Doug Williams was the Buccaneers' first-round draft choice in 1978 and the quarterback for the only three Tampa Bay teams to make the playoffs in the franchise's first 20 years.
As one of the first black men to start at quarterback in the National Football League, Williams had additional pressures to deal with during his professional career. Now the head coach at Grambling, his alma mater, Williams credits McKay with helping to shape his approach as a leader. Williams' thoughts on McKay:
"First of all, John McKay impacted my life long before he drafted me in 1978. When I was growing up watching football on television in Louisiana, I had two favorite teams and two favorite coaches. My two favorite teams were the Grambling State University Tigers and the University of Southern California Trojans, and my two favorite coaches were Eddie Robinson (Grambling) and John McKay (USC).
"SC, at that time, had a black QB named Jimmy Jones. And I knew that if John McKay, at that time was playing black quarterbacks, you realized that it wasn't about color with that individual. So, I've always been a John McKay fan, and to get drafted by him in Tampa was icing on the cake for me. I got to play for my two favorite coaches -- Eddie Robinson at Grambling and John McKay at Tampa Bay. At that time, I really thought playing for John McKay was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me."
Williams on his relationship with John McKay:
"As a coach, you never let people know that you have favorites. But I think Coach McKay sometimes couldn't hide the fact that I was one of his favorites. I'm sure when he was at USC, his favorites were guys like Mike Garrett, Ricky Bell, Pat Haden, and people like that. And when he got to Tampa Bay, I certainly became one of his favorites.
"Somebody came up to me one day and said, 'If he puts the letters "ie" at the back of your name, he likes you. From the day I got there, he always called me "Dougie". It didn't matter how bad things were, how bad we were losing, or anything else. When I got to the sideline, he'd always say," Don't worry about it, Dougie. It's going be fine, Dougie."
"He was a father-figure to me. I remember him being a good-natured, good-hearted, good person. He was the best. On the field, he wore that white cap, so you never ever really knew what he was thinking, but he was a terrific man, a terrific coach, and an outstanding person."
Williams on John McKay's vibrant sense of humor:
"During my first couple of seasons in Tampa, two NFL teams that were in the same boat as us (as far as wins and losses) were Green Bay and Buffalo. So, on this particular Monday morning after a game, Coach McKay walked in the meeting room and no one said a word. He wasn't a big man, but had such a commanding and intimidating presence about him -- especially when he walked into a room.
"So, we're all sitting there...just waiting for him to start talking. He's got this huge Cuban cigar in his mouth, and he's telling us how well we played or in this case, how bad we played. Then, he says, 'If you don't want to be here, I'll ship your ass to Green Bay or Buffalo. It was amazing. Guys who were not paying attention would suddenly come to life and start paying attention. Nobody, and I mean nobody wanted to be shipped to Green Bay or Buffalo."
Williams on the impact John McKay had on his life:
"One of the traits that I always admired and respected about Coach McKay was his directness and his honesty. He was always straight forward, he was always honest, and he always spoke his mind. I've been here almost four years as head football coach at Grambling, and that's the way I try to deal with my players.
"John McKay never bit his tongue. He said exactly what he thought all the time. He had a major impact on my professional football career and on my life because he drafted me in the first round to play quarterback in the NFL when that wasn't a real popular practice in the NFL. It took guts to do that in Tampa, Fla., in 1978 to draft a black quarterback. John McKay stood up amid much criticism and he stood with me and stood by me. In the lean years when the fans were booing and calling for him to kick me to the curb, John McKay stood tall and would have gotten into a fistfight with you about me.
"I've thought a lot about how well Coach McKay treated me over the last few weeks -- especially when I learned that he was in failing health. I've replayed a lot of the good days and bad days in my mind over the last few weeks, and I'm filled with good feelings and thoughts for the coach."