Gerald McCoy thought his faith had been tested after his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma, when his mother suddenly fell ill during a visit on Father's Day and passed away three weeks later. As it turns out, more tribulations were in store for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2010 first-round draft pick, as freak injuries would cost him roughly half of his first two NFL seasons and delay his rise to pro-football stardom.
On Sunday, McCoy played in the 15th game of his third NFL season, recording two quarterback hits against the St. Louis Rams in what has been his breakout season, potentially a Pro Bowl campaign. Afterward, he shared his testimony with an appreciative crowd, explaining that it wasn't until his setbacks in the NFL that he truly re-dedicated himself to his faith. He urged the thousands of Buccaneer fans arrayed in front of him on the Raymond James Stadium turf to do the same.
McCoy's message was a fitting one for what proved to be a landmark event at the Bucs' Sunday home: the team's first-ever "Faith and Football" event, which is destined to become a holiday tradition in the Bay area.
All fans who attended Sunday's game were invited to stick around for the inaugural Faith and Football event and were invited to come down into the stadium's lower bowl or onto the field to partake in the festivities. A crowd numbering in the thousands took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a concert by the Grammy-nominated band "Newsboys" as well as the musical stylings of local artist KJ-52. Concert attendees also got to hear the heartfelt messages delivered by McCoy and Scott Dawson of the Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association.
KJ-52 entertained the concertgoers while the field was transformed from a gridiron into a musical stage, and McCoy soon emerged from the Buccaneers' postgame locker room to share his story. Fans spilled out of the stands and onto the field to get as close to the stage as possible to enjoy the Newsboys' performance. The band, which has been nominated for four Grammys and has won five Dove awards, performed for approximately 45 minutes, providing the predominantly red-clad crowd with non-stop entertainment following three hours of exciting football action.
Though Sunday's concert was the first Faith and Football event at Raymond James Stadium, the series
has proved extremely popular at a variety of sporting venues, as well as such amusement parks as Disney World and Universal Studios. Similar concerts have drawn big crowds at such NFL venues as Kansas City and Jacksonville and additional MLB and NBA locations. However, the Buccaneers' first Faith and Football event added one more appealing element to the series, scheduling the concert for the heart of the holiday season. Fans attending Sunday's game were clearly in a festive mood, with Christmas Day just around the corner, many sporting red Santa hats that matched perfectly with their Buccaneer jerseys.
And thus it was on Sunday that, long after the Buccaneers and Rams had left the field, the celebration continued on the Raymond James Stadium turf. With stirring testimonies such as Gerald McCoy's story, engaging music and the joy of the holiday season, it was day for both faith and football at the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.