Aug. 22, 2011
By Jon Cooper
The optimist believes when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.
Denzel McCoy not only believes that, but he’s also eager to run the stand that sells the lemonade once it’s made.
“I’m money-hungry — anybody can tell you that,” he said with a laugh. “If there’s money involved, I’m getting to it. If I can work, can use my own will to get money, I’m doing it.
“I used to ask my mom to do a garage sale just so I could sell something in my room,” he added. “I’d cut grass, lemonade stands; I used to ask my dad to wash cars. I used to ask my family members to wash their cars so I could get money.”
He got in hot water more than once for selling — or trying to sell — his mom’s or dad’s things without their knowledge, but he also got his strength and optimism from his parents.
That has been of great benefit recently, because the 19-year-old from Lawrenceville, Ga., and Northview High School, was told at the start of fall practice by the Georgia Tech medical staff that a health issue that had kept him from contact drills last year as a true freshman and again during the spring, is cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, and it’s put his football playing career on hold.
There is no cure for the condition, which can be inherited and affect people of all ages, but it can be treated and those with it can live normal lives.
That’s McCoy’s plan. And he hopes to someday get back on the football field in a playing capacity. Until then, though, he’ll get by just fine.
“My mom and my dad are always happy,” he said. “I thank God for them because this came down on me. I’m not a kid you ever see mad or sad. I’m always cracking jokes, I’m always doing something goofy. I’m always smiling. You’ve got to.”
His attitude impressed Head Coach Paul Johnson, who insisted that McCoy is very much a part of the 2011 Yellow Jackets.
“You don’t separate him,” said Johnson. “He’s such a great kid, he has a great attitude. He was just telling me there are bigger things than football. He came here to get a degree from Tech and he’s going to hopefully do that. He’s got his whole life to live. He’s going to live a normal life. It’s just not in the cards right now for him to play college football.”
He’s still very much a part of the team, however. He’ll be helping out Georgia Tech Director of Player Personnel Liam Klein, and while he can’t take part in contact drills, he will be in constant contact with the players on the team and those who may choose to come to Georgia Tech down the road.
“I love to talk to people. I could talk to a wall and be fine,” he said with a laugh. “I’m excited about helping out with recruiting because that’s something I’ve always kind of wanted to do. With our class and this year’s class, I talked to a few kids. I still talk to kids that are possibly coming in because I know so many people.
“Now I guess that’s where I fit best helping out the team,” he added. “I’m excited about it. Liam was the first person I met at Tech, before Coach Johnson. So I’m really happy and excited about that.”
His job with Georgia Tech will begin once classes start. Until then, he’s completing a summer internship with Virginia Highlands-based marketing firm TedCo.
“We do things for major companies. We’ve worked with the AJC before, with FOX, CBS. It’s a pretty big deal,” he said. “It’s something I like doing, I get to talk to people. I sit at a desk, but I’m on the phone all the time, I’m online talking to people, trying to get sponsorships.”
McCoy is looking forward to the 2011 season and to being with his teammates on the field every Saturday. He credits his teammates for making his transition from the game easier.
“I’m glad that they’re still here to talk to me,” he said. “That was something that meant a lot to me, that my teammates kept in contact with me. Just because I can’t play doesn’t mean I’m not on the team. It’s just a setback for me. So that was the main thing that made me really happy.”
But there will be a part of him that will miss the hitting, his favorite part of the game.
“I’ve played football all my life, so it will be weird,” he said. “But I didn’t play last year, so I’ve kind of already been through that phase. But as long as we win, I’m happy.
“I’ll just be glad that I can be able to have the chance to still live and be a kid. I’m 19 so I’m not getting down about too many things,” he said. “I can make money elsewhere. So I’m not down or anything. It did strike me, though, I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ but at the same time, I was like, ‘There’s a positive side to it.’
“I get a chance to partake in internships in certain things that I wouldn’t have been able to do. I’ve been thinking of a lot of things, ideas, to make myself money after school. When football’s not on your mind all time it’s amazing what you can do.”