With the full attention of every Southeast High School student packed into the school gymnasium, Gerald McCoy spoke about the challenges he faced on the road between Oklahoma City and the National Football League.
He spoke about the difficult choices he had to make, the hard work he put in, and the ultimate success those things brought him.
Above all, he spoke from his heart. And then, he gave from his heart.
The Southeast alum came home on Friday to present his former school — where he is still affectionately known as G.K. — with four new bass drums and new uniforms for the band.
He did it in style, too. He entered the gym behind the Oklahoma City Thunder drumline, then performed with them before making his surprise announcement.
And it was truly a surprise. Not even the Southeast band director knew about the gifts.
“I've been trying to get new uniforms for four years,” band director David Nixon said. “This just came out of nowhere, so it's exciting.
“I knew Gerald used to be a drum captain here, so I knew he had a heart for it, but I didn't give it another thought. I was just blown away today.”
The uniforms will be the first new set for the Southeast band since the 1960s, touching on two of McCoy's passions: band and young people.
“The ultimate goal is to reach to the children,” McCoy said. “They have the exact same opportunity that I had — which is one, the fact that you do have one. Kids that feel like funds and things are limited, they don't know how to dream big.
“Well, I did dream big, and I focused. I just wanted to come back and show them, look, I'm here. I did it, and you guys can, too.”
McCoy said he would have been inspired as a high school student if a professional athlete had come to speak at Southeast, and he hoped to make the same impact on Friday.
“That's the message we should be giving young people,” Southeast principal Pat Borelli said. “Inside all of those individuals out there, they can make something of their lives themselves. They may not all be NFL football players, but they're our future — the next lawyers, doctors, educators, jet fighter pilots. That's the message he's getting across. You're going to be somebody. Just get out there and do it.”
Friday's gift was the first of several to come from McCoy.
“This is not the end of it. It's gonna get bigger and bigger,” he said. “It starts with the band, then we'll move to the football team. Then we're gonna try to make it city-wide, give something to each school.
“God blesses us so we can bless others. God has given me a huge opportunity to do something for our city. Anything I can do to help our city, I'm gonna do.”