NORMAN – Gerald McCoy starts every game the same way. He stares down his opponent, then points his finger at them. "You’re going down,” he says.
Then the charades start. No matter the game at the weekly Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting — charades, human tic-tac-toe, whatever — McCoy is in the middle of it. He wants to soak up the experience. He wants to live to the fullest. On Saturdays, the Oklahoma defensive tackle plays on one of college football’s biggest stages. He is watched by millions. He is cheered by thousands. He is respected by every player who wears crimson and cream. But McCoy is so much more than a gridiron giant, a 6-foot-4, 297-pound he-man who bullies offensive linemen, drills quarterbacks and smashes running backs. He is a leader and a speaker, a friend and an ambassador. This is the guy in the final shot on the university’s promotional video that appears during television broadcasts of Sooner games. He’s the football player holding the ballerina. In a season when he was one of three OU All-Americans who decided to return to college instead of going to the pros, McCoy expected greatness. A conference title. A national championship. But now, the wisdom of those decisions has been questioned as Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham have been sidelined by injury. Yet, McCoy shows no signs of frustration, no hint of doubt. In fact, he’s enjoying himself, having fun and making memories. He’s having the time of his life. "It’s like he has this gravitational pull,” said Jamie Fox, a former Sooner softball player who was an FCA officer with McCoy. "He’s just so fun loving and so fun to be around, you want to be in his presence.” Talk about a big man on campus. College is the best time of your life. Thing is, most people realize that after they’re done with it. McCoy realizes it now. He spices up volleyball games and soccer matches with his raucous support. He challenges his buddies to video-game battles. He turns icebreaker games at FCA meetings into a good-natured, life-or-death competition. He even wore Cupid’s wings to a basketball game on Valentine’s Day. How is it that a guy who turned down NFL millions still acts like he won the lottery?
‘College is fun’Playing professional football has been a goal for Gerald McCoy since he was young. "I’m going to go to the NFL,” he has long told himself as if saying it would make it so. Yet when he had the opportunity to go and live out his dream earlier this year, he turned it down. He said no to the NFL and yes to another year at OU. "I always said once I decided to come back, I wouldn’t regret it,” McCoy said, "but you always look. "Draft day, I was kind of like, ‘Eck.’” That’s because three defensive tackles were taken in the first round, including one in the top 10. McCoy had been projected to be among the best draft-eligible defensive tackles, maybe even the top one. McCoy wondered if maybe he’d made the wrong decision, if maybe he should’ve jumped to the pros after all. For a couple of weeks, the doubt crept in and the sinking feeling lingered. Then summer school and off-season workouts started. That changed everything. "I was like, ‘I’m happy I came back,’” he said. "I would’ve missed college. College is fun.” McCoy makes sure of it. He dances around during warm-ups at football practice. He cracks a joke if he walks into a class and everyone’s sitting in silence. He teases teammates all the time. And yes, he dressed up like Cupid last February for the men’s basketball game against Texas Tech. Who gets credit for that? "It wasn’t me,” McCoy’s longtime roommate and fellow defensive tackle Adrian Taylor said, laughing. "I would love to take credit for it, but it wasn’t me.” Taylor shook his head. "He could be snobby or whatever ... but he’s not. He’s just a down-to-earth guy. "That comes from his family.”
‘He has a bright future’Gerald McCoy never saw his father be unkind to anyone and never knew his mother to turn down anyone in need. His parents, Gerald Sr. and Patricia, were his role models when he was a kid growing up in Oklahoma City. They were hard-working, church-going people, so he became that way. They were friendly, so he is friendly. They were helpful and loving, so he is helpful and loving. And he hasn’t let his football success change those things. Jennifer Jarvis-Denny met McCoy during his first semester at OU. Then, he was just a redshirting freshman who needed help with Spanish. He started going to the foreign language center for athletes where Jarvis-Denny is the director. Sometimes, he came in several times a day. He wasn’t content with simply passing. Fast forward a couple years. His redshirt year was far behind him, and McCoy had become a Sooner star. Still, he came to Jarvis-Denny when he was taking a difficult Spanish class. He had a chance to pull an A but ended up with a B-plus instead. "Gerald, a B in that class is amazing,” Jarvis-Denny told him, "especially with your rigorous schedule.” He wasn’t buying it. "Yeah,” McCoy said, frustration in his voice, "but I could’ve had that A.” McCoy admits that good grades don’t come easily for him. He re-reads assignments. He seeks tutoring. He takes notes and uses flashcards and does what needs to be done.