The inside story of the visit that sold Gerald McCoy on the Panthers

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CHARLOTTE – In recruiting, it’s always nice to have the last word.

The Panthers, who competed with the Browns and Ravens for Gerald McCoy's signature, were in that position last Friday.

The former Buccaneer took his third and final team visit to Carolina, and it was a chance for the Panthers to make their pitch to the prized free agent.

There was no red (or in this case, blue) carpet rolled out. No extravagant show put on to woo the six-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman.

The Panthers essentially told McCoy, “This is what we’re about. Join us if you think it’s right for you.”

After arriving in Charlotte on Thursday evening, McCoy's first stop Friday was breakfast with the head coach.

Ron Rivera, who has coached against McCoy for nearly a decade, took him to Famous Toastery.

“He had the breakfast potatoes, fruit and oatmeal,” Rivera said. “I went avocado toast.”

Rivera and McCoy then spent some time familiarizing themselves. It was casual, and Rivera kept it simple.

“I really tried to focus in on us as a football team and where he would fit for us,” Rivera said. “We weren’t going to talk about the other teams or anything like that that he was considering; we talked about the type of team we are, the type of culture we have and how he would fit for us and the benefits of him being here in Carolina.”

From there, McCoy went to the facility and underwent a physical exam. Then he met with defensive coordinator Eric Washington and defensive line coach Sam Mills III and talked some ball.

Then it was time for lunch with future teammates. Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, Shaq Thompson, Christian McCaffrey, Trai Turner and Kawann Short met up with McCoy at Fern – a vegan restaurant specially chosen for their vegan visitor. McCoy later joked that some of the big guys -- Turner and Short -- had some trouble with the menu.

Here’s what some of those who attended the lunch said about it:

McCaffrey: “We just sat down and got to know each other. We were just being ourselves. We told him how it is, told him how we operate and talked about our vision. He’s a great guy, and his goals align with ours.”

Turner: “It was cool. I’ve had the chance to hang out with him at a couple Pro Bowls, so I already knew him. It was cool to see all the guys around each other to get the vibe. It matched.”

Kuechly: “I think he saw that the guys on our team are close. We had offensive guys and defensive guys there. Some older guys, some younger guys. Everybody had fun and joked around. That’s what makes the game worthwhile. I think he saw that with our group.”

Once lunch wrapped up, McCoy went back to the stadium and spent some time with general manager Marty Hurney and other staff members. The team’s receptionist received a big hug from the 6-foot-4, 300-pound All-Pro on his way out.

By 3 p.m., he was on his way back home.

The only thing left to do was wait through the weekend.

“I thought we had a good shot,” Turner said, “but you never know.”

Just before 6 p.m. Monday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter broke the news that Panther fans had been wishing for.

McCoy picked Carolina.

“We’re all ecstatic,” McCaffrey said.

At his intro presser, McCoy referenced the lunch, and the effort put in by McCaffrey and others to be there, as the moment things truly began to tip in Carolina's favor.

"We just had instant chemistry," McCoy said. "I left that lunch feeling like I could fit right in here."

View photos of the newly signed defensive lineman as he officially becomes a Carolina Panther.

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