Steve Richardson

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy has designs on the perfect senior season and a national title

by Steve Richardson September 07, 2009 in Football

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Texas senior quarterback Colt McCoy grew up dreaming about playing college football at Abilene Christian where his father, Brad, once was a safety. That seemed like an appropriate goal for a skinny kid who was an all-sports star in the small West Texas town of Tuscola.

But after attending University of Texas summer football camps while he was in high school, McCoy re-focused on the Longhorns. He had watched Ricky Williams and Chris Simms develop and finally Vince Young play in Austin. He was getting better as a player and saw he could compete with the big-city kids from bigger high schools. He even once told Texas coach Mack Brown, “If you offer me, I am coming (to Texas).”
Brown eventually offered McCoy a scholarship, and the senior has etched his name among Texas’ past great players before he even enters his senior season. He already has set 42 school records. A 2008 Heisman Trophy runner-up for a 12-1 Texas team, McCoy has designs on making his senior season even better – a Big 12 championship, a national championship, with the possibility of winning the Heisman Trophy.

“I think his thought, honestly, is that he can do better than 76.7 percent (completion rate last season),” Brown said. “And that’s the best in the history of college football.”

The last-second 2008 loss to Texas Tech, 39-33, after McCoy put Texas ahead with a brilliant drive, dashed all those goals a year ago. Brown says: “That was his Heisman drive, his Heisman moment, but we did not win the game.” Yet when McCoy tested the NFL waters after his junior season, he decided it was better to be a senior with a chance to finish business than to be an NFL rookie always wondering what might have happened in 2009. 

“It was a hard choice, when your dream is to play in the NFL,” McCoy said of staying for his senior season. “…I made the decision and haven’t looked back.”

Since the journey to becoming the starting quarterback at Texas was such a long one, why not enjoy the spot on the top of the mountain? Brown said he always thought McCoy had the mental outlook to handle the signal-calling at Texas. He had to get bigger; he had to learn the system. And the small-town guy who is at home hunting and fishing and bailing hay on his grandfather’s farm needed to see the bright lights of Memorial Stadium in Austin and endure the pressure of Texas football.

“The question was, ‘Could he transfer it to playing before 100,000 people at Texas?’” Brown said of McCoy, whose father is head football coach at Graham High School.  The answer was a resounding yes.  Brown believes the transformation from the skinny kid who came in as a freshman from Tuscola until now “has been amazing.”

When McCoy first became the understudy for Vince Young during the 2005 national title season as a redshirt freshman, he weighed just 175 pounds. This season he stands, 6’2” and weighs 214 pounds, even gaining a few pounds since last season without losing any foot speed or agility.

“They said I looked like a skinned squirrel,” said McCoy, who remembers he was kiddingly told not to take his shirt off when he first arrived in 2005. “My locker was next to Vince Young’s,” he said. “He was 6’5” and 225 pounds. I thought, ‘What am I doing here?’  I played football, basketball, track and golf in high school, and there was not an off-season.” 

It was hard for him to put on weight or muscle because he was so active. He did a little weight training in high school, but it was not until he got to Texas he started to get serious about it.

Young became his mentor. He followed Young around like a little puppy dog. He told Young to call him or text him when he was working out, lifting weights or tossing the ball around.  McCoy was a like a sponge. If there was a meeting at offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ house, McCoy would follow. He was on the sidelines of the Rose Bowl when Young directed the Longhorns to the national title win over USC.

Now, McCoy is a fifth-year senior. The team has been his for three seasons. And he has built a 32-7 record as a starter. He has won more games than Young (30), who left after his junior season for the NFL. McCoy has never tried to compare himself to Young. Neither has Brown. He has built his own legend in his own way. And Brown sees the maturity in McCoy going into his senior year, when Brown says McCoy wants to minimize mistakes, hand the ball off to his running backs more effectively and manage the game better.  Seniors, veterans can do that.

Taking the Ohio State-Texas series as an example, Brown believes the team with a veteran quarterback wins the big game. Texas did with Vince Young in 2005. Ohio State did with Troy Smith in 2006. “And we did with Colt last year,” Brown said of the 24-21 victory over Ohio State in last season’s Tostitos Fiesta Bowl when McCoy tossed a touchdown pass with 16 seconds remaining to win the game.

McCoy is the model quarterback in more ways than one.

“He has a very strong faith,” Brown said. “He goes to church on Wednesday and Sunday. And he speaks in the church.”
He is UT’s most active player in community activities at hospitals, charities and churches. He spent the last two spring breaks doing missionary work in Peru. He’s the boy next door. He’s first-team Academic All-Big 12. He doesn’t drink carbonated beverages – just water and milk.

McCoy remains calm despite the demands. He has been asked to sign people’s foreheads, diapers, you name it. It’s hard to believe how much bigger a celebrity he could have been had Texas won the national title last year. But wistfully, McCoy doesn’t look back, only forward to his senior season.

“We can’t change it,” McCoy said of last season. “If we beat Texas Tech, we would have been there (for the national title).” 

And “there” in 2009 would be a date for the national championship on January 7 – back at the Rose Bowl, where McCoy already has seen it done Texas style.