Tampa Bay Buccaneers weakside linebacker Lavonte David was slowly drifting off to sleep Friday afternoon when something told him to check his Twitter feed. It was blowing up.
“I had like 50-something mentions,” David said, all of them congratulating him and teammate Gerald McCoy for being named to the prestigious Associated Press All-Pro first team.
Was he dreaming? He turned on ESPN and found his name at the bottom of the screen. “It was surreal to me. I was just stunned. It was almost like a dream come true. To be honored as one of the best of the best at your position is amazing.”
David’s season started on a rough note. In the season opener in New York, he was penalized for a late hit on quarterback Geno Smith, setting up a game-winning field goal for the Jets. David fought back tears as Nick Folk’s kick sailed through the uprights.
He thanked his teammates, coaches and those closest to him for sticking by him, even after the costly mistake.
“That travesty that happened – those guys still pushed me, still had my back and were very supportive. All of those guys are like brothers to me and I wouldn’t be in this position without those guys. I want to thank my family and friends for having my back, supporting me and being there with me through the hard times.”
David rebounded to have one of the strongest seasons of any defensive player in the league, finishing fifth overall with 143 tackles, third with 20 tackles for a loss and fifth with five interceptions. He also contributed six sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a safety. He became the first linebacker in NFL history to record six or more sacks and five or more interceptions in the same season.
Despite his production, however, he wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl last week, a move that was considered one of the biggest, if not, the biggest snub of the year.
“I thought he got slighted and snubbed in the Pro Bowl, but I told him that he would be an All-Pro,” McCoy said of David, whom he calls his little brother. “There’s no way you could keep him off of that. He is one of the best outside linebackers in the NFL, if not the best, and that’s what this list is showing.”
Unlike the Pro Bowl, which is determined by players, coaches and fans, who each make up one-third of vote, the AP All-Pro team is voted on by 50 writers in the Associated Press, meaning there is no bias or duplicate voting.
David and McCoy are the first duo of Buccaneers to receive All-Pro designation since 2005, when linebacker Derrick Brooks and cornerback Ronde Barber received the honor together.
McCoy is also just the fourth defensive lineman in team history to receive the distinction, joining Sapp, defensive end Simeon Rice and Hall of Famer Lee Roy Selmon.
He learned about his designation via text message, having just gotten off a plane from Louisiana to Tampa after the Sugar Bowl. He saw 17 missed messages. One from his agent said, “All-Pro!”
He immediately thought of his mother, Patricia Dianne McCoy.
“The best thing about today is that today is my [her] birthday. She would have been 60 today.” She passed away in 2007 and never got to see her son realize his NFL dream. He’s carried her memory with him throughout his career, using it as motivation through injuries and adversity.
“[With] today being her birthday, there’s no better present I could give her than to make first team All-Pro.”
He was already named to the Pro Bowl this year for the second-consecutive season, but this takes things up a notch.
“For All-Pro, you take the best two people at that position across the NFL, so to be considered one of the top two players at my position, that’s what you work for. You work to be the best. You don’t work to be mediocre or work to be just a guy. You work to be the best, and for the year of 2013, I accomplished that.”
You can view the entire AP All-Pro team here.