Hall of Fame coach Hank Stram had a great way to describe guys who don't look you in the eye.
"That guy's looking for nickels," Stram once told me, talking about anyone who wouldn't make eye contact with him.
The incident was recounted in beat writer Stephen Holder's story, here's what McCoy told him:
"I don't get nervous around a lot of people but (Belichick) was walking through the hall earlier, and I was walking to the locker room, and I dang near turned the other way," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said joking, "(I thought) 'Dang, I don't want to look this man in the eyes."
OK, so McCoy is a joker, but Holder missed the ultimate follow-up opportunity with this one.
Back in the day, my response to McCoy, had he told me that, would have been an immediate: Why not? Why wouldn't you want to look Belichick in the eye?"
Same question today. Why not?
Joking or not joking, I've met a LOT of accomplished athletes in every sport and they all had something in common—none of them would hesitate to look ANYONE straight in the eye.
It's what a man is supposed to do. Stram told me more than once that he didn't want a player who wouldn't look you right in the eye without one ounce of reservation.
Quick story: Late December 1979, Florida State Orange Bowl practice session. FSU beat writers and other media gathered to watch practice. At the far end of the field, Don Shula appears, by himself, to watch the practice.
In those days, Shula was one of the most feared coaches in the NFL. As far from a players' coach as it got. Intimidation was Shula's aura. He was "The Intimidator" long before Dale Earnhart.
Apparently all the writers were afraid of him as well. Not a press-friendly guy, that was his reputation. Not one wanted to head in his direction.
"Heck with you guys," I said, "I'm going down there and talk to him." I went alone. I walked up to Shula, looked him square in the eye and said "Good morning coach, I'm Tom Edrington from the Tampa Tribune, may I stand with you?" What then transpired floored me. "Sure Tom," Shula said, "nice to meet you."
For the next 30 minutes, I got the one-on-one football clinic of a lifetime. Everything you wanted to know about football but were afraid to ask. I simply listened and took notes. Had I been "intimidated" by his mere presence, it would have been one great opportunity down the drain.
Be fearless, always look a man in the eyes. Perhaps McCoy missed a great opportunity. What might have happened had he simply approached Belichick, looked him square in the eye, introduced himself and had a brief conversation?
We'll never know.
And neither will McCoy.