He had been Matt Leinart for more than a month, and had played the role of Cody Hodges and Joel Klatt before that, but as the Rose Bowl Game neared, and his time as a redshirt freshman quarterback was ending, Colt McCoy began to realize that the next role he might have to play would be as the heir apparent to Vince Young.
Young never shared with his understudy what his final plans for the future would be, but looking back, McCoy realized Sunday that all of their conversations were based on the fact that the responsibility and leadership for which he had been preparing might come sooner than later.
"We talked a lot about learning and growing, and the things I needed to do to have the respect and full confidence of the team," he said.
The two didn't have a chance to talk after the game as Vince stayed in LA before returning to Houston, and Colt joined some teammates on a hunting trip, but when Greg Davis called McCoy at his folks home in Graham on Sunday morning, the McCoys turned on the television for the 3 p.m. announcement.
From that moment, Colt's phone hasn't stopped ringing, with most of the calls coming from teammates.
The Texas coaching staff made a bold decision with the quarterback position this season, choosing to play only two scholarship quarterbacks and redshirt their one freshman scholarship recruit. That meant that Colt McCoy spent the year in a protected reserve role. If he had played one play, he would have lost a year of eligibility. Toward the end of the season, he ran the scout team against the Texas defense, assuming the role of the high profile quarterbacks the Longhorns would face.
At times, there was confusion among television announcers. When Texas had games well in hand and both Vince Young and Matt Nordgren had retired from the field, the Longhorn coaches called on Matt McCoy, a junior walk-on quarterback from Dallas (who is no relation to Colt) to finish the game. Matt wore No. 13, Colt was No. 12, and a couple of times late in the season, veteran announcers were confused, thinking that somehow Colt had gotten into the game.
"He's different from VY," says Billy Pittman, "because he's quieter right now. But Vince says he's a lot farther along than he (Young) was at this time in his career. All he needs to do is come into the spring and let 'em know he's ready. He's got a good arm, throws as good a ball as I've ever seen, and makes good decisions."
Davis, the Longhorns offensive coordinator and quarterback mentor, called McCoy and the two high school recruits who have committed to the Longhorns on Sunday morning.
"Coach Brown asked us to call all of our players and let them know so they didn't hear it on TV. I told Colt to get ready, it was time to go," Davis said.
"Going" has been on the agenda for Colt McCoy ever since his Dad became the coach at Jim Ned High School near Tuscola, Texas, south of Abilene. Football roots grow deep in that part of Texas, a land where farmland and a shallow oil pool have dotted the landscape for years.
Colt was in the sixth grade when his Dad, Brad, became coach at Jim Ned, and learned to hunt and fish and excel in sports and in the classroom.
When he reached high school, he was the perfect example of the son of a coach. In his three years, he led Jim Ned to a 34-2 record. He threw for over 9,300 yards, completing 63.1 percent of his passes for 116 touchdowns. He ranks as the all-time leading passer in Texas Class AA football, and is fourth overall in Texas high school history.
He also maintained a 98.2 grade average on a 100 scale, and competed in basketball and track. He comes from great sporting stock: his mother was a shooting guard in basketball and his Dad played football at Abilene Christian.
He will turn 20 three days after the Longhorns' 2006 season opener on September 2.
Young's final, selfless act for the Texas Longhorns was to talk to his would be successor about leadership. For Vince, it had always been about "team," and as the Rose Bowl approached and passed, it became obvious that the world would no longer allow him to fit in that role. With his magnificent performance in the National Championship game, Young became larger than life, and as much as he tried to deflect credit and give it to his teammates, the media and the fans would never allow that.
And so, just as the mythical character in Kahlil Gibran's poem "The Prophet," Vince Young sailed off in the sunset on Sunday. Behind, he left an amazing legacy, a rare and unique person whose qualities were many, whose significant shadow will be cast on Texas football forever.
In leaving, he also left room in the spotlight. He had told people over and over again about his receivers, his offensive line, his running backs, and the Longhorn defense, and he reinforced over and over again the impact Longhorn coaches Davis and Brown had had on not only his career, but his life.
But of all his qualities, his greatest were his competitiveness, and his leadership. Competitiveness is part of one's nature. Leadership is available only when you earn it.
Those who have watched Colt McCoy say he is in the style of another Longhorn quarterbacking hero, Major Applewhite, with the added dimension of speed as a runner.
It is the essence of the college game that programs are powerful based on their ability to "reload," rather than "rebuild." Perhaps it is fitting then that McCoy is an avid hunter.
NCAA recruiting rules prohibit UT's website from discussing recruits, but at least one of the Longhorns' quarterback commitments has said he plans to enter school in the spring semester, making him eligible to work in Spring Training, which is scheduled to begin on February 24. With at least two scholarship recruits expected to join McCoy by the fall, UT's quarterback position will be deeper than it has been, but it will also be very young.
That is where the power of the team concept that has been such a part of Mack Brown's program will come in. Leaders emerge because of their gifts, and because of their teammates who are willing to encourage them and help them along the way.
The spring of 2006 will be tremendously exciting at Texas. It is the changing of the guard, the new growth coming in among the seasoned oaks.
Vince Young, and his fellow departed players, leave behind the greatest of legacies...every National Championship trophy that there is.
In the Texas media guide for 2005, the young high school recruit Colt McCoy filled out a questionnaire that is included in his bio. The reason he came to Texas, he says, is "the tradition, and the chance to compete for a national championship every year."
And his dream as a college football player?
"To lead my team to a national championship."
Vince Young and the 2005 Longhorn seniors left him a blueprint.
Now it's up to McCoy and his soon-to-be freshmen teammates to build their own tower in the sky.