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OU's Gerald McCoy having fun, loving life

by Jenni Carlson Modified: September 27, 2009 at 10:21 am •  Published: September 27, 2009

"Gerald is a very diligent student who takes his academic success seriously,” said A. Byron Coleman III, who taught McCoy in his African-American Male class. "Anyone who meets Gerald can tell from the first impression that he has a bright future in whatever career he chooses.”

Jarvis-Denny, who also taught McCoy in Spanish class, said, "(Athletes) have so many demands on them. It’s just great to see somebody manage it as well as Gerald McCoy does.”

The thing is, he isn’t content with just being a student-athlete. He knows there’s more to life, and like opponents on Saturdays, he attacks it.

‘He has a way about him’
Gerald McCoy makes plenty of appearances on the jumbotrons during football games, but it isn’t always for replays and highlights.

He is the main character in a promotional video for Sooner Nation, a program that rewards students for attending OU athletic events. The spot shows him running all over campus to different events. At one point, a gymnast says, "We see you at all the athletic events.”

That might’ve just been a line in a script, but it’s true.

"I’m the volleyball team’s biggest fan,” he said. "I go to soccer games when I can. I even went to wrestling last year.

"One time, I was driving on a Sunday and saw lacrosse. I was like, ‘We’ve got lacrosse? I’m going to watch this.’”

Much like in high school when he was a fixture at every Southeast event, McCoy stands and cheers whether he’s among dozens of fans or thousands of him. He loves being part of anything and everything OU.

And it’s not just sports. Last summer, he worked for Camp Crimson, an overnight freshman orientation program on campus. This fall, he serves as president of OU’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, speaks regularly at churches and youth groups and helps with community service projects as part of Bridge Builders, a campus group for minority student-athletes.

No wonder the university wanted McCoy to be in its institutional spot holding that ballerina.

"When I called Coach Stoops to let him know we wanted to invite Gerald ... ,” OU president David Boren said, "his response was, ‘I’m so glad you want to have Gerald because he demonstrates the kind of character we hope to build in our football program.’”

How does McCoy manage everything?

"To be honest, I don’t sleep much,” he said. "I know that’s not good, but my body ... I guess I’ve just grown used to it. Getting four hours of sleep is nothing to me. I can function all day.”

When he goes home on a break, McCoy sleeps into the afternoon. Sometimes, his dad comes home from work and finds him still in bed.

That isn’t the case when McCoy is on campus.

"When I’m at full stride,” he said, "I’m at full stride.”

He embraces the fact that he’s a student, an athlete, even a superstar. McCoy was one of the last players to leave the field after the spring game because he was signing autographs. He is always requested for interviews, and he doesn’t duck them or cut them short.

A rare exception came earlier this year at Big 12 media days. Bradford and Gresham didn’t want to do extra one-on-one videos, and in a show of solidarity, McCoy refused, too.

While some well-known college athletes see fame as a burden, McCoy considers it a blessing.

"My father always said, ‘You only get it one time. It doesn’t come back around, so enjoy it while it’s here,’” McCoy said. "I have fun with it.”

Does he ever. Not even the fans are immune from occasionally being part of it.

"Gerald McCoy, right?” someone will approach and ask.

"Nah, it’s not me,” he will reply.

"Yeah, I think ... ”

"No, you’ve got the wrong person.”

"Well, you look like him.”

"I appreciate that.”

Not so long ago, Jarvis-Denny bumped into McCoy. The Spanish professor happened to be with her 11-year-old son, who is big for his age. He plays football and is a defensive lineman.

"Stick with it,” McCoy told him. "You can do well.”

Rare is the 21-year-old who can connect with children, peers and adults. It takes a special personality to be able to relate to people of all ages.

Gerald McCoy is special.

"He has a way about him that disarms people,” OU athletic director Joe Castiglione said. "He’s so big sometimes people may be intimidated. But when he flashes that smile ... he puts people at ease.”

‘A real role model’
Gerald McCoy is having the time of his life.

Sure, he wishes that the Sooners were undefeated right now. He hates that two of his good friends, Bradford and Gresham, have been injured this season.

He refuses to let that sour him on this season or this team.

"He tries to make the best out of everything and look at the good side and make everything fun,” freshman defensive tackle Jamarkus McFarland said. "He’s a real role model. He has that same dedicated push and same dedicated leadership without all the falseness.”

False? McCoy?

"He is a ‘Little Mermaid’ fan,” said Tabitha Brown, who was an FCA officer last year with McCoy. "He has no qualms or shame about it at all. It’s what he likes.”

Gerald McCoy is genuine, the real deal. That’s the case whether he’s playing football or going to class, speaking to a youth group or even playing a silly game during an FCA huddle.

"What impresses me the most is the kind of person he is,” Boren said. "We have never had a student-athlete who combines athletic excellence with off-the-field contributions any better than Gerald does.”

by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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