The real McCoy: Being a Gator has special meaning to UF lineman

T.J. McCoy
Florida center T.J. McCoy came off the bench to become the starter for the final four games of last season. [Tim Casey/UAA Communications]

It just means more.
No, we’re not talking about the slogan the SEC’s marketing department has come up with to promote the league’s self-perceived superiority.
We’re talking about center T.J. McCoy and his very existence on the Florida football team.
It really does mean more to him.
It means more to be a Gator, to run out of the tunnel and play in The Swamp, and more than anything else, to play for his father, former UF defensive tackle Tony McCoy, who has been battling leukemia.
“He talked about (what it means to play in The Swamp) quite often when I was growing up,” said McCoy, whose father played at UF from 1987-91. “Being a legacy kid is something that is a blessing. I’m glad that my dad played here. He paved the way for me to be here.
“That’s something I take very big pride in, and every time I play I play to make God proud, I play to make my father proud and I play for myself just to go against great opponents every week. We play in the SEC, this is the best conference in the nation, so, just to play against great people, great players every week that’s a challenge that I’m ready to accept and I’m glad I’m in this conference.”
As he showed last year when he came off the bench to become the starter for the final four games of the season, McCoy plays like he cares. He’s tenacious, relentless and never backs down, despite the fact he is undersized (barely over 6 foot) for a center.
They are qualities that certainly endear him to his teammates, especially his buddies on the offensive line who seemed to raise their level of passion and toughness once McCoy took over for injured starters Tyler Jordan and Cameron Dillard last season.
The line may have continued to struggle with consistency at times down the stretch, but at least the Gators played hard up front and had some promising moments, like pushing around a strong LSU defensive front in the second half in the upset in Baton Rouge.
“I think T.J. McCoy was actually kind of a lightning rod a little bit for us from a transformation piece,” UF coach Jim McElwain said. “The energy, the care, the want, obviously being a legacy and playing in The Swamp, for him, that’s real. You hear me talk a little bit about how to affect the people around you in a positive way. He’s definitely one of those guys.”
McCoy has always been close to his dad, and has always played hard for him, determined to make him proud.
He’s taken that to a new level over the past two years because of what his dad has been going through dealing with leukemia and the debilitating treatments.
The good news is, Tony McCoy not only remains in remission, but he’s starting to feel like his old self. So much so that he even worked out with his son over the summer.
“Yeah, he’s still coming up (to Gainesville) for treatments sometimes,” McCoy said. “He’s feeling way better. He’s starting to work out again, getting back in the gym. Something I did this offseason was just working out with my dad, having him teach me some stuff.”
Now that his father is feeling better, McCoy plans to play harder than ever, free from some of the stress that has burdened him the past two years worrying about his dad’s health
“I feel like it’s a weight off my shoulders,” he said. “I feel like it’s really good because I feel like it gave me just a sense of like, ‘Man, I know my father’s doing good.’ That way I can kind of just really focus on what I have to do as a football player.
“That’s something that was really tough for me when I first got here, because he’d been in and out of the hospital a lot. But last year he was starting to get better and this year is way better. I’d say that is something that’s really affected me personally, my play and my focus factor.”
Seeing McCoy play is a lot like watching his dad. Tony McCoy was undersized for a defensive tackle in the SEC, but he made up for it with his toughness and non-stop motor. He was a first team All-SEC selection his senior season. His son appears headed in the same direction.
“I say everything I get comes from him,” McCoy said. “He’s taught me how to play the game since I was in eighth grade. I don’t play D-line, but he always told me to play offensive line like a defensive lineman. That’s how I’ve always played the game.
“I would say my biggest strength is I just get after it. Let’s say I get beat on a move. I don’t give up on the play. I would say my biggest strength is not giving up on the play and just playing through the whistle because everything is not going to go your way. But if you keep blocking and just keep going until that whistle blows, good things can happen.”
It’s pretty obvious: it just means more to McCoy — a Gator legacy and proud son.
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