As one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NCAA history, Colt McCoy led the University of Texas to the 2010 BCS National Championship Game only to see his hopes dashed thanks to an early injury exit. Now playing in the NFL with the Washington Redskins, McCoy has been both a starter and a backup in multiple stops that stretch from coast to coast.
Through all of the ups and downs, he has always managed to stay upbeat and positive. Growing up in the small town of Tuscola, Texas, and going on mission trips to Peru has certainly helped keep McCoy grounded in every circumstance.
In this CSJ conversation with managing editor Chad Bonham, the two-time All-American, two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, and two-time Walter Camp Award winner talks about lessons he’s learned from his father, how traveling overseas has changed him, and why relationships—especially the most important one with God—are the only things in life that really matter.
Chad Bonham: In your book Growing Up Colt, you talk a lot about your relationship with your father and how much he’s helped you throughout your life. What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned from him?
Colt McCoy: One of the things that’s stuck with me is “Do your best.” My parents preached that to me over and over. My best might be a B in math class in fifth grade then they were happy for me and proud of me. But if my best was an A-plus, then that’s what they expected from me. That’s a small example, but that applied to anything I did in sports. Having my dad as my (high school) coach allowed those principles to set in: “do your best” and “be a leader.” Those things have definitely stuck with me.
Bonham: How did going on mission trips while playing at Texas change your perspective on life?
McCoy: I was fortunate to go to Peru twice—close to the same place both times. It was definitely a wonderful experience. The lesson I learned the most was to not take things for granted. We are so blessed here in the United States. I’m so blessed as a person, as an athlete. God has created several opportunities for me. I don’t take those for granted at all. I work really heard but I also understand it’s not just me that makes things happen. God is in control. On those mission trips, I learned a lot about how much I have. It put a lot of things in perspective—especially coming from the University of Texas where everywhere you go people know who you are and want to take a picture and get an autograph. But there, nobody knows who you are. That was the coolest thing. You go there and you’re the same person as they are. And that’s exactly how God sees us through His eyes. I went with the attitude that I was going to give back. I was going to do something for those kids. But really, on my way back, I realized it was them that showed me something. I learned so much and got so much more than I could ever give back.
Bonham: How often do you reminisce about coming from such a small town and then going on to achieve some pretty big things?
McCoy: I don’t think about that as much as you’d think—very rarely. But sometimes I catch myself thinking back to high school and where I grew up and where I’m from and the places I’ve had the opportunity to go. It’s a crazy story. There’s no question God has had His hand in this. I’ve tried to lean on the relationships I’ve formed over the last several years—whether that’s my parents and the lessons and the values they tried to instill in me growing up or all my friends or in my relationship with the Lord. Those relationships are what get me through down times and even the up times. Those people are going to be there for me no matter what.
Bonham: In which scenario have you faced the most pressure—battling against Oklahoma in the Red River rivalry or taking a snap against the New England Patriots?
McCoy: It’s a thrill to have been able to play in four Red River Shootouts and win three of them. It’s also been a thrill to be a quarterback in the NFL. Every time I step on the field, I thank God for allowing me to be one of the few guys that gets to do this in the whole world. When I think about it that way, I feel privileged to do what I do. Yeah, I work extremely hard. I have such high expectations for myself. But at the same time, I wouldn’t be where I am without Him preparing this path that I’m on right now. I just pray that I’ll continue to do it to the best of my ability and do it for His glory.
Bonham: How does your faith help sustain you throughout all the challenges that come your way?
McCoy: There’s definitely some ups and downs. You have to lean on the relationships around you. Just look at the greatest leader that ever lived—Jesus Christ. You study His life. He spent three years with His disciples. He poured His life into those 12 guys. He studied, He worked, and He prayed with those guys for three years. Then He released them into the world. For me, I need to lean on those relationships that He’s provided for me. That’s my family. That’s my friends. Those are the ones that are really close to me. That’s what I do in the NFL. I love playing football, but without those relationships and without those principles that my parents taught me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve faced some challenges, but that’s what I lean on—my family and my faith. That’s what gets me through tough times.
Bonham: How do you balance your competitive drive with your desire to please God and put Him first?
McCoy: It’s an easy balance. I’m sure Jesus was a competitive person. Look at the life of Paul. He was competitive. I compete. I compete hard. I’m a competitive person. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have that drive. But it’s easy to separate. On the football field, it’s what I feel like I’m supposed to be doing. I have this special opportunity to be great at something and I put all I have into it. At the same time, I want to put that same effort into my wife and our marriage and our family. There’s a fine line between those things, but I’ve done it for a long time and I know how it’s supposed to work. I’m not always perfect at it. I mess up all the time. But I am a competitive person. Whether it’s playing football in the NFL or a card game with my family. I want to win.
(Photos: Keith Allison; NFL via AP Photos; McCoy family, University of Texas Athletic Department)