with the help of the United Way Suncoast and Metropolitan Ministries.
"Last year at the McCoy Family Christmas, a family came and said, 'Gerald, do you think it would be okay if we took the Christmas tree?' '' McCoy said.
"That puts things in perspective. All this stuff, and all they wanted was a Christmas tree? If I can change a life that way, it's what I'm going to do. They wanted a Christmas tree! Had never had a Christmas tree! And it hits me in my heart, man."
McCoy's heart earned him this year's Bucs' nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which goes to one player whose contributions extend off the field.
As one of 32 nominees — one from each NFL club — McCoy will receive a $50,000 donation in his name to Character Playbook, the NFL and United Way's digital character education program, and another $50,000 to go to a charity of his choice.
The winner will be announced Feb. 2, the day before the Super Bowl, and will receive a donation for $250,000 to Character Playbook and a charity of his choice.
This is the first time that McCoy, a nine-year vet and six-time Pro Bowl selection, has been nominated, but he has long been involved in community service.
Later this month, he will spearhead the Bucs' annual "D-Line Delivers Christmas" event where the team's defensive linemen provide presents for local underprivileged families. McCoy has hosted youth football camps in Tampa and his hometown of Oklahoma City.
And this year McCoy introduced Gerald McCoy's Patricia Diane Foundation, which supports single-parent households in honor of his late mother. McCoy also helped create the Bucs' social justice initiative.
"If there's a more giving, generous person that I've been around in the NFL I'd be hard-pressed to name a guy that gives more of his time and money," coach Dirk Koetter said. "Both he and his wife, his whole family. Very well-deserved and it's quite an honor in the NFL to be one of the 32. Proud of Gerald for representing the Bucs."
McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowl player, has drawn criticism throughout his career for being too nice by helping up quarterbacks following one of his sacks. But he said he has taken the criticism and won't change.
"When you step into this great league we play in, the ultimate goal is bring a Lombardi Trophy back to your facility,'' McCoy said. "But there are some personal goals that people set out when they start their career and this is one of mine. I always say when God has put us where we're at and given us a platform, it's not for us, it's not to be used selfishly. It's to be used to bless others as much as possible.
"I'm going to be me and I'm unapologetic about it. People criticize me all the time for being too nice of guy. I just don't see how that's ever been a problem in life. So I'm going to continue to be me."
Baby, it’s rainy outside
The forecast for Sunday's game is 70 percent chance of rain with thunderstorms likely. Saints coach Sean Payton said his team would prepare with a wet football beginning Thursday. Koetter believes his team will adjust.
"We started to look at it on Monday and then we monitor it during the week,'' Koetter said of the forecast. "One thing I've learned in my time here, whatever's projected four or five days out that probably isn't what it's going to be on Sunday. This time their sticking to it that it's going to be 74 and stormy, so wear your raincoats."