Gerald McCoy grew up in Oklahoma City but was an unabashed Buccaneers fan, thanks to his appreciation for #99, Warren Sapp. He was 14 years old in January of 2003, and on Sunday the 26th he was in a little slice of football heaven as he sat down to watch Super Bowl XXXVII.
There was just one small problem: His mom suddenly announced it was time to go to church.
“We were watching the game and I had to go to night service,” said McCoy, now a Buccaneers defensive tackle just like #99. He smiles now at the memory, but that’s largely because even in an ill-timed (for him) sermon couldn’t stop him from keeping up with the game.
Fortunately, he was friends with the pastor’s son.
“I didn’t want to get in trouble and he was younger than me so I sent him out,” said McCoy. “I said, ‘Hey, run to your dad’s TV on.’ He’d run to the office and then come back and say, ‘The score is this, this, this!’ And I’d say, ‘Alright…now go check it again.’ And he’d go check the score, and that’s how I stayed updated on the score. This is during the sermon in night service.”
McCoy needed frequent updates because the Bucs’ scores were coming fast and furious. After a slow start to the game, the Bucs scored two touchdowns before halftime to make it 20-3, then poured on two more in the third quarter to take a 34-3 lead. There were even some mildly tense moments, especially for a young Bucs fan only getting periodic updates, as Oakland scored on a deep pass and a blocked punt to pull within 13.
But interception return TDs by Derrick Brooks and Dwight Smith sealed it, and the celebration began, in San Diego and in a certain church way off in Oklahoma.
“[The pastor's son] came back and said, ‘They won!’ and we were in the back of the church [dancing],” said McCoy, demonstrating the loose-limbed moves of an overjoyed child.
Sapp and his teammates from the 2002 Super Bowl team will reunite this weekend and will be honored during a halftime ceremony Sunday as McCoy and the current Bucs take on Philadelphia. McCoy will have his own job to focus on that day, but there’s little doubt that seeing his favorite team will bring back another rush of decade-old memories.