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A nice read on a hated rival

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Just when you think you’ve read everything there is to know about a high-profile athlete, a story comes along with all sorts of new information.

This one about Texas quarterback Colt McCoy came across my desk today. It was sent in an e-mail by the Texas sports information office, which is really promoting the heck out of the Heisman Trophy candidate this week. A day or so ago, it sent out an e-mail with statistical comparisons for McCoy, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Stanford running back Toby Gerhart and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore.

McCoy has a chance to make a great closing argument to win the Heisman in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game, but regardless of that, this is an interesting tale of a current star in the Lone Star State and his relationship with a star of the past.

Check it out:

Colt & The Cowboy: Staubach mentors UT’s McCoy

By Jim Vertuno, Associated Press


AUSTIN, Texas — Roger Staubach grabbed a football and handed it to Colt McCoy.

One of the top-rated passers in NFL history wanted to see if the college kid was as good in person as he looked on TV. McCoy rifled the ball back to him, and Staubach was impressed.

“He passed my test,” Staubach said with a laugh.

And it wasn’t just the arm strength. It was release. It was touch.

“He could do it all,” Staubach told The Associated Press.

Three years after that first meeting, Staubach, the former Heisman Trophy winner, Super Bowl winner, Hall of Famer and all-around Texas icon has become a valuable friend, mentor and occasional golf partner for McCoy, the senior quarterback of the No. 3 Texas Longhorns.

Four decades apart in age, they seldom talk about plays, players or what things were like back in Staubach’s day. Their bond is membership in the fraternity of quarterbacks who’ve come through under a white-hot spotlight, with similar playing styles.

For McCoy, being able to share ideas on leadership and to ask questions about what it takes to get a team to trust and follow has been invaluable.

Staubach has helped keep him grounded despite his success and picked him up when things were tough – just one quarterback to another, advice from someone who’d been there.

“He wants me to be the best I can be,” McCoy told the AP. “How lucky am I to get that?”

The friendship began in 2006 after Staubach watched McCoy play on TV his freshman season. Staubach saw a young, eager kid who could throw, run and rally his team to victories.

“He told me I was the closest thing to him he had seen in a long time. He thinks I play just like him,” McCoy said. “He’s a stud. He’s been through it all. For him to say something like that to me gives me a lot of confidence.”

Struck by how McCoy handled himself on the field and in interviews, Staubach wanted to meet him. So he invited McCoy to his house in Horseshoe Bay and they started with a game of catch.

“I think he got a kick out of seeing that I could still throw a football,” the 67-year-old Staubach said.

Then came a round of golf and another test, this time of McCoy’s nerves.

At the first tee, Staubach said, “You’re up.”

“When Roger Staubach gives you honors off the first tee box, you better pipe one right down the middle,” the 23-yar-old McCoy said. “I think I did.”

McCoy recognizes that he’s made friends with a legend of the Lone Star State. No Cowboys player is more revered than the quarterback who played in four Super Bowls with Dallas and won two. McCoy grew up in small towns in West Texas, where Staubach and his No. 12 – the same number McCoy wears – are hallowed.

“My dad and my granddad, they all talk about Roger Staubach. I was raised on the Cowboys,” McCoy said. “I never really saw him play, but I know he was an athlete playing quarterback.”

Staubach watches all of McCoy’s games and e-mails notes of encouragement. He also has been a shoulder to lean on.

In 2008, McCoy was runner-up for the Heisman. Texas entered the 2009 season ranked No. 3 and expectations were high for McCoy and the team.

Although the Longhorns won, McCoy struggled. He threw interceptions. He battled the flu. Texas beat rival Oklahoma 16-13 but McCoy had one of the worst games of his career and was all but written off as a Heisman contender.

At his lowest point, McCoy asked himself, “What do I do this for? If this is my passion, why am I not having any fun?”

A conversation with Staubach helped shed his frustration.

Staubach told him to quit trying to be perfect. Focus on being a leader. As a quarterback, that is his most important job.

“We just talked basics. Sometimes you try to hard, thinking you have to do it all and you just don’t. You’ve just got to take over when the team needs you to. So much was expected of him,” Staubach said.

Others had told McCoy the same thing. But hearing it from Staubach was different, McCoy said, because as a former Cowboys quarterback, he could relate to the pressure better than anyone else.

“I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve become so close is because we can relate to each other,” McCoy said. “We were good enough to be winning. I was just putting myself in a hole and wasn’t leading my team like I should. I reached out to him.

“He said, ‘Have fun. Embrace the moment. Your teammates know you love to play. Make sure they can trust you,”‘ McCoy said. “When it comes from Roger Staubach, the original No. 12, that’s when it takes over.”

Re-energized, McCoy has been on a tear ever since.

Over Texas’ last six games, McCoy has passed for 1,791 yards and 16 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Texas’ 51-20 romp over Kansas was career win No. 43 for McCoy, setting an NCAA career record for starting quarterbacks.

In last week’s 49-39 victory over Texas A&M, he passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 165 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown. It was the first time in school history anyone passed for 300 yards and ran for 100 in a game, and the Longhorns needed every bit to hold off their rival and keep alive hopes for a national championship.

“I was a good runner, but if I had his speed I would have really been something,” Staubach said.

That performance catapulted McCoy back into the front of the chase for the Heisman Trophy. The Longhorns play Nebraska on Saturday night for the Big 12 championship. If Texas wins, the Longhorns are likely headed to the BCS championship game.

The Heisman Trophy ballots are due next week and the ceremony is Dec. 12 in New York.

Staubach, who won the Heisman at Navy in 1963, is voting for McCoy. He rarely goes to the ceremony and will be at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia that day, but says he’ll try to jump the train to get to New York in time.

“It’s a nice thing to have in your life. People come over to my house and ask if they can see the Heisman. They don’t ask to see anything else,”

Staubach said.

“He’s going to get my vote. He’s epitomized leadership and winning. He’s been, I think, the finest quarterback in the country.”


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Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›