McCoys giving adversity a beatdown

Florida center T.J. McCoy . [Lauren Bacho/Staff photographer]

His ankle was throbbing and the X-rays showed the worst fears, that it was broken and would require surgery. His season was over and he’d have to have a plate inserted into the damaged area and need to wear a cast for a month.

And that wasn’t the worst news T.J. McCoy heard that Sunday.

Florida’s lost season had just included a loss at South Carolina and the loss of its starting center for the season. Tony McCoy was there for his son as he was wheeled into the operating room, hanging on to a secret.

When the operation was over, the news hit T.J. like a ton of bricks.

“I had received the call when they were prepping him with the bad news,” Tony said. “I had Hodgkin lymphoma. I was rocked.”

The former Gator and NFL star had already survived a battle with leukemia and the violent bouts with chemotherapy. T.J. had witnessed his father in a weakened state that had such a profound effect he transferred to Florida from N.C. State to be closer to dad.

But Tony had fought and fought and was in remission and everything looked great.

Then, the phone call.

“It was not a good day,” T.J. said.

Then, the promise.

“There was some crying, but after awhile I said, ‘No more crying. No more praying, Just declaring,’ ” Tony said. “Declaring we’re going to beat this thing. I’m going to beat this thing and you’re going to beat the ankle thing.

“I’m not going to use cancer as an excuse and you’re not going to use you’re ankle as an excuse.”

So father and son went to work together.

T.J. made the trip to Groveland every other day to see his dad. They worked out throughout the summer, one rehabilitating a damaged ankle, the other a damaged immune system.

“During the spring, I was there with him every time he had an appointment,” T.J. said. “Every day we didn’t have practice, I could be there. Sometimes he would stay at my apartment.”

Remember Tony McCoy had already been through the leukemia battle (with a 30 percent shot at survival), convincing his son to go away to college by telling him it was in remission. Even when it was not.

“I came home during break (from N.C. State) and asked my mom why he was in bed at 4 in the afternoon,” T.J. said. “I went into his room and he was throwing up. They had told me he was in remission so I wouldn’t worry.

“That was it. I was going to quit college football. Just go to school close to home just take care of my dad.”

Florida had a spot for him despite not recruiting McCoy out of high school. After a redshirt season, he started at the end of the 2016 campaign and the first nine games of 2017 before the broken ankle.

Of course, that 2017 season did not go well. As a result, one of the themes for Thursday’s media day at UF was that this is a hungry team.

Nobody’s hungrier than the starting center.

“We’re gonna bounce back,” T.J. said. “Like my dad bounced back we’re gonna bounce back, too. That’s my whole focus this year, to play my butt off for my dad.

“This will be the first year he’ll be able to go to my games without going to the hospital.”

Oh yeah, I buried the lead. Tony McCoy is in remission again. He’s been that way since his doctors delivered the good news July 10.

“That was a good day,” T.J. said.

And this is a new Tony McCoy.

His second bout with cancer inspired Tony to do something different.

“The thing I really admire about him the most is that he said, ‘I’m going through this again so I’m going to change my body,’ ” T.J. said of his father.
“He went from 328 pounds to 268 pounds. And I went on the journey with him, working out together in the summer.”

T.J. went from a pudgy 318 pounds to a more lean 300. Father and son went on a program of intermediate fasting, where you take a long break between meals.

“My dad goes almost 20 hours sometimes,” said the son. “He doesn’t eat nothing but fish, green tea in the morning. I gotta eat chicken or steak sometimes.

“I saw him (Wednesday) morning and he was in the gym at 7 a.m. working out. I think he’s going to beat this thing. I don’t think he’s going to get cancer again.”

The hunger is strong in this one. It’s not only from the fasting. Like all of his teammates. T.J. McCoy wants to erase the bad taste of last year.

But mostly, he wants to play well in front of a father who can truly enjoy it.

“Everybody has something they’re fighting on this team,” he said. “For me, that’s something I’m fighting for — my family’s legacy.”

Today, T.J. McCoy will be part of a team opening preseason camp. His father will be there watching cancer-free.

It will be special.

“Amen,” Tony said.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at



  1. I was at a UF game last year sitting a couple of rows behind Dad McCoy and he was so excited watching T. J. play it was infectious for all of us Gator fans around him.

    Awesome! I’m so glad they’re part of the Florida family!

  2. his dad has been a great gator, and TJ is proving to be his equal. really gator royalty if such a thing exists. what they are showing now is for us all, to see and benefit from, and of course we wish them both the very best. great article btw

  3. As a Gator Fan of nearly 40 years, it’s a great honor and privilege to watch T.J. McCoy play at UF. His father was an inspiration. Let’s not forget that Tony McCoy was FALSELY accused of sexual misconduct at UF, and was suspended by Steve Spurrier from the team in 1990. However, upon his exoneration of any wrongdoing, Tony came back in 1991 and had a tremendous year that provided the first official SEC title at UF! These are the kinds of players that do not get enough attention or praise for their character and determination. All players should strive to be like the McCoy’s. Tony and T.J.! I hope a third comes down the line to watch. GO GATORS!!

  4. I appreciate that T J and his father were willing to share their life events with the Gator Nation. My heart goes out to both of them, as well as their other family members. Special prayer for T J – you are following in your father’s footsteps – this reveals your strong character and love. Keep up the hard work and continue on your path, and you will be blessed by God. Amen! GO GATORS!!!