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Tampa Catholic’s Marcellus Crutchfield regains his football footing

And he's doing it all with the support of dad Gerald McCoy, even though he's not traveling quite the same path.
Tampa Bay Bucs DT Gerald McCoy on his son, Marcellus Crutchfield, playing football: "I just want him to be happy and create his own path.” (Courtesy of Marcellus Crutchfield)
Tampa Bay Bucs DT Gerald McCoy on his son, Marcellus Crutchfield, playing football: "I just want him to be happy and create his own path.” (Courtesy of Marcellus Crutchfield)
Published Sep. 27, 2018
Updated Sep. 27, 2018

TAMPA — Marcellus Crutchfield's teammates and coaches had a hunch that the Tampa Catholic receiver would reach the end zone last month. They told the junior he would score in practice, even in warmups before the Crusaders faced Tarpon Springs.

Crutchfield did not have the same vibes.

"In my head I was like, 'Yeah, okay, whatever,' " he said.

Then it happened. Tampa Catholic was near the goal line. Crutchfield ran a slant before racing toward the corner of the end zone. The pass came his way. Crutchfield cradled the ball. The referee raised his hands. Touchdown.

It was the first of Crutchfield's varsity career.

Better still, that moment was caught on video by his famous father, Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.

"I felt an instant rush of happiness and excitement," Crutchfield said. "I have such great teammates. They all made the moment even more special for me knowing how bad I wanted it and having my family there, too."

McCoy had an intuition something big was about to happen.

"I just had a feeling that I need to be recording this," he said.

The video almost did not happen. McCoy said the battery on his cell phone was down to 3 percent and it died moments after capturing the catch.

"That was excellent and a great moment because he works so hard at it," McCoy said.

Thanks to his father, Crutchfield has football in his blood. But he did not always imagine following the same path.

He was a quarterback and occasionally would rush the passer as a child in Oklahoma City. But he became frustrated with football, in part because he had difficulty remaining a starting quarterback when the family moved to Tampa in 2010 after McCoy was drafted third overall by the Bucs.

"I played for like a year or two down here, and I couldn't start at quarterback for the team I played for because the coach's son was there," Crutchfield said. "After that experience, I really didn't like football that much anymore."

Crutchfield concentrated on basketball. He played AAU ball and was on Tampa Catholic's state final team in 2017 and the state semifinal squad last season.

But he was still a fan of the Bucs — and his dad.

Crutchfield has attended nearly every one of his father's home games, even some on the road. He has been a ball boy and walked with his dad through the tunnel on Monday Night Football. He also has gotten pointers on the receiver position from Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.

"Being at the NFL games sparked a major interest in football for me again, but I still wasn't sold," Crutchfield said. "Then I started getting more involved. Things like being around the players in the locker room and working out with my dad. Just being around football almost 24/7 I knew I wanted to play it again."

Still, McCoy wanted his son to keep his athletic options open, especially when it came to playing beyond high school.

One of McCoy's childhood friends was Dominique Franks, a former fifth-round pick of the Falcons who played five seasons in the NFL. Franks was heavily involved in basketball growing up, not playing football until he was 12. After retiring from the NFL, Franks went back to his roots and is now playing basketball overseas.

"I just kept telling him, 'If you love football, play it. If you love basketball, play it.' You never know what your ticket is," McCoy said of his son. "But once one of these colleges comes and pays for your ticket, you'll know what your ticket is."

Marcellus Crutchfield, who also excels at basketball, grew up playing quarterback but seems to be settling in nicely at receiver. (Courtesy of Marcellus Crutchfield)
Marcellus Crutchfield, who also excels at basketball, grew up playing quarterback but seems to be settling in nicely at receiver. (Courtesy of Marcellus Crutchfield)

Crutchfield resumed playing football last season. That touchdown catch on Aug. 31 is not his only one. He also had one two weeks ago against Melbourne Central Catholic.

"Marcellus has improved tremendously since he really started taking the game of football serious," said first-year Tampa Catholic coach Jeris McIntyre, a former receiver at Auburn who played with the Chiefs. "He is a natural basketball player that has worked very hard on his craft to become a really good wide receiver. He has the talent to be a Division I-A football player, and as he learns the game more and continues to get better, the sky is the limit for him. He is a physical kid that doesn't shy away from contact."

McCoy is often at Tampa Catholic. In the spring, McIntyre said he attended every practice. At games, McCoy tries his best to blend in with the crowd.

"People will see me at games and say how great it is that I'm supporting high school football," McCoy said. "I'll be like, 'Yeah, that's what it is'. I don't think of him as Gerald's son. I just want him to be happy and create his own path."

The father-son bond is tight, largely because of their closeness in age. McCoy, 30, was barely a teenager when Crutchfield was born.

"That's a blessing and a curse," Crutchfield said. "Blessing because anything I need he always knows because he's been through it, and he knows where my head is at. It can also be a curse because again he always knows where my head is at. But honestly it's cool to have a younger dad instead of an older one because you feel you can relate more, you like some of the same stuff so it's all good."

One of McCoy's favorite things in comic book heroes. He pays homage by wearing cleats of action figures. There is even a room in the house filled with superhero stuff, including a life-sized statue of Batman that was featured last year on HBO's Hard Knocks.

"I love superheroes, but not as much as my dad," Crutchfield said. "He's a fanatic."

Crutchfield's favorite comic book hero is Captain America, mostly because he is a huge advocate for justice and equality and …

"… Because he came from being a small nobody to the man out of nowhere," he said. "That's how I feel I will blow up some day."

Staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.