Case McCoy is the epitome of the old college try, and he’s been giving it for years.
Does anyone try any harder than the perpetual backup quarterback who’s played 27 games at Texas, but has started just nine?
Is there a story line that’s more circuitous than that of the other McCoy?
Could there be any more drama for a younger sibling who is following in the shadows of a Longhorns legend and has overcome a potentially debilitating skin and muscular disease that could’ve become life-threatening during nine painful years of his adolescence?
Is there a better comeback script than a guy who returned from a bowl-game suspension and hung around to put his stamp on some of the biggest football wins in school history?
Will McCoy be remembered as a bona fide hero or a curious figure with great fortitude who made a few big plays in crunch time?
All of those may fit Texas’ undersized, arm-challenged senior quarterback, whose left leg is weaker than his right from the scleroderma that attacked the left side of his body, but whose resolve is more than most. He’s answered every knock on his ability and style, criticism that has driven him to succeed. He’s been written off more than three-martini lunches and all but dismissed after he was suspended from the Alamo Bowl for breaking curfew, a rules violation that included an investigation of sexual assault in which no charges were filed.
He was so far down on the depth chart behind David Ash and a rising Tyrone Swoopes that McCoy went on a 10-week good will mission to Peru last summer to install water purification systems, a getaway he called “a blast.”
But he’ll leave Austin with a rich legacy that might not be as gaudy as that of his brother’s 45-8 career but with a clutch reputation for knocking off rivals such as Texas A&M and Oklahoma and rescuing the Longhorns against Kansas to save Mack Brown’s coaching career.
“It hasn’t been the Cinderella story you’d want,” said McCoy, who also refuted rumors that he once planned to transfer. “I’ve had to battle to try to be first-string, second-string or even third-string quarterback, but I wouldn’t change anything. I was never leaving. I chose this school for a reason.”
And the staff is choosing him for a reason, not simply Ash’s concussion. Say all you want about his shortcomings, but there can be no doubt that he is one of the ultimate gamers, his pedestrian 5-4 career record notwithstanding.
“He has that mojo that everybody wants to play with him,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said.
Right guard Mason Walters still remembers McCoy’s presence in the huddle in the waning minutes of the Iowa State game.
“Case gets in the huddle and doesn’t say a word,” Walters said. “But he had this grin on his face. It was awesome.”
McCoy then led Texas on the winning drive, thanks to some fortuitous officiating, and scored the go-ahead touchdown. He was grinning even bigger after directing a 36-20 blowout of Oklahoma, a moment so big that older brother Colt requested a snapshot of Case wearing the Golden Hat.
He’s had a profound impact on the program as it attempts to return to national prominence. If Texas does build on its three-game win streak, the resurgence will have McCoy’s fingerprints all over it.
He’s living for these moments and relishes regaling the media at the same time he spars with them. And while he’s already graduated with a degree in physical culture and sports, he’s taking 12 hours this fall and plans on three more courses next spring to help him attain a real estate license and then pursue a career in that or coaching.
For now, his life has changed.
“I’ve taken a few more pictures than normal,” he said. “Signed a few more autographs. Got a few more hugs on campus.”
He plans to milk every second of these final six regular-season games. Ash could return from the concussion symptoms that have plagued him since the Kansas State game, but McCoy has earned the trust of his locker room, and Texas figures to stick with McCoy because a healthy Ash could return but leave after a single hit.
So Texas will bank on McCoy, who is completing 61 percent of his passes and has thrown just one interception in 123 attempts this season. Despite all of that, he has a good grip on reality.
As he put it playfully when he was asked why this Texas team is a two-point underdog against a 3-4 TCU team, “Probably because I’m the quarterback, right? No one thinks I’m any good except my teammates.”
That’s not true. But he does understand his limitations. He chuckled when it was pointed out that Mack Brown refused to let him check out of called plays on the last series against the Sooners. “That was him being smart,” McCoy said.
He’s got his 15 minutes of fame. And he’s going to make the most of them.