Family first: UF’s McCoy making most of opportunity

Florida center T.J. McCoy, left, and defensive lineman Joey Ivie run a drill during practice. McCoy performed well last Saturday in his most meaningful playing time as a Gator. (Matt Stamey/Correspondent) T.J. McCoy thought a day like last Saturday would never come. Thrust into action after Tyler Jordan left with an ankle injury, the redshirt freshman had worked hard and stayed patient, biding his time until he could make a considerable impact for Florida.

Who: No. 21 Florida (7-2, 5-2 SEC) vs. No. 16 LSU (6-3, 4-2)

When: 1 p.m.

Where: Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, La.

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

With McCoy in against South Carolina, Florida’s line didn’t suffer a drop-off, as quarterback Austin Appleby wasn’t hurried throughout the 20-7 win.

But for McCoy, Saturday’s game was about more than just football. It was about family, and the realization of a life-long dream.

The son of Tony McCoy, a former Gator from 1988 to 1991 and a nine-year NFL veteran, T.J. grew up wanting to play for Florida.

But at just 6-foot-1, an offer never came.

“Coming out of high school, I kind of wasn’t recruited a lot,” McCoy said. “I always wanted to come to Florida, and I just didn’t get offered here, you know, when coach Muschamp was here. So I just decided to go to N.C. State.”

But joining the Wolfpack came at a cost. Unbeknownst to McCoy, it meant his father wouldn’t get to see him play on Saturdays.

“My father was still battling leukemia,” McCoy said, “but he told me to go somewhere that I could play and have an opportunity to play and, you know, make my dream come true.”After enrolling early in January, McCoy saw his father at the end of spring practice. Tony’s condition hadn’t improved.“It’s kind of emotional, but dad came up there for the spring game and he was throwing up a lot, and it was just tough," McCoy said. "I didn’t know none of this stuff was going on, I didn’t know he was still sick. So my mom told me he couldn’t come to any of my games throughout the season.” Page 2 of 3It dawned on McCoy that family always came before football. With his family in Groveland, a little more than an hour south of Gainesville, he felt obligated to head somewhere closer to home. Even if it meant giving up the sport he’d dedicated his life to.“I was like, ‘I don’t care if I have an offer or not, I just want to come home’,” McCoy said. “I was contemplating just going to college and not even playing football."Yet Gators coach Jim McElwain saw something in McCoy that Muschamp did not.In his first year at UF, and in desperate need of bodies along the offensive line, McElwain told McCoy he was needed in Gainesville. Along with the opportunity to continue his playing career, it gave McCoy’s father, who is in remission but still attends monthly rehab at UF’s Shands Hospital, an opportunity to see his son live out his dream.With Florida using […]