(October 31, 2011) Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy is only in his second year in the NFL, but he has already surprised many critics by his ability to compete better than most people thought he would.
Colt credits his ability to play beyond expectations to his upbringing. He says his parents and his faith have been crucial in the development of his drive to be a real leader on the field.
Let’s take a look at the values that have made him who he is.
Although Colt McCoy is considered a true Texan, he was actually born in New Mexico. His dad was beginning a career as a high school coach, and the first job he found was in New Mexico. Brad McCoy (Colt’s dad) has repeated claimed that in order to save Colt’s Texas pedigree he placed a plate full of Texas soil under the hospital bed where his wife gave birth to Colt.
No one knows if this is a true story or just Mr. McCoy telling a Texas long tale, but the family has strong roots in Texas.
Both Colt’s dad and his mom had been successful athletes at Abilene Christian University in Texas. Once they were married his mom opted to stay home and dedicate herself to her husband and children. It was not always easy because it meant less money for the family, but Colt’s mom loved having lots of time for her boys and her husband. (Brad and Debra McCoy have three children: all boys.) Although Brad did not pressure her to make this option, he was totally supportive of her choice.
Both Colt’s mom and dad have a strong Christian faith. Church activities and family prayer were a big part of Colt’s life as he grew up. One of his favorite activities as a boy was participating in a church-sponsored family camp each summer. There he made lots of friends and had all sorts of small adventures.
One of his friends from camp later became his top pass receiver at the University of Texas: Jordan Shipley. Jordan is now an NFL player for the Cincinnati Bengals. He and Colt are still close friends today.
Colt’s dad believed in modeling the type of man he wanted his sons to be. He worked hard to be a good provider but also a man who spent a lot of time with his wife and children.
No easy lunch
Colt’s dad also believed that it was good training to allow his sons to face challenges. He says that parents should prepare children for the path, not the path for their children. That included helping them learn the value of hard work. He taught the boys how to help in the family farm owned by Colt’s grandfather. Colt spent many weekends and evenings there doing his part. He actually enjoyed the hard work.
Growing up on sports
As a boy, Colt also spent many afternoons with his dad as his dad coached high school athletes. The boy loved to play on the sidelines while the “big guys” practiced. He also loved to sit in on the discussions with the coaches and players about strategy for the games.
Once during an important football game the young boy grabbed his dad’s sleeve and begged his dad to run a certain play at a difficult moment in the game. His dad consulted with the other coaches, and they actually thought the play was a good idea. They called the play. It turned out be a key play in the game.
But not all Colt’s ideas had immediate success. When he was six years old he begged his dad to allow him to participate in a steer riding competition for boys his age. It was held at at the county rodeo. Colt wanted to win a cowboy belt they were offering as a prize. (Farmyard note: Steers are bulls that have been castrated. Genetically, they are bulls, but the castration makes them less aggressive and less dangerous than bulls.)
His dad warned him that the steers were very big and that he would get scared. Colt insisted he could do it.
Colt won the first round of the competition and advanced to the final, but when he saw the big crowds at the final and saw the falls some other boys his age were taking he became scared and begged his dad to let him withdraw.
His dad had already told Colt that once he entered the competition he could not withdraw if he became scared. He insisted that Colt needed to learn to think about his commitments and keep them once he made them.
The six year old boy cried and begged not to go the final competition.
His mom of course did not want the boy to take part once she say how scared her little boy was.
But Colt’s dad felt it was important that Colt learn to keep his commitments. He literally carried the crying boy to the pen where the steer was waiting and placed him on the large animal (huge by a six year old boy’s standards, but actually pretty small as far as steers go).
Once the gate opened the scared boy managed to hold onto the steer long enough to win the competition, but he also took a hard bump as he fell off the steer. He cut his lip and the steer stepped on him. He was bruised and crying. Of course his dad immediately had his little boy in his arms, but Colt had quite a scare.
Still, he had stayed on the steer longer than any of the other boys, so, in spite of his soreness and tears, he had won.
Brad McCoy, Colt’s dad, explains that his wife was so mad at him for putting the boy in harm’s way that she made her husband sleep on the couch for about a week. We don’t know if this is true or another Texas tale Brad invented, but we get the point… Don’t mess with Mom.
Nevertheless, Colt credits the experience as one of his barrier-breaking moments. He was able to do what he thought was impossible, and he learned the importance of thinking out his decisions carefully and following up on them. (Pain can sometimes jump-start your brain…although not always…)
Practice makes perfect
Colt’s dad would not let his son play competitive football during elementary school, although he did encourage the boy to take part in other sports. Colt loved the excitement of any competition. He also enjoyed practicing. During those elementary school years he practiced basketball and baseball over and over again in his free time, and he did very well in both sports.
Colt had already decided that when he played football he wanted to play quarterback. He was always playing catch with his friends. As he entered junior high he worked very hard at improving his throw and developing other football skills.
His skills began to develop. But his dad had always insisted that, win or lose, Colt had to show character and compassion in everything he did. He insisted that real leadership was about service, not showmanship. He said that Colt had to be a leader in schoolwork and respect for others before he could be a leader on the football field.
Colt tried to work hard on these things. His close relationship with his dad and the rest of his family helped him internalize these principles.
A deeper commitment
Colt also felt that he had to grow in his relationship with Christ. As he entered his teenage years he asked his parents permission to make a more public commitment to his faith. In his Christian church a member is not baptized until he or she has reached the use of reason and specifically asks to be baptized.
(Note: As Catholics we are usually baptized as infants. The Catholic Church and our parents do this in order to give us the gift of a full relationship with Christ from the first moments of our lives. But, like every important value in our lives, we have to recommit to this relationship as we grow. Our First Communion and our Confirmation are key moments in this growth. Still, we have to work on our relationship with God every day of our lives. Weekly Mass, regular Confession, and daily prayer time also help us in this.)
At the age of 14 Colt was officially baptized. He credits the moment of his baptism as one of the key moments in his growth as a human being and as a Christian.
Skepticism and success
Colt developed well as a quarterback in junior high and high school, yet some of the big college recruiters were skeptical. Colt played at a small high school. He did not face the level of competition that quarterbacks at the big Texas high schools faced. He also was not as physically big as they would have liked, even though Colt worked very hard on strength training and weight lifting.
Yet no one could deny that this enthusiastic small-town boy was breaking records as a quarterback. And those who saw him play in person or on film were extremely impressed by the accuracy of his passes and his leadership both on and off the field.
Longhorns or bust
Colt began to receive offers from many of the big colleges around the country, but he had his heart set on the University of Texas. When he was offered a scholarship there he jumped at the chance.
Still, he did not get a chance to play his first year, the 2005-2006 season. The star quarterback was Vince Young, who was setting all kinds of records as a quarterback. Vince lead the team to the national championship and scored the winning touchdown.
Although Colt did not play that season, Vince was very kind to him and made Colt a big part of his life. He told Colt that he would lead the team once he finished at Texas.
Vince finished at Texas sooner than Colt was expecting. Even though Vince was a junior, after the championship game in January 2006 he announced that he was entering the NFL draft. Colt would get his chance the very next season.
Still, there was another challenge. The University of Texas had recruited another star quarterback that season. His name was Jason Snead. Jason had set all kinds of records in high school, and was favored by many sports experts to take the starting position at Texas.
Colt worked very hard in the off-season, both in personal training and in helping his teammates train. The coaches watched carefully as spring training and summer training developed. They chose Colt as the starting quarterback. Colt did not let them down.
In his four years as the starting quarterback for Texas Colt broke the NCAA record for the most wins ever by a college quarterback. Although he never won the national championship as a starter, he lead his team to very close to the top every year, and was in the running for the Heisman Trophy several times.
The bigger game
But college is not just about football, even if you are a star quarterback. College is a time when we face new challenges in a new atmosphere, so let’s rewind a moment to what Colt experienced as he began college.
Colt had come from a very close-knit and Christian family. The University of Texas was a famous party school, not always conduce to Christian values. Many situations on campus were extremely challenging for Colt’s faith and values.
Among those challenges were the easy relationships that girls on campus offered him. Colt often found that a large number of girls were very interested in a relationship with the football players. All the students on campus had access to his dorm. The girls were often quite aggressive, leaving notes and knocking on his door as he was trying to sleep.
The notes were very suggestive, and it was hard for Colt to say no. He had to dig deep in his soul if he wanted to stay true to his decision to wait until marriage.
He would often call his family late at night in order to get their help and emotional support in his effort to live up to his commitment.
He also tried to surround himself with friends on campus who supported his lifestyle. Among the organizations he joined, he especially credits the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a key source of friendship and support for him.
Still, it was very difficult. After a year of constant late-night knocks and notes, he and his dad convinced his coach to let him live off campus.
Eventually they found a family near campus that had a small apartment over their garage. They were willing to let Colt and his buddy Jordan Shipley live there. It turned out that the family was very supportive of Colt’s values and faith, and the McCoy family and the host family became very close friends.
Still, Colt was looking for the girl he wanted to marry. One day at practice when he was getting ready to begin his junior year in college a very attractive, college-age reporter took part in the after-practice interviews. He had given many interviews, but this girl caught his eye.
He began to discreetly ask about her.
She went to another school: Baylor University, and was doing an internship as a sports reporter. Her good looks were also complimented by a kind, caring personality. But Colt could not ask her out in front of other reporters. Things would get public too quickly.
Eventually, Colt was able to find her on Facebook. He got up his nerve to ask for her phone number. She was very cautious, but allowed him to have her number.
When Colt called to ask for a date, again she was very cautious. She agreed only on the condition that a friend of hers come along. Colt agreed. At least it was a date.
As they got to know each other better over the next months, Colt fell deeply in love with this girl. Her name was Rachel Glandorf. Besides being strikingly beautiful she was also very committed to her Christian faith and to family values.
Colt knew this was the girl for him.
(DTR: Define The Relationship)
As things started to get more serious, Colt and Rachel had an honest and humble conversation about their budding relationship. Colt asked her for help in waiting until marriage before they became physically intimate. (For those of you who are slow on the uptake, that means sex.)
It wasn’t easy for Colt to talk about these things with such a pretty girl, but he wanted the romance to get off on the right foot. He admitted that he was very attracted to her, but that he would need her help in avoiding situations in which they could go too far.
Rachel also felt the same way, and Colt’s honesty about his own values, coupled with the respect for her that he showed, made her fall even more in love with him.
Love and commitment
Soon the University of Texas news was abuzz about this pretty girl who was sitting next to Colt’s parents at the games. It quickly became know that she was Colt’s girlfriend.
Colt proposed to her shortly after finishing his senior season. That’s a cool story in itself, but for the sake of brevity we will skip it here.
Rachel and Colt were married that summer after he graduated. They had a short but beautiful honeymoon in the Bahamas (short because Colt had to report for NFL training camp) and now live in Cleveland during the football season, where Colt plays for the Browns.
With the Browns
Colt has done well as quarterback for the Browns. He and the team have managed to pull off a number of upsets over teams that were ranked higher than them. Although the Browns are not yet a winning team, by most NFL standards Colt is playing extremely well.
The skepticism that Colt faced when entering the NFL had to do with his size. He is slightly shorter than many successful NFL quarterbacks, but he has proven that he can play with the best of them.
More than football
Still, Colt knows that life is more than football. Both in college and as a pro he has dedicated quite a bit of time to volunteer work. At the University of Texas he regularly visited children in cancer wards and eventually convinced many of his teammates to join him in this work. Also in college he dedicated his last two spring breaks to missionary trips in the Amazon where he worked with children who lived in extreme poverty. Back in Texas he was also very active as a volunteer speaker at youth groups throughout his college career. He has stepped up his charitable work even more as a professional athlete.
Colt has also had to face disappointment in his football career.
One of those disappointments was the BCS championship game in January 2010. Colt had led the University of Texas team successfully to an undefeated season. The BCS championship game was against number one rated Alabama.
Colt was injured early in the game and could not play the rest of it.
It was a tremendous disappointment to him and the team.
Texas lost in a close game.
As Colt was leaving the field at the end of the game a reporter stopped Colt and asked him a tough question: “….Colt, what was it like for you to watch this game – the last game in (a college) uniform – from the sideline.”
Colt had been fighting back tears of disappointment the whole game. The reporter’s question jump-started all sorts of conflicting emotions within his heart. But he knew he had to answer the question.
He started to answer twice, stammering “I..I..” before stopping to compose himself. He said a quick prayer. Then he took another long moment to gather himself before he answered. Here’s what he said:
“I…I love this game. I have a passion for this game. I’ve done everything I can to contribute to my team, and we made it this far. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to play. I would have given everything I had to be out there with my team. … I always give God the glory. I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life, and I know that if nothing else, I am standing on the Rock.”
To accept loss with graciousness is not easy. It is a sign of having the right priorities. But it is never easy. That sort of inner strength is only built up through a personal search for a deeper meaning in life.
In spite of having tremendous success in football Colt McCoy has been able to find that deeper meaning in life. Colt has found it in his relationship with Christ and in the values his family has tried to offer him. This is something that lasts well beyond the adrenaline rush of an exciting game. It is something that can weather even the toughest storms.
Let’s pray that Colt continues to show us that strength. It strengthens all of us.
(Note: Much information for this story is drawn from the book Growing Up Colt : A Father, a Son, a Life in Football by Colt and Brad McCoy, Barbour Publishers, 2011)