Faith powers Texas quarterback and Heisman hopeful Colt McCoy

University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is already a household name to college football fans and has now reached the sport’s mountaintop. McCoy will lead the undefeated Longhorns into the BCS National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Jan. 7. Along the way he may pick up college football’s most coveted individual honor, the Heisman Trophy, next Saturday in New York. With all this to look forward to and all the success and notoriety he has already achieved on the gridiron, McCoy remains grounded in his faith. McCoy was raised in a traditional Christian household by his parents Brad and Debra. On his official UT bio he lists Brad as his biggest football influence, and with good reason. Brad coached Colt at Jim Ned High School in tiny Tuscola, Texas, where he led his team to a state championship his senior year. Brad is now the athletic director and football coach at Graham High School in Graham, Texas. Colt has been an active church member since his youth and has been noted for numerous community service efforts in Austin while at UT. It’s not by happenstance. “His faith is his base for everything,” Brad McCoy said. “It keeps him balanced so the highs of prominence and the lows of disappointment don’t really change his thoughts or actions. His faith makes him a stronger leader.” How deep the faith extends within the Texas team was apparent during Saturday night’s Big XII Championship Game. The Longhorns struggled all night against a stout Nebraska defense which limited McCoy to just 184 yards and uncharacteristic three interceptions. The Cornhuskers were buoyed by a late field goal which gave them a 12-10 lead. McCoy managed to throw the ball out of bounds with one second left to set up a 46-yard field goal try. In the biggest moment of his football life, kicker Hunter Lawrence had his nerved calmed by holder and All-American wide receiver Jordan Shipley. Shipley, who is McCoy’s roommate and a fellow Christian, quoted Jeremiah 17:7 – “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Lawrence’s kick was good and Texas escaped a monumental upset to advance to the title game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Even before this year’s magical run, McCoy’s circumstances were anything but ordinary. He passed up on becoming a likely first-round NFL pick to return to Texas this fall for his senior season. The rewards to date have been numerous. In addition to the Longhorns’ 12-0 record, McCoy’s statistics are robust despite the brick wall Nebraska threw in front of him. He’s completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 3,512 yards and 27 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. The numbers put him in line to return for a second consecutive year as a Heisman finalist. McCoy and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow were runners-up last year to Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford for the Heisman. In 2007, as a sophomore, Tebow won the Heisman. The signal-calling trio entered 2009 as the three odds-on favorites to compete for the sport’s top individual honor again this year, but the race has already changed dramatically. Bradford suffered a shoulder injury in a season-opening loss to BYU and was knocked out for the remainder of the season in the annual Red River Rivalry game against Texas in October. Tebow was spectacular for the Gators most of the season, eclipsing legendary Georgia running back Herschel Walker’s Southeastern Conference mark for career touchdowns. Tebow ran into a ferocious Alabama defense in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game and the team was unable to score in the second half of a 32-13 rout. The performance may cost Tebow any shot of repeating as his Heisman win two years ago as a sophomore, perhaps yielding to a current sophomore in Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who powered the Tide with 113 yards and three touchdowns against the Gators. Tebow’s father, Bob, has run the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association for decades, and Tim’s international mission trips and other Christian service work in Florida have consistently shone a national spotlight on his faith. McCoy’s off-the-field efforts haven’t been ignored in the public eye either, according to Suzanne Halliburton. Halliburton is the UT football beat writer for the Austin American-Statesman. “A lot of Longhorn players have done community service work,” Halliburton told Everyday Christian. “Some of it’s been associated with their class work. Other projects have continued after the class ended. And none of it’s been done for publicity. Texas has had five players travel abroad for mission work since March. “I think Colt wants to give back because he feels blessed. He’s probably done more community service work than any quarterback I’ve covered.” Part of that identity has been forged by mission trips the past two years to Peru. Brad McCoy said it has grounded his son in dramatic ways. “The one major thing Colt has learned from his Peru experiences is that he will never complain about his life here in America,” Brad said. “The poverty of the kids he worked with was overwhelming but their attitude of happiness was what amazed him. “He said most people don’t have a clue how people in this world live and the conditions they survive under. It gave him a great perspective on his circumstances and how much we all have and sometimes are not thankful for. He is very mindful of our blessings.” Halliburton concurred. “What strikes me when I talk to him about the trips is the sense of how much joy and satisfaction he’s received from helping others,” she said. “He told me about the first trip a couple of days before he left. Then it took me six weeks to get him to sit down for an interview. He was pounded with classes and finals. “My point is he didn’t do it for the publicity or a Heisman hook. He just signed up for it and did it. Then he quietly went back.” The often intangible leadership qualities which blossomed out of his mission experiences are apparent to Brad. “He has worked to be the kind of person others want to follow most of his life,” Brad said. “He has seen the strengths of great leaders and the weaknesses of negative leaders and is a great learner. His character has been shaped by his experiences growing up. His maturity, personality and faith have all played a big part in his role at UT as the team leader.” Brad and Debra are obviously important members of that fan base, and it’s their own faith that allows them to tamp down their nerves about watching their son perform on an elite level. “If it were not for our faith, his mom and I couldn’t watch like we do,” Brad said. “We are very proud of the player he is but more important the man he has become. We pray for his health and safety and have to have faith that he will be blessed. “It is a tough game and we know that, but we also know that God has a purpose for us all according to his calling and our family will always try to put that calling first in our lives, and Colt is a big part of the family.” The next stop for Colt is undoubtedly the NFL. As a likely high first-round pick in next April’s draft, he’ll stand to be a multi-millionaire almost overnight. Brad said he has already spoken to high-profile Christians with long NFL backgrounds for guidance in advance of the life-changing transition. He said Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and recently retired Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy are role models, and Brad indicated Colt has spoken to at least one of them. “I feel that Colt will always use his stature as a football player as a platform to identify Jesus Christ as the savior of the world,” Brad said “He was an advocate in high school, in college and I know without a doubt he will do the same in the NFL if God chooses to use him in that venue. “He understands he has been blessed with a talent and believes he should give it all back to his maker. He has taken notice of those guys that are already there and their influence in the league and how they live their lives and stand up for their faith. Some of those you mentioned have contacted Colt let him know the same thing, and to encourage him to stay the course and continue to play and live with faith and character.” Link: University of Texas bio for Colt McCoy: http://www.mackbrown-texasfootball.com/sports/m-footbl/mtt/mccoy_colt00.html

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