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Former NFLall-pro Mike McCoy signs the shirt of Priceville High's Dustin Bumpus on Wednesday. McCoy spoke to the Priceville student body as part of the school's homecoming week festivities.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Former NFLall-pro Mike McCoy signs the shirt of Priceville High's Dustin Bumpus on Wednesday. McCoy spoke to the Priceville student body as part of the school's homecoming week festivities.

NFL veteran urges students to strive to meet their goals

By Brooke Milam
bmilam@decaturdaily.com 340-2462

PRICEVILLE — How much could a National Football League veteran have in common with a gymnasium full of 14- to 18-year-old high school students?

Apparently plenty.

When retired all-pro defensive lineman Mike McCoy visited Priceville High on Wednesday morning to address the student body as part of the school's homecoming week activities, it was easy to pick him out.

At 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds, McCoy wore his No. 76 Green Bay Packers jersey and black slacks.

His message is part of the "Champions for Today" program, which includes several former NFL players who speak to students across the country.

Physically, McCoy, who recently celebrated his 59th birthday and resides near Atlanta, didn't resemble anyone in the group, but he captivated the more than 400 students. His message was clear.

"We come from different backgrounds, but it's not what you go through, it's where you get to," McCoy said.

But what impressed Priceville Principal Guy Bowling the most was McCoy's ability to convey a message in an appealing way to a group of people he'd never met. "Mike McCoy is a devoted Christian man, and he just wants to give back to the community," Bowling said.

"When I heard about him, I just thought he'd be great for our kids. I'm blessed with wonderful teachers here at Priceville that truly love children and their jobs, and I thought he fit right in line with that."

It was McCoy's first time to speak in Priceville, but he is familiar with North Alabama after speaking in the Boaz and Albertville areas in recent years.

Since no current Priceville student was born when McCoy was a consensus All-American for Notre Dame and then spent 11 years in the NFL with the Packers, Oakland Raiders and New York Giants, McCoy's time with the students began with a brief highlight video of his playing days.

McCoy, a first-round draft pick chosen second in the 1970 draft behind Terry Bradshaw, made mention of his Alabama connections, playing for former University of Alabama quarterback Bart Starr in Green Bay and with another former Alabama quarterback, Kenny Stabler, in Oakland. He also played for former Alabama player and head coach Ray Perkins in New York.

McCoy's tales of playing Chicago's "Monsters of the Midway" and facing Walter Payton followed as familiar names to his young listeners.

McCoy even made brief mention of being "knocked out for about 70 seconds after a collision with Walter," adding that the legendary running back was "a terrific football player, but also a wonderful man off the field."

McCoy said he wasn't born a football player.

Growing up in Erie, Pa., McCoy said football didn't become a priority until his sophomore year in high school.

As a child, McCoy didn't participate in youth league football because his above-average- size frame exceeded the league's weight limit.

He pointed to that as an example that students all have special talents inside that may not be apparent.

"We all have unique talents and abilities way deep down inside," McCoy said.

McCoy has talked about the same principals to students all over the country as well as delivering the message to prison inmates.

Bowling said McCoy's was a powerful message that he hopes will have an effect on the Priceville students.

"I'd love to have him back, and I'd recommend him to anyone," Bowling said.

"He's got a lot to offer, and I know he spoke volumes to me."

Mike McCoy at a glance

  • All-American defensive tackle at Notre Dame.

  • Associated Press College Player of the Year in 1969 and finished sixth in Heisman voting.

  • No. 2 overall pick in the 1970 NFL Draft.

  • Played 11 years in the NFL from 1970 to 1980 for the Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, New York Giants and Detroit Lions.

  • After playing in 134 NFL games retired in 1980 at the age of 32.

    BROOKE MILAM

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