T.J. McCoy hopes that his story can be motivation for the guys that feel like they are buried on the depth chart. At the same time, he knows those same guys will be coming after him.
“I was in a position that I wasn't playing at all,” he said. “I was just doing like a lot of watching. But I believe guys, whoever's on third-string now, if they keep working they can see strides on the depth chart, and that's making me want to work hard.
“Just because I was on third-string and I'm a starter now doesn't mean I'm going to be a starter next year or next two years. I've got to keep working my butt off. That's making me hungry, because I realize 'you know what? If that can happen to me it dang sure can happen again.' It can be taken away that quick. Realizing that every day is an opportunity and each day you've got to get better is making me realize 'know what? Take advantage of your opportunity.' I wasn't expected to play here and now I'm playing and I love playing and I want to keep that. I want to lead this team to an SEC Championship and a national championship, help lead it."
McCoy was thrust right into the action when he did go in. Late season injuries to starter Cam Dillard and then starting guard / backup center Tyler Jordan had him playing games against the likes of LSU, Florida State, and Alabama to close the season. It wasn’t an ideal testing situation, but he came through it with the respect of his teammates and coaches after holding his own against some of the best most of the time.
He learned a lot from the experiences of last season.
“Going against Alabama’s defensive front, FSU’s defensive front, LSU, you know they’ve got a lot of guys that are going in the first round, guys that are great caliber football players,” he said. “So what I took from that experience was, ‘you know what T.J.? You have to be in more shape. You know you need to have better technique.’ Things like that.”
“It’s just stuff that I learned and leaned to adjust to crowd noise and things of that nature. It was my first year playing in the SEC Championship game. The year prior to that I couldn’t even go to the game. It was like a first moment for me and it was a great moment, but I want to come out on top and am very hungry to get back to that game.”
McCoy has the respect of his teammates. They know he can play the game.
"He might not have the initial wow factor of a big guy, but he's got the heart,” junior defensive tackle Taven Bryan said of McCoy. “He just plays really well… He's always working on his stances, practicing very hard. You know, if he was six inches taller, he probably would've left already."
Bryan also says that McCoy is a guy that never stops when on the playing field.
"I always thought T.J. was good. He's the most annoying center you'll ever meet. He's not that big, but he's just annoying. He's very persistent. He makes all kinds of weird noises. He's like a gnat. He just keeps hitting you from the side."
McCoy and the rest of the offense are ready to take a giant step forward in terms of offensive production. An offense that has waded in the 100’s in terms of national rankings over the last several years is starting to gain some experience and skill that it hasn’t had in a while.
They understand the naysayers, but they are ready for all of the bad talk about the offense to go away.
"I'm really tired about it, but we just have to wait till this year,” he said. “We have to prove it this year. That's all. That's what coach Mac's been telling us, my position coach, coach Nuss. They've been preaching that to us all offseason and so far all spring, just straining and trying to be the best and proving a point. When we play Michigan in September, it's time to prove a point. Are we going to prove the critics right or are we going to prove them wrong?"
Florida head coach Jim McElwain made it a point after the big bowl win over Iowa in January to say that the number one thing they intend to do is get more physical up front on offense. McElwain went out and hired offensive line coach Brad Davis who seems to be pushing his guys to do just that.
The effects of all the work that has been done in just this short time since Davis was hired, seems to be working.
“Ever since Coach Davis got here he’s just been talking about effort and just every day giving our best and getting better every day,” McCoy said. We have a lot of returning starters, I know we lost Sharpe, Cam, and some other guys, but I believe we’ve been getting closer as a unit and just practicing harder. You know that’s one of the things he’s been stressing to us, always training and always giving that extra effort. That’s one thing he’s been doing. He’s been bringing a lot of intensity and energy to our group and just pushing us and making us be better than what we think we can.
Davis is a guy that doesn’t let up. But McCoy knows the man just wants to just get the best out of his guys.
“He’s very relentless,” McCoy said of Davis. “He didn’t know who I was, but I knew who he was, but I got to know Coach Davis very well the first day of Swamp Life. He’s always in your grill, always in your face. The one thing he always teaches us is that it’s all about love. I’m not doing this because I don’t like you. I’m doing it because I know what you can be. He wants all of us to be the best. Just today he was telling us he was disappointed in us, but he knows we can do better. Just always striving to be the best and he always believes in us.”
So far McElwain has been pleased with the way the offensive line has been going about their business. He often complained that they loafed and moved around slow during practice and that carried over in games. They aren’t seeing that on the practice field anymore.
“I’m telling you it’s just really Coach Davis being on us you know,” McCoy said. “He’s been encouraging everybody you know. Guys like Martez, Fred, me, Jawaan, Tyler, the whole O-line just watching film and working hard every day. He’s a really intense guy. He expects a lot out of all of us… from if you’re starting or just the third string guy. He expects all of us and tells all of us we’re all in competition with each other. So that makes us want to be our best every day, because every day we’re competing.”