TAMPA — Not even a losing season, ongoing search for a new coach, or skepticism on Gerald McCoy's return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next year, could distract the defensive tackle or prevent him from showing love to the community.
Amid running errands and resuming workouts after a week off, McCoy stopped by the Robert W. Saunders Sr. Public Library Monday (Jan. 7) morning to help the Florida Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, known as HIPPY.
McCoy also took out time to talk about his team's latest transactions. Since the team fired Coach Dirk Koetter, Bucs general manager Jason Licht has interviewed four candidates for the job including Dallas Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Viking defensive coordinator George Edwards and former Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians.
McCoy did not provide his preference or opinion on any of the prospects or the Bucs' decision to fire Koetter, but paid respects to Koetter.
"I haven't been on the internet or social media and I kind of just leave that up to the guys upstairs and show up to work when they ask me to." McCoy said.
"I respect coach and I love him and his family. I wish him all the best and it was an honor to play for him."
McCoy also seemed unmoved by Licht's response to a question asked regarding his return to the team where Licht answered "We have a lot of tough decisions to make."
"I don't care about that," McCoy said.
"Those comments you take it with a grain of salt and move forward. It's the NFL and it's a business. Whether they want me here or not, I know I gave the franchise everything I have and I always do. So if they don't want me I can walk out of the building with my head held high because I know I gave everything I've had, but that's all just speculation and don't mean everything."
McCoy says it's his desire to stay with the Bucs, but whatever happens, happens.
"I love my team and people don't have the slightest idea how much I love this team, and how much I've given this city and this organization just my time, and all the sacrifices I've made outside of just what I get paid to do. It's more than that for me and it's stuff that people don't see."
He gave again on Monday. The program used McCoy's appearance to help launch its Read 100 Books in 100 Days challenge. McCoy came in pushing his young baby in a stroller and quickly put on his purple HIPPY shirt, high-fived every child and got right on the floor with the children to read the Dr. Seuss classic I Can Read With My Eyes Shut.
Last year, 427 families read more than 31,000 books in the time frame. This year the initiative hopes to top that record. If the kids hugging and circling McCoy is any indication, the program should have no problem reaching that goal.
Tracy Payne, the state co-director for the USF-based center, also has previous experience teaching early childhood education and has separately tutored McCoy's kids for years.
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"When she asked me about this I said sure, I think it would be great," McCoy said.
"These kids are really young and may not really remember, but when they see the pictures, they'll realize that, 'Hey this guy took the time to come read to us.' It's not about the now. My goal is to affect the future. So when people see this it affects not just them, but people outside of this."
HIPPY works with more than 3,000 Floridian families each year. It aims to prepare children ages 3 to 5 for kindergarten and typically serves diverse ethnic and geographic groups and at risk families who want to make sure their children are successful in school.
HIPPY's trained home visitors spend an hour each week for 30 weeks delivering a free, evidence-based curriculum with several activities and books that parents read to their children or vice versa.
"The parents are actually the recipient of the intervention even though it's sold as a school readiness program," Payne said. "Even though the children are the final beneficiary of the program, it's really that one hour between home visitor and parent that matters most where they role model the curriculum that the parent will follow with their own child during the rest of the week.
"It gives the parents an opportunity to think about how their child is going to respond to that activity and the trained home visitor can help them strategize on how to encourage their child to be invested in these educational activities."
Payne suggests that the main reason that children are not school ready is due to behavior issues such as a lack of focus and attention, and not being able to follow instructions, regulate their emotions, or verbalize their own wants and needs.
"Parents think school readiness means that they know their ABC's and their numbers, but teachers will tell you that's at the bottom of the list," Payne said. "We can teach those academic skills if the children have those basic behavior skills."
She is extremely grateful for McCoy's presence especially at this time when so much is going on with the Bucs.
Contact Monique Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org.