French football? Oui for McCoy

Think it would be fun to strap on a football helmet and tackle a bunch of French guys named Henri or Philippe?

It is.

But the sheer enjoyment of being a brute isn't part of it. Central Gwinnett grad Caleb McCoy actually felt bad the first time he suited up for an American football game in France.

"A lot of the guys were scared of me when I first started playing," said the 6-foot-1, 230-pound McCoy, the son of a former NFL player. "We're still learning tackling and things like that, just going out there and hitting guys. It was a challenge at first."

Now it's a blast. And one final shot for the 26-year-old McCoy to be a football player.

He didn't think that was possible after a series of injuries and surgeries all but wiped out his football career at Central and two attempts at college football, most recently at Western State College of Colorado.

But he decided to give it a try last year when he saw a sign for American football near where he lives - he works at an outdoor excursions camp near Le Bourg-d'Oisans in the French Alps. It turned out the sign was for flag football and after a season of that, he discovered French teams were around that played legitimate, hitting-and-tackling American football.

He gave it a shot and now he's the starting middle linebacker, long snapper and defensive signal caller (at least what his French teammates can understand) for the Chambéry Eagles. He could play for Division I or II football in France for money, but opts to play for the Eagles and the friends he made during flag football season.

Twice a week, McCoy takes a two-hour train or bus trip from his mountain camp to Chambéry for practices. But it's been worth it.

"I'm glad I got the opportunity to (play) again, I'm having a blast with it," McCoy said. "They have three American football divisions in France and over 100 club teams. I didn't think American football was that big over here. But I'm impressed with the guys on our team. They're doing well for only playing a short time."

McCoy is enjoying the football, too. It's another nice hobby to go with the other perks of the Alps, like snow skiing and watching the mountainous Tour de France stage at nearby Alpe d'Huez.

Those perks were expected during his stay in France. A gridiron return wasn't.

"I could see myself getting more involved with this football thing," McCoy said. "I don't know how much longer I'll be playing. But whether it would be coaching or getting guys (from Europe) over to the states for training, I'm excited about it."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.