Two-thousand-and-12 has been called a breakthrough season for Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. That somewhat nebulous idea became a concrete fact on Wednesday when McCoy was named to the 2013 NFC Pro Bowl team.
McCoy makes the all-star game in just his third NFL season, and the first one that was not interrupted by a freak arm injury. He is, in fact, the first Tampa Bay defensive lineman to make it to the Pro Bowl since Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice in 2003. The third-overall pick in the 2010 draft, McCoy is also the first Buccaneer draft pick to earn a Pro Bowl nod since Davin Joseph, a 2006 first-rounder who has been to two all-star games.
McCoy is the Buccaneers' only current selection for the upcoming Pro Bowl, which will be played on Sunday, January 27, in Honolulu, Hawaii, one week before the Super Bowl. However, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, running back Doug Martin and free safety Ronde Barber were all chosen as alternates, with Jackson and Martin both getting first-alternate status. Any or all of the three could end up in Hawaii depending upon the playoff advancement or health status of some of the other players selected.
"We're very excited for Gerald McCoy," said General Manager Mark Dominik. "He's put a lot of work into this. He obviously had a couple frustrating first seasons that he couldn't control, but this is a good step in the right direction for his young career. That Ronde, Vincent and Doug got Pro Bowl recognition as well is a great development for this franchise."
McCoy was informed of the good news by Head Coach Greg Schiano not long before it was made public. He couldn't help but give his coach a big hug as he thought about what he had been through in his first two seasons. McCoy missed three games as a rookie and, more significantly, 11 more last season after a very strong start to the 2011 campaign.
"It's been hard, but God has really blessed me," he said. "He's allowed me to stay healthy this year and that's a big reason why I was able to play the way I was because I got to stay on the field. The biggest thing [is] that my peers think that much of me to vote me in. I'm at a loss for words, because this is a dream come true. When I got drafted, it was a dream, but this is unbelievable."
The entire AFC and NFC Pro Bowl squads were to be announced on NFL Network's NFL Total Access show on Wednesday evening, beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET.
McCoy, the first defensive player to represent the Bucs in the Pro Bowl since Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks in 2008, is finishing off a masterful season in which he has started all 15 games and proved to be a force both in stopping the run and pressuring the passer. He is second on the team with 5.0 sacks and, according to the evaluations on ProFootballFocus.com, is one of the NFC's leaders in quarterback disruptions. Indeed, McCoy leads the Buccaneers with 15 quarterback hits and has also contributed nine tackles for loss.
Tampa Bay boasts the NFL's top-ranked rush defense, and McCoy has been identified as one of the major factors in that development. In addition to his own tackles in the backfield, he has frequently collapsed the middle of the opposing line, forcing running backs to change direction and get trapped for a loss by such edge defenders as Michael Bennett and Lavonte David.
"He's got rare size combined with quickness and get-off to him," said Buccaneers General Manager Mark Dominik. "He's a very disruptive force."
In just over a month, McCoy will be causing that disruption for the NFC squad as they attempt to down the AFC in this season's Pro Bowl. Given his impressive level of play in only his first full NFL season, it could be the first of many all-star appearances for the young Buccaneer.