Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of just six players who have been selected to each of the last six Pro Bowl rosters. On Wednesday, as practice began for the 2018 Pro Bowl at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, McCoy was asked to name the other five. He rattled off three pretty quickly: Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson and Washington tackle Trent Williams. The other two were out-of-sight, out-of-mind: New England quarterback Tom Brady and special teamer Matthew Slater.
It's not terribly surprising that McCoy could identify his fellow Pro Bowl streakers so easily; at this point, they must practically feel like teammates of sort. And just like his real teammates back in Tampa, McCoy's annual all-star compatriots have come to appreciate his professionalism and leadership. This year, for the first time, McCoy was named a Pro Bowl team captain for the NFC squad.
"For your team, you're around those guys year-in and year-out, all the time, and those guys get to be around you, get to know your personality, see how you work as a professional and just who you are as a teammate," said McCoy, whose first Buccaneer captaincy coincidentally came at the beginning of his first Pro Bowl campaign in 2012. "So that's always an honor. But to be around the best of the best, if you're voted captain for whatever reason – whether it's how long I've been in the league or how many Pro Bowls I've made – it's an honor to be a captain."
DT Gerald McCoy was selected to the 2018 Pro Bowl.
Of course, there is a far more laid-back atmosphere to everything associated with the Pro Bowl than there is with a normal in-season week, so McCoy's captain duties probably won't be too intense. He joked that his selection this year was a matter of tenure, a "perk to being old." But there's no denying that his long run of all-star invites – he's just the fifth Buccaneer to go to that many Pro Bowls in a row – has given his presence on the team a bit more weight.
"It's like with anything you do – if you've done it long enough it just comes with experience and you approach it differently," said McCoy. "Now I'm out here as a tenured vet – this is my sixth time doing this – I'm just trying to go with the flow. I knew I was becoming that guy when guys were coming to me [asking], 'What are we going to do at practice? What've I got today? How's the game going to go?' I'm like, 'Am I that guy?'"
McCoy joins Mike Alstott and Lee Roy Selmon as Buccaneers who have made six straight Pro Bowls. Only Warren Sapp (seven straight) and Derrick Brooks (10) have had longer all-star runs for Tampa Bay. Selmon, Sapp and Brooks are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Alstott is a member of the franchise's Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium. That's an impressive collection of names as is McCoy-Brady-Green-Peterson-Slater-Williams. McCoy is only just starting to comprehend what being a "six-time Pro Bowler" means, but he's also not satisfied to sit on that title.
"Those are some big names," he said. "Wow – six in a row. I remember what Sapp told me after I made my first one. He said, 'You made one, now stack them.' Sapp made seven in a row. So I'm going to enjoy six and shoot for seven. The ultimate goal is to get voted in but not have an opportunity to play. I would like to not be able to be here next year because I'm doing something else."
Obviously, that "something else" McCoy would rather be doing this week is preparing for the Super Bowl. He joined the Buccaneers as the third overall pick in the 2010 draft and is now eight seasons into his NFL career without a playoff appearance. The Bucs narrowly missed the postseason in his rookie year and then again with a 9-7 record in 2016. That campaign produced high expectations for Tampa Bay's 2017 campaign but a series of close losses sent the team to a 5-11 finish. For McCoy, that represents unfinished business. His plan for 2018 is to play well enough to match Sapp's streak of Pro Bowls but to do so within the context of a playoff season.
"It happened to me in high school; I was an All-American," said McCoy. "I was an All-American in college. But this is the best of the best. That's what they call this game: the best of the best. And to be voted in six straight times, it never gets old. I'm having a blast with it. I'm going to cherish and learn from it. And I'm going to accept the challenge. There's a lot that comes with being a six-time Pro Bowler. I have the accolades personally, but now the thing is, what am I going to do for my team? That's the main goal, to make my team better."