Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and outside linebacker Lavonte David are two of only 12 players on AP’s 2013 first-team defense; Tampa Bay and Seattle (CB Richard Sherman, S Earl Thomas) were the only two teams with multiple first-team defensive selections.
While the Pro Bowl is considered a very important honor for NFL players – and rightfully so – the AP All-Pro Team is significantly more exclusive. The first team essentially consists of the very best players at each position, with only 12 selections each on offense and defense and three more on special teams. The Buccaneers last had a player earn a spot on the first team in 2005, when cornerback Ronde Barber and linebacker Derrick Brooks both received the honor.
“It’s awesome,” said McCoy. “This is a dream come true because making the Pro Bowl is one thing, but being the best at your position – the Pro Bowl has a big selection of people, but All-Pro is not a big selection. 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.”
Given the upward trajectories of McCoy and David, this could be the first of many such awards for both players. After two seasons interrupted by injuries, McCoy emerged as a Pro Bowler in 2012 and then became widely recognize as the best defensive tackle in the game in 2013. Meanwhile, David followed up a strong 2012 rookie campaign with a breakout year in 2013, becoming the first linebacker in NFL history to have at least six sacks and five interceptions in the same season.
McCoy and Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh are the two defensive tackles on the first-team this year. Not coincidentally, Suh and McCoy were the second and third players taken in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft; both have blossomed into the superstars their teams believed they were drafting.
“I thought he got slighted and snubbed in the Pro Bowl, but I told him that he would be an All-Pro,” said McCoy of David. “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. I’m glad he got the credit he deserves, and it’s an honor to be on there with him.”
The Associated Press All-Pro team is chosen by 50 media voters, and David was fortunate that his outstanding work out as a traditional 4-3 outside linebacker was recognized. The two second-team selections were Brooks and Hali. David said he was “stunned” to find out about the honor, a revelation that came when he decided to check out Twitter on Friday afternoon.
“[It’s] almost like a dream come true,” he said. “To be honored as one of the best of the best at your position is amazing.
“I would like to thank God, first and foremost, for blessing me. I’d like to thank my coaches for coaching me and helping me develop to be a great football player. My teammates, for pushing me … 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.”
McCoy and David are only the second Buccaneers at their two respective positions to earn AP First-Team All-Pro honors, following the duo to which they are commonly compared, Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks (Hardy Nickerson, a two-time first-team All-Pro, was an inside linebacker). Brooks was a first-team choice five times, while Sapp was selected three times.
McCoy finished the 2013 season with 50 tackles, 9.0 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 19 quarterback hits and four passes defensed. According to Pro Football Focus, which grades every play of every game during the season, McCoy was the most productive defensive tackle in the NFL in 2013 by a wide margin, particularly in terms of rushing the quarterback.
David led the Buccaneers with 144 tackles and 20 tackles for loss. In addition to the aforementioned 6.0 sacks, he also recorded 12 quarterback pressures, and his five interceptions were supplemented by two forced fumbles and nine passes defensed.