It didn't take long for Gerald McCoy to realize that Vincent Jackson, his new teammate with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was going to be one of the team's leaders. The tipoff came during an early-summer practice, when the Buccaneers' new lightning alarm went off and the coaches sent the players hustling inside.
The players filed into the locker room, and McCoy watched as Jackson went right to his locker, pulled out his playbook and began using the unexpected down time to study. Jackson didn't say a word, but he still got his point across loud and clear.
"That guy is the ultimate professional," said McCoy. "That's what I always tell him. I'm always joking with him, but I'm dead serious when I say that. He's the ultimate professional. How he prepares, how he takes care of his body, his focus, everything. That guy is a leader."
On Wednesday morning, Buccaneer players gathered to vote for their 2012 team captains, commissioned with picking two leaders for each of the three phases of the game – offense, defense and special teams. McCoy didn't hesitate to write Jackson's name in one of the offensive slots, and apparently many of his teammates followed suit. As the voting showed, McCoy's leadership is also highly valued in the locker room.
The Buccaneers elected the following six captains for 2012: Jackson and quarterback Josh Freeman on offense; McCoy and defensive back Ronde Barber on defense; and linebacker Adam Hayward and long-snapper Andrew Economos on special teams.
Freeman, Barber and Hayward were all captains in 2011, and Barber has been one of the team's choices ever since the NFL started putting a "C" on captains' jerseys. Economos has previously served as a team captain but the team had only one special teams leader last year. McCoy is new to the role and Jackson, who played his first seven seasons in San Diego, is new to the team in general.
The actual role of a team captain is defined within each club's building. The most visible action for NFL captains is taking the field before the game to take care of the coin flip and meet the other team's representatives. There is much more to it, of course, and McCoy takes the job seriously.
"For a team to believe in me that much, to be one of the front guys to go out and represent us, it means a whole lot to me," he said. "I can't thank them enough. I plan to wear the title proudly. People ask me all the time, 'What are you going to do to lead?' I'm going to do just that: Lead. Whether it's by example, whether it's verbal…whatever they need me to be is what I'm going to be. It's a great honor."