Tony Zambrowski earned three letters in football as a guard at Notre Dame in 1949-51. Years later, as football coach at his alma mater, Cathedal Prep in Erie, Pa., he welcomed to the team a very large sophomore who was playing football for the first time.
Mike McCoy was always big for his age. In the third grade, he was 5-foot-5 and weighed 180 pounds, making him an easy target for classmates’ teasing.
“I got my revenge when I started playing football,” McCoy says.
And he played it well, drawing the attention of colleges. Coach Zambrowski, ever the Notre Dame man, helped McCoy during this recruiting process and took McCoy on a visit to South Bend. Just that quickly, McCoy was determined to play for the Irish.
Ara Parseghian brought in McCoy as a 6-5, 270-pound freshman, and he developed into a consensus All-American defensive tackle by his senior season of 1969. In the final game of the 1968 season, McCoy led a defensive effort against USC that limited O.J. Simpson, winner of the Heisman Trophy that season, to just 55 yards on 22 carries in a 21-21tie. “At one point during the fourth quarter, Simpson looked up at me and said, ‘Oh no, not you again.’ I guess I left quite an impression on him.”
McCoy’s time at Notre Dame also included the end of the school’s 45-year bowl ban, as the Irish were allowed to compete in the Cotton Bowl vs. Texas in McCoy’s final game. He treasures his Notre Dame experience. A prized possession is a framed photo Coach Parseghian sent to recruit McCoy in 1966 saying “Welcome to the Notre Dame family.” Says McCoy: “What we had under Coach Parseghian and his staff was really unique. Notre Dame really is a family that stays with you throughout your life.”
McCoy was the second player chosen in the 1970 NFL draft, going to the Green Bay Packers, where he played seven seasons of an 11-year pro career. McCoy was named Packers Rookie of the Year in 1970 and led the Packers in quarterback sacks in 1973 and 1976. “I played pro football a few years too early,” he jokes. “You still had to find a job when you finished playing.”
With his Notre Dame degree in economics, McCoy began working in the corporate world before eventually finding his real calling – ministry to young people. The change in direction came when his seventh-grade daughter told him of disturbing things she had witnessed and heard about involving classmates behavior.
“I had one of those epiphanies,” he said. “I knew I had to get involved. I had a platform having played in the NFL.”
McCoy began working within Catholic ministries in 1986, then in 1992 joined the ministry of fellow former NFL lineman Bill Glass Ministries in 1992. McCoy spent 19 years with Glass Ministries, before founding Mike McCoy Ministries. He has spoken around the world, from schools in Scotland to prisons in Africa.
In recent years, he has limited his travel to North America and concentrated on Catholic schools,
The mission of his ministry is to help people, particularly young people, to lead a life of purpose and to be strong-willed when faced with negativity. McCoy speaks about the peer pressure and bullying, and to deal with these outside influences with self-confidence in order to achieve true success.
“It brings me great satisfaction going into the schools and getting feedback from the kids; to hear exactly what they are going through and figure out how we can help them,” McCoy sais.. “A lot of students open up to me through our comment cards about a lot of serious subjects including depression, drug and alcohol abuse and other problems they are dealing with at home. This feedback allows me to help kids who are in tough situations get the guidance and trained help they need.”
Mike has received many honors, including induction into the Erie, Cathedral Prep and Pennsylvania Sports halls of fame. He was the Packers Dodge NFL Man of the Year, Notre Dame Pro Player of the Year, and received the Harvey Foster Humanitarian Award from the Notre Dame Alumni Association. He was also awarded the Bronco Nagurski Legends award which recognized the best defensive football players in last 40 years. McCoy was inducted June 20, 2019 into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in Troy, Michigan, as he has significant Polish heritage on his mother’s side.
McCoy has served on the national Council on Sports for a Drug Free America and the Pennsylvania Council for Physical Fitness, as well as the Board of Directors of YMCA Camp High Harbour, Camp Hope in Georgia, Pro Athletes Outreach and Wisconsin Special Olympics.