Gerald McCoy flashed his trademark smile, shook plenty of hands and took pictures with everyone who wanted one.
The former Southeast High School and Oklahoma star and current defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is always happy to be home.
McCoy was happy to be back home, both for the 37th Annual March of Dimes Mercy Sports Headliner Banquet on Thursday and for his upcoming wedding next week.
McCoy was one of the honorees at the event at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
“Honestly, after what Oklahoma's going through right now, something like this is needed,” McCoy said. “We've got a group of great people coming in for a great cause. This is what I'm about. I love our state and I love when we all can come together for a cause such as this one.”
Another former Sooner, Adrian Peterson, was named the 2013 Sports Headliner of the Year after returning from knee surgery to run for 2,097 yards, the second-highest total in NFL history, last season.
Peterson accepted the award by video.
Other honorees included Thunder general manager Sam Presti, Edmond native Matt Donovan, the first Oklahoma born and raised player to make the National Hockey League, the Oklahoma City Barons, Jenks football coach Allan Trimble and Carl Albert assistant coach Mike Corley.
McCoy has spent the summer preparing for his fourth NFL season, dropping nearly 20 pounds.
“That's a lot,” McCoy said of the weight he's lost. “It's just been diet and working. It's taken a lot of focus and dedication.”
McCoy is looking forward to a second year under head coach Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan.
“We have all the pieces to be a great defense but it's up to us to put it together,” McCoy said. “It's not going to be easy but we're ready for the challenge.
“I just want to build off last year. I don't want to remain standing. I want to keep moving forward, whether it's baby steps of whatever, just keep moving forward and getting better, be the ultimate professional and being more prepared than the next man.”
The transition for the Bucs last year is much like the transition Oklahoma's defense made a year ago when Mike Stoops came back into the coaching fold as the defensive coordinator, McCoy said.
“There's a different crop of guys from the ones he had the first time around,” McCoy said. “He had a chance to develop those guys. You give these guys another year under his belt, they're going to be good.”
McCoy doesn't think it'll be long until the Sooners are back to where they were when he played, regularly making BCS bowls.
“OU's always going to find a way to bounce back,” He said. “I'm always — always — going to bet on them getting the program to where it needs to be so I'm not worried about it.”