We know them as football players. But at the end of the day (and at the beginning and in-between, too), they are just people. First and foremost, they are people.
And if the HBO documentary series Hard Knocks, which goes behind the scenes of an NFL training camp, achieves anything, it shows football players as people.
Yes, we see them at work, where their moments are filled with competition, sweat and, sometimes, blood. But we're used to that. We see it on our televisions every Sunday.
What we're not used to seeing is how they spend the rest of their time away from work. It's there — away from the spotlight of the football field — where we get to see them as people. And we get to know them maybe just a little bit better.
We see them as doting fathers and loving husbands. We see them do regular things, like hanging at home or going bowling or fishing or even ballroom dancing.
These are the best moments of Hard Knocks. It's what makes the show so compelling. And, this year, it's even more interesting for those of us in Tampa Bay because HBO/NFL Film's show is following the Bucs.
The five-part series made its debut Tuesday night and, while we got to see cool practice footage, it was the stuff away from the field that was the best.
The show's star, unsurprisingly, was quarterback Jameis Winston and it only took moments into the first episode to realize that Winston was going to be a focal point. The show featuring the Tampa Bay Bucs didn't start in Tampa Bay, but in Bessemer, Ala., the home of Winston.
For those who don't know about Winston's upbringing, the program showed Winston's humble beginnings. In what was, by far, the most compelling part of the hour episode, Winston took cameras into his childhood home. He went into his old bedroom, which he shared with six others. The same bed, which once held Winston and two others, is still there.
Outside the house, Winston showed nothing but pride as he pointed to where men used to urinate when the bathroom was occupied. He also took time to point out a cockroach giving birth on the porch.
Real life. Real Jameis.
Quickly, and purposefully so, Hard Knocks jumped to the Tampa mansion of Gerald McCoy. This provided the most touching moments of the show. Say what you want about McCoy — and yes, he has his detractors — you only needed a few moments to realize what a good man he is. They say kids never lie and, it's obvious in how McCoy's children interact with their father, that McCoy is not only a proud father, but a good one. As he gave his twins a bath and then dressed them, you could see the kids' adoration for McCoy.