He didn’t even know what he’d said. He hadn’t prepared for it, and, truthfully, the whole thing was just a blur. He’d had enough on his plate at the moment without trying to recall what he’d said in front of the cameras.
As University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy sat in his hotel room after losing to Alabama in the Jan. 7, 2010, BCS National Championship game, he thought long and hard about what had happened. The loss itself was painful enough, but it was just one battle he was fighting inside. The other was why he’d not even had the chance to compete in the game.
“You hate to ask the question of why, but inevitably you do,” said Brad McCoy, who’d watched from the stands as his son—the Longhorns’ record-breaking senior quarterback—was taken down by the Alabama defense just five plays into the game and forced to the sidelines with an injured passing arm. “That was such a hard time in our lives. Colt had tried to do the right things and be such a positive example. You never want to ask why, but we all kind of wondered how could it be God’s will that it be taken away.”
Everything had seemed so perfect, like McCoy had been destined for this. He’d been the quarterback of the team for four years. He’d been a Heisman finalist twice. He’d set both national and school records. And he had done it right. He’d been the picture of a positive role model—especially in the Christian community—always willing to share how Christ was the Lord of his life and how He could change the lives of others, too. McCoy had led his team with integrity, kept his academics up, reached out through ministries like FCA and gone on mission trips. Surely it was destiny that he would be rewarded with a national title. It would be the perfect ending to a sports fairy tale.
So, why had it happened this way? It didn’t seem fair.
"..if all of these things wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have such a full, complete trust in Him.” – Colt McCoy
But Colt McCoy’s fairy tale was actually just beginning. Hans Christian Andersen might not have penned it this way, but there was a divine Author writing the story that night.
In a personal rock-bottom moment, experiencing deep physical and emotional pain, Colt McCoy met God where He was at work—not where McCoy thought He should be. Instead of praising Christ while holding a trophy like he’d hoped, the battered quarterback stood in front of a national TV audience in a postgame interview and told the nation, “God’s in control of my life and, if nothing else, I’m standing on the Rock.”
“That was actually one of the biggest events in my life as far as being able to make a difference and do what God has called me to do,” said McCoy, whose injury wound up being a pinched nerve in his throwing shoulder. “I can’t take credit for it at all. It’s what was supposed to happen, and I just thank God I handled it the way He wanted me to handle it.”
Up in the stands, Brad McCoy’s phone exploded with text messages and voicemails, all offering praise for his son’s witness. But Brad and Debra McCoy didn’t see the postgame interview. They were still sitting in their seats trying to understand what had just happened. In fact, they remained there long after the game was over until stadium personnel finally asked them to leave. When they joined their brokenhearted son in his hotel room, it was almost 2 a.m.
“I heard you had a pretty good interview after the game,” Brad said to his son, who looked puzzled at the news. “What did you say?”
“I’m really not sure,” McCoy replied.
Again, his father urged him, “No, I heard it was really awesome. What did you say?”
“Honestly, I wasn’t prepared for the question they asked me,” he said. “I just pray I answered it right.”
To say McCoy hadn’t prepared the speech would be accurate. To say that he wasn’t prepared to give it would not. His years of walking with the Lord, of growing in spiritual wisdom and understanding, and relying on Christ to guide and direct his life had been the preparation.
“How he found those words at that time was amazing and an obvious work of the Holy Spirit,” Brad said. “But Colt’s a believer. He reads his Bible every night, and he studies, so he was definitely prepared. It was just the timing and the situation. It was probably the most profound message that could have been delivered at the time. He could have won the national championship and been MVP and he never would have had an impact on the millions of people who watched that take place after a loss.”
Had Walt Disney been scripting the story, the happily-everafter would have involved McCoy’s immediate reward for his faith. He would have been miraculously healed, highly drafted, offered a multi-million dollar contract, and given a starting position in the NFL. But clearly McCoy’s calling in life wasn’t to show the world an example of how things were “supposed” to go. If anything, since that game, his life has looked less like a Disney movie and more like one of Lewis Carroll’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which each new step has begged a response to the unexpected.
Already considered an undersized quarterback by the NFL, a healthy McCoy would have been a risky first-round draft pick, but there had been teams willing to take a chance. Now that he was “damaged,” however, they seemed less ready to gamble.
So, on April 22, 2010, just four months after the championship game, McCoy and his family sat through one of the longest 24-hour periods of their lives, watching two rounds of the NFL Draft go by without any takers. Finally, on day two, the Cleveland Browns, a rebuilding team with a new coaching staff, called his name.
Team McCoy (L to R): Rachel, Colt, Brad, Debra, Case and Chance
“That was such a tough couple of days,” said Brad, recalling how he’d watched his son struggle as each team passed him up more than once. “We were excited when the Browns took him, but the waiting was brutal. It was really a challenge for Colt, but, when he finally had his team, he was ready and eager to embrace them.”
But McCoy’s waiting period wasn’t over. Right from the start, the Browns told McCoy he would be spending the first year on the sidelines, learning their system instead of playing. He would be the third-string quarterback behind Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme and have to face another new challenge in sitting the bench. When added to the fact that McCoy—an eager-to-play, natural leader—was also a rookie on a new team and in a different city, the perfect storm seemed to be brewing for a breakdown.
But as a student of God’s Word, McCoy dug in his heels and chose once more to stand on the Rock he’d claimed back in January. Yes, he admits it was hard, but McCoy clung to the truth, trusted God and began working to find his niche.
“My mentality toward it was to accept the role, but not lollygag around and not get any better,” McCoy said. “I worked hard. I trained and studied so that if there was a chance to play, I was going to be ready.”
Apart from the game, those around the first-year quarterback saw another inner conflict weighing on McCoy’s mind regarding how to find his ministry without being a team leader.
“One thing that was evident right away was how important his faith was to him and his desire to share that with his teammates,” said Browns chaplain Tom Petersburg, who has served in the role for 32 years. “Colt really had to learn how to share his faith and reach out without being ‘the guy,’ which was a very different scenario for somebody who had been out in front for so long.”
It was foreign territory for McCoy, whose only hope for a fairy tale now was to power through the challenge, keep his faith, and, through divine circumstances, let God raise him up according to His plan.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Though, to set the record straight, this is no fairy tale. It’s a real testimony of faith and God’s perfect timing.
|Putting It in Writing|
This summer, Colt and Brad McCoy, along with author Mike Yorkey, released their first book, Growing up Colt, through Barbour Publishing.
“I had wanted to write a book someday, but I certainly wasn’t thinking it would be any time soon,” McCoy said. “This book outlines some of my life and the things that have shaped me. My dad helps give life principles through what he tried to do when I was growing up. Obviously, we’re not perfect, but there were things he and my mom tried to teach me and my brothers at a young age that I really appreciate now. We just hope those stories can help others do the same.”
Along with Growing up Colt, Brad McCoy’s individual release Home Field Advantage,
which serves as a “parenting/father-son-type book” also hit the market recently, launching on June 18.
“Both books have been a joy to write for our family,” Brad said. “We’ve learned a lot through the years, and we just pray that our story can help others.”
Said McCoy, “I’m living proof.”
While it had been a most unpredictable road less traveled, McCoy’s day arrived midway through the season when, in an odd turn of events, both Wallace and Delhomme went down with ankle injuries, causing the Browns to call the number of their third-string rookie.
“I was glad I’d put in the time training, because otherwise I wouldn’t have been ready,” McCoy said. “It was tough jumping into a huddle with guys who were older—who had families and kids. It was a challenge in and of itself telling them what play we were running and how we were going to do it, but to get on them when we weren’t doing well and praise them when we were was another thing. But it’s something good quarterbacks do right away, and that’s what I tried to do.”
McCoy took his first snap as a starting NFL quarterback on October 17, lining up against the division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Browns lost the game, McCoy proved himself capable of handling the position, throwing for 281 yards and completing his first touchdown pass. He would start the next four games—a stretch that included milestone wins over the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints—before suffering a sprained ankle. After spending four games recovering, McCoy returned to action in week 15 and remained the Browns’ starter for the rest of the season.
Now in his first full season as the field general for the Browns, McCoy can reflect on his NFL expedition so far and understand more of the why’s.
“My faith was definitely tested a lot in the last year,” he said. “But one of the things I learned was to trust—to trust in the fact that God is in control and I am not, and to trust in just doing what I’m called to do.”
Part of that calling for McCoy has been leadership; he knows that for sure. This summer, he had the opportunity to exercise those skills in another unexpected way as the NFL lockout prevented players from coming together under the team’s direction.
In what he called “Camp Colt,” McCoy arranged a series of team workouts throughout the spring and summer in both Ohio and Austin, Texas, where he and his wife, Rachel, make their home in the offseason. Under McCoy’s organization, the team gathered to watch film, participate in drills, work out and engage in social outings to build camaraderie.
“They definitely didn’t come for vacation,” McCoy said. “We’ve got great guys on our team who are willing to work and figure out a way to win, and it’s been good for me in developing my role as the quarterback to spend quality time with them working on what we need to work on. The goal is to win football games, and I think we’re developing important trust with each other. That’s one way I can step up and lead, and it’s just one small part of what I’m responsible for as the quarterback. But I’m proud to be that guy, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
It’s this attitude that, according to those closest to him, makes McCoy so effective both as a quarterback and as a Christian.
“Colt truly believes that the greatest way for him to lead is to make those around him successful,” said Brad, who understands his son on both the personal and professional levels after coaching him at Texas’ Tuscola High School. “Those are the qualities that endear him to teammates, to his wife, to his family, and to his friends. He is passionate about people and compassionate about their lives. He has such a kind heart, and I can’t help but look back over this past year and think that God was smiling on him and saying, ‘Just hang on. I’m gonna take care of you. You will still be a witness for me, and I’m going to see to it.’”
Time, of course, is the one thing that will tell exactly how McCoy’s witness will manifest in both life and career, but, if history has taught him anything, it’s that it will all work out. It may not be the typical scenario dreamed up by an optimistic children’s writer, but McCoy knows it’s still one being uniquely crafted by the One who authors miracles even through low draft spots, union disputes, injuries and devastating losses.
“Through all of this, God has shown me that, if the worst thing that has happened to me is getting hurt in the national championship game, then, while that may be huge to me, in the grand scheme of things, it’s minor,” McCoy said. “God has shown me that football is not who I am; it’s what I do. And if all of these things wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t have such a full, complete trust in Him. I’m proud to have learned to trust God in a deeper way.”
|BRING IT HOME|
How You too can stand on the Rock.
Do you ever sit back and think, “This was not the way this was supposed to work out”? Colt McCoy faced that sentiment on Jan. 7, 2010, after he experienced what the world defined as a tragic end to his college football career.
Anyone in McCoy’s situation—injured and defeated—could have justified an angry or immature response. But, when the national TV cameras pointed to McCoy, he revealed that he wasn’t going to let the situation devastate him. Even in extreme disappointment, he had a “Rock” to stand on: Jesus Christ.
Think about your own life. What would be a worst-case scenario for you similar to Colt McCoy’s? Would it be an injury or loss? Would it be getting fired from your job? Maybe it would be losing a loved one you think you could never live without. Whatever it is, what would you do if it happened?
The Bible tells us that everything in this world is temporary and fallible, which is why we need something eternal to rely on—something permanent that cannot and will not fail us. But is there such a thing? If there is, where do we find it and what must we do to get it?
The answer to all of those questions is summed up in Jesus Christ. He alone is the end-all, be-all of faithfulness. Through Him we are saved from our sins, met in our weaknesses, and loved beyond our circumstances. Through believing in His death and resurrection, which paid the price for our penalty-demanding sins, we have peace with God and a secure home reserved for us in Heaven. That means that, even if we experience that worst-case scenario, we can still have hope through Him.
Receiving salvation through Christ, though, remains our choice, but it can be a simple one to make. We need only to receive Him as our Savior and then begin living with Him as our Lord—developing a relationship with Him through prayer, reading the Bible, and engaging in fellowship with other believers. When we do that, we will begin to experience deep, inner peace unparalleled by any worldly title or situation.
Today, if you want to experience life on the Rock, you can. In fact, Jesus is waiting on you to turn to Him and allow Him to bring you the kind of lasting love, joy and peace that you’ve never experienced. Call to Him in prayer and ask for the forgiveness of your sins and for the start of a new life with Him. Then, like Colt McCoy, enjoy the freedom to trust Him through every trial of life.
If you have questions or want more information, visit morethanwinning.org or call FCA’s National Support Center at 1-800-289-0909.
--For more stories about faith and sport, visit www.sharingthevictory.com, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.
Courtesy of John Reid III/Cleveland Browns; Photography by EverAfter Images; Barbour Publishers and Trevor Gerland Productions