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On Sale at Newsstands Now!
McCoy becomes a Sooner
OKC standout makes OU his choice

Note: Gerald McCoy signed a national letter of intent to play football at the University of OKlahoma this fall. This story originally ran in Sooner Spectator this past football season.

Oklahoma has been like a magnet for the nation’s top defensive tackle prospects in recent years. The success of players like Tommy Harris and Dusty Dvoracek has drawn national attention to the Sooner program, and defensive tackles coach Jackie Shipp has done his best to take advantage of it.

Since Harris’ arrival in 2001 as the No. 1-rated high school defensive tackle in the country, Shipp and the Sooners have managed to attract the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle, Lawrence Dampeer, three years ago and the nation’s No. 1 high school defensive tackle, Demarcus Granger, last year.

As the recruiting wars heat up for the Class of 2006, OU doesn’t have to look too far to find the top defensive tackle prospect in the country. That’s because he’s in the Sooners’ backyard.

The magnet is aimed just north of Norman, at a kid named Gerald McCoy, a 6-foot-5, 305 pounder from Oklahoma City’s Southeast High School.

“Not only does he have the size and frame, but he’s a playmaker. He tends to make big plays every single night out and he dominates,” said Jeremy Crabtree, national recruiting editor for Rivals.com, the Internet recruiting service which currently recognizes McCoy as the No. 1 defensive tackle in America.

Crabtree says it was an easy choice to put McCoy among the nation’s elite players.

“There isn’t a guy that’s better on the field than him against anybody,” he said. “He knows he’s the best but he goes out there and proves it every single week. He does everything you expect a big-time guy to do.”

A modest McCoy still has a hard time wrapping his head around the idea that many consider him the No. 1 player at his position in the country. But it’s a fact he’s going to have to get used to.

“Now people are calling me and telling me, ‘I’m gonna watch your games.’ Everywhere I go, people are like, ‘We see you on the news. You better kill tonight because you’re the dominator,’” said McCoy.

Shrugging off the attention, McCoy knows guys don’t play defensive tackle because they crave stardom. There’s a reason why they call it the trenches, and players like McCoy love to mix it up in the blood, sweat and mud in the heart of the battlefield.

“It’s very, very exciting. I couldn’t wait,” said McCoy, on the eve of his high school opener. “Now that I’m out there, it’s like I’m home. All the double-teams and triple-teams and cut blocks and holding and all the cheating, I just love it.”

And McCoy does see plenty of double- and triple-teams, not only on the field, but also from recruiters and reporters who often fight for phone time with the good-natured star as he hangs out at home every night.

And in reality, McCoy isn’t about to turn his back on his new-found notoriety.

“I just come home and I’ll be like, ‘Call me,’” said McCoy.

Recruiters, reporters, friends or family — the nation’s top defensive tackle can’t get enough of the experience.

“I love talking to people. I’ll just be sitting here and get a call and sometimes I am tired, but I take the call anyway,” McCoy said. “Sometimes I know it’s a person’s job to do what they do, just like it’s my job to do what I do on the field. It’s this person’s job to bug me. Instead of looking at it like this person is calling to bug me, when they call, I just talk to them.

“It’s not hard to talk to someone. They just call you, have a good conversation with you and then it’s over.”

McCoy also chuckles at the methods recruiters go about trying to impress him. In an era of text messaging, emailing and the Internet, several coaches across the country go to extremes trying to stand out during the recruiting process.

“Texas Tech sent me a letter just to say they were on vacation and that they wanted to let me know they were thinking about me while they were on vacation,” said McCoy, who acknowledged such things are flattering, but not necessarily a factor in his final decision.

McCoy is a mature high school senior. He currently holds a 3.8 grade point average and he is already fully qualified. In short, McCoy can write his own ticket. But he also has the maturity to realize recruiting hype has little to do with his actual performances on game days.

It’s a lesson he knew long before he showed up as the top defensive tackle in America.

“I worked extremely hard and nobody made me,” he said. “My parents didn’t make me (work hard), my coaches didn’t make me, my friends didn’t make me. I did it on my own because I really love the sport and I really want to make it. I worked super hard to get where I am. Now that I’m here, I am surprised, but at the same time, I’m not.”

McCoy is not only a great student in the classroom, he’s a great student in the film room. It’s one of the things he believes has made him the player he is today.

“I sat down and I took Tommie Harris’ highlight film and I studied it over and over and over. I watched Warren Sapp in the NFL and I watched his college tape. I study these guys and then I go and try to perfect it on the football field,” said McCoy.

“If you see me, I don’t usually come across the ball and try to push people out of the way. I’m usually swimming or ripping or going around them. If you watch Tommie he doesn’t just try to come off the ball and try to push past people. He always has his hands moving and that’s what I try to do. If I see these guys made it to the NFL doing it, why not start it now?”

As McCoy continues to progress on the football field, college recruiters continue to take notice. And the pressure to make a college decision becomes an even greater concern as each day of his senior season passes.

As the No. 1 player in the nation, the speculation is even greater for McCoy than others in the state of Oklahoma. And the expectations for McCoy to stay in the state may be even higher than his potential.

McCoy fits the profile for an eventual Sooner commitment. He grew up a Sooner fan and during the summer, McCoy made several trips to the OU campus. Simply put, Oklahoma fans expect McCoy to sign with their team when national signing day rolls around next February.

But right now, McCoy is far from being a slam dunk for the Sooners.

“This is not an easy decision for me because you’ve got OU that already has eight people at my position. But I love it down there. I can’t help it. I’ve been a Sooner since I was a kid,” he said.

“Then you’ve got Miami who’s known for sending people to the pros. They’re a great pro-style coaching team and they’re known for winning. They don’t have too many people at my position. Then you’ve got USC, last year’s national champions and picked to win it again. You’ve got the LSUs and the Tennessees and just a lot of people. There are just all kinds of different reasons."

For now, McCoy still feels he is a long way from narrowing anything down.

“Being honest and realistic, you probably won’t hear anything from me until signing day. I think it will go that long,” he said.

McCoy lists several teams as being in the picture. But the most common names popping up on his list are those mentioned above — Oklahoma, Miami, USC, LSU and Tennessee.

Meanwhile, the Sooners have had the best opportunities to woo the talented high schooler as he has become very familiar with OU coaches and players during his numerous visits to Norman. Even so, McCoy warns OU fans not to put too much weight in those visits.

Sort of...

“Being honest, I like it down at OU, but that’s just the only place I can go to watch a college practice. I don’t feel like driving an hour to go to Stillwater. So I just go down to Soonertown and it’s cool down there,” said McCoy.

Seems like the perfect fit.