When I got injured last year, my older two understood what was going on. They kind of had a sense of the road ahead. My son Marcellus was a freshman (wide receiver!) at Oklahoma at the time, and my daughter Nevaeh was a freshman in high school. They’d grown up watching their dad in the NFL, and they were old enough to understand he might come back, he might not.
But my six-year-old twins (seven now), Germany and Gerald, they didn’t get it at all.
I had the game on, one day, and they were looking at the TV and looking at me all confused — like, Daddy, the Cowboys are playing. Your team is on TV. Why are you not there with them? And Gerald, he plays Little League, so he wants to see Daddy out there on the field, too! One night he says to me, “You can’t play right now because your leg is hurt?” I said, “Yeah, I can’t play right now. But one day I’m going to play again.”
And he was like, “Next year, I’m going to be playing, and we both going to be on a team.”
I remember going to bed that night thinking to myself like, G, how could you not fight if that’s how your son sees you? He sees it like: My daddy ain’t gonna not be on no team.
That’s what he does.
He plays football.
Going into the season, I had talked to the Cowboys’ doctors, and they knew I had some issues with my knee, so we signed a waiver. I had just played all 16 games the previous season, so I wasn’t super worried. But there was all the crazy turmoil of 2020, so the season starts, and it’s already irregular.
Then, we finally get to practice.
I have two great days, and then we do the first day of pads, where we get in individual drills. Well, this particular day, we do a normal drill that we’ve been doing, and boom. The tendon in my quad just pops.
I fall, and ... I think everybody’s experienced this. You walk around your bed to go to the bathroom or grab something off your dresser, and all of a sudden you knock your knee on the bedpost. What I felt was like that times 10.
It felt like I knocked knees with my teammate, but our knees didn’t even touch. I was in extreme pain, going through my head like, Man, I ain’t never knocked my knees and it felt that bad. When I tried to stand up, that’s when I realized something wasn’t right.
And here we are, a year later.
It was a different year for me, man. I’ve never missed a football season since I started playing at seven years old. I’ve missed games. I’ve missed moments. But I’ve never missed a full season. So, that obviously came with a lot of dark days. A lot.
Anyone who’s been injured long-term knows there are days where you get stagnant. Nothing’s happening. Your leg is on fire, you feel like you’re not getting better, you’re not improving. There were days where I would get up in the morning, and my body was already hurting — yesterday I felt great, today my knee can barely move. I’m lifting, and it feels like I can’t lift weights. I’m running, but my conditioning is bad.
I’ve missed games. I’ve missed moments. But I’ve never missed a full season.- Gerald McCoy
Then those days stack. You have two or three bad days in a row, and you’re like, I don’t know. Maybe I should just take a break and just start thinking about ... scaling it back….
And finally, you start thinking, Is it really worth it?
But then, I’d think about my kids. When I come home from the gym or come home from rehab, what are my kids seeing? Are they seeing their dad down and out? I tell them about not quitting. Are they going to see their dad quit? I was forced to have some really tough conversations with myself.
I’ll be honest, when you’re at the stage of your career that I am, and you’re at your lowest point, you start asking yourself the big questions, you know?
Like, If it was to all end today, would what I have done in my career be enough?
Yes, I’ve had a successful career. I’m a success to my family, to my community, to the game. But for me, I personally don’t feel like I worked this hard to get this far, and not end on my own terms — to let an injury take me out. Listen, I can’t control what happens next — that’s a different battle. But the fight just to get back was the fight that mattered the most to me.
I can look my kids in the eye and look at myself in the mirror knowing that with all the Pro Bowls and all the All-Pros I’ve made, this was the one thing that mattered the most — climbing that mountain to get back to this point. To be able to walk out on this field tonight. And I did it.
I think Gerald was the most excited. When he found out that I had a workout with the Raiders, you would have thought it was Christmas morning.
He was jumping up and down in the living room, and I was smiling the whole time because I knew why he was so happy. When he seen that Daddy’s going to be back in the NFL, he’s not overthinking it. All he knows is, everything is how it’s supposed to be again. My daddy is an NFL football player.
And I have a new purpose. I really can see why God put me here with this team.
The impact I’ve been able to have already, just with the experience I bring to the room, has been so rewarding for me personally. I’m teaching guys, pointing things out that they never noticed. Just showing them how to prepare. Saying simple things to them to open up their mind to a different way of looking at the game.
Because the thing is, I didn’t just come here for me. I came here to help Maxx Crosby be the best Maxx Crosby he can be. To help Yannick Ngakoue be the best Yannick he can be. Quinton Jefferson and all these guys, the talent they have is enormous. People were writing off Solomon Thomas. He was a first-round pick — top five — and people were writing him off. I come in here and see how gifted of an athlete and football player he is with my own eyes, and now I have the ability to give a couple pointers like, “Hey, Solly, if you just do this and trust yourself in doing this and not overthink things, you’re going to take your game to a whole new level.”
The impact I’ve been able to have already, just with the experience I bring to the room, has been so rewarding for me personally.- Gerald McCoy
Simple stuff like that is what I can still bring to this game. And the things I’ve done in this league, your name comes with a little weight.
Your coach can say something all they want, but sometimes you need a veteran player to be on the field with you. Rod Marinelli is arguably the greatest D-line coach in history. He can say it, but when you have a player who they watched on tape do it, and then he’s showing you in person, and he can still move a certain way to show you like, Dang, that’s how it works — that holds weight in a locker room. That holds weight in a meeting room. I know from experience that that mindset can help a team tremendously.
Look, I’m not saying that I came to save them. I’m in my 12th year as an NFL D-lineman. I’m not the franchise-saving quarterback.
But just having that little voice in the room? Man, it makes a huge difference.
All I’m trying to do is be a mentor to this talented group we got here…... and if they give me a couple snaps here and there, I’ll take them. Heck yeah, I’ll take them.
I’m telling you, this group is about to catch a lot of people off-guard, catch a lot of people by surprise.
People are not expecting what we’re going to produce this year.
I’ve been around a lot of teams, and just like those dark days that I talked about with my rehab process, training camp has dark days. I’ve seen teams break during dark days, and I’ve seen teams fight through dark days. And this team, you can see the fight in their eyes. On our darkest days, where guys weren’t feeling it — those days when you can’t really move around how you want to, you’re not really executing the way you should — this team was fighting to get through the day. And not get through it like, Oh, let me just do these couple of reps. Nah, they were fighting to do things the right way.
And it’s all coming together. Man, you could see it in our first preseason game, and we weren’t even playing all our starters!! And when you’ve got a head coach like what we have, who really loves what he does and loves his players? That’s all you can ask for in a head coach.
Oh, and on top of that, this fan base is one of the most iconic fan bases in NFL history.
Yeah, you really can’t beat that, man.
When you have all of that combined, and you’ve been out of the game that you love for so long, and then someone welcomes you in and says, “Hey, listen, old man, we’re going to bring you on board. We want you to be a part of this run that we’re about to go on….” I can’t tell you how much that means to me. How do you not fall in love with an organization like that?
To tell you the truth, I’m at the facility right now while I’m writing this. I’m standing on the indoor field. I’m looking around the grass, and I’m just…... in my element.
And I’m not in here as a visitor, I’m not in here because I know people. I’m actually on the team. That’s a dream come true, to me. Now I’m just ready to see what this group does.
And I’m ready for y’all to see it, too.
If y’all ain’t ready, you better get ready.
Because IT’S UP!!!
See you soon (: