Bill Little commentary: Joy
Nov. 22, 2009
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
He stood there by his locker, his boyish grin having given way to an almost silent combination of a mad and a pout. It was supposed to be different, he thought as he determinedly finished dressing.
Outside the lights were still on in the arena, the place where his first showcase football game had turned into his first loss as a college quarterback. He had actually played gamely against a quality opponent before a record crowd in that vintage configuration of Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. And what you learned in that moment was that Colt McCoy doesn’t like to lose, even as a redshirt freshman in his second game against No. 1 ranked Ohio State.
“This team,” he would say that night, “will NOT lose again.”
And he was darned near right.
Saturday night, Colt McCoy and his teammates played their final home game of the 2009 season, and the 51-20 victory established McCoy as the winningest starting quarterback in the history of NCAA football. Forty-three victories, seven losses, with three games remaining in the season.
A record crowd of 101,357, the largest ever to see a college game in the Southwest, relished every moment as their Longhorns extended their remarkable success streak to 24 victories in their last 25 games. In the 86 years football has been played in the stadium, there have been many “feel good moments.” So in place of saying this was “the best,” we will simply say there has never been one better.
The game was filled with highlights, and it would be inappropriate here to leave this contest without a tip of the hat to Lake Travis’ Todd Reesing, who played superbly in a losing cause in his only return to his hometown.
But this senior night, 2009, belonged to those young men who left their fans with memories that will last a lifetime. They rode off into the chill November night with the Big 12 South Division championship, their 11th victory of the season, and goals and dreams that extend through their next three football games.
Our old friend Webster captured the evening in a single word: “Joy.” He says that is the “excitement of pleasurable feeling caused by the acquisition or expectation of good.”
From the moment a young Colt McCoy left that locker room following that Ohio State game in 2006, his Longhorns would lose only two home games – to Texas A&M when he was injured in 2006, and to Kansas State in 2007. His other four losses came on the road and included a game at Kansas State where he left in the first quarter with injury, and at Texas Tech after he had led a comeback that was thwarted by that last second Red Raider score last year.
When he surpassed Georgia’s David Greene with his team’s 43rd triumph Saturday, he put himself in such rarified air that his record will be hard to break. McCoy is the only quarterback in the NCAA ever to win at least 10 games for four straight years, and one more victory would mean that a player would have to average 11 wins a season for four years just to tie the mark.
On a night when Shipley set a UT record for receiving yards in a season and the offense amassed 532 yards, sophomore safety Earl Thomas put himself on the threshold of history on the other side of the ball. When Thomas notched his seventh interception of the season, he tied the oldest single season mark in the Longhorn record books – set in 1940 by two Longhorn legends, Noble Doss and Jack Crain, and tied several times since.
In so many ways, the game was “a puzzlement.”
It was about the seniors, but it wasn’t – it was about the future as well.
It was about the Big 12 South, but it wasn’t – it was about the Thursday night game coming up with Texas A&M.
It was about stars like Colt McCoy, but it was also about walk-on senior quarterback Trevor Walker, who took one snap in his final game in the stadium – one snap for all of those he’s taken loyally as a member of the scout team in practice, day after day.
As Mack Brown would say after the game, “I don’t think we could have scripted it any better.”
It was about paying tribute, but it was not about saying “goodbye.”
That is why Mack chose to remove his seniors respectfully together, by calling time out midway through the fourth quarter to honor offensive starters McCoy and Shipley and linemen Adam Ulatoski, Charlie Tanner and Chris Hall, and doing the same with the defense later in the game. Sergio Kindle, Lamarr Houston, Roddrick Muckelroy, Ben Alexander and Deon Beasley all exited to a standing ovation as well.
All week, Mack had talked about the fact that the tears of emotion could be saved for another time, because there was still much to be done in this campaign of 2009.
“I will cry with them, after the season,” he had said.
Perhaps that was the final, and best “puzzlement” of the evening. At the end, folks were too happy to cry.
It had begun near the end of the game, when the platforms and the aisles nearest the field began to be filled with youngsters who crowded as close as they could for one final look at their heroes. And it was manifested after the band had played “The Eyes of Texas” and the big screen had shown the tower turning orange. That was when Ulatoski and Hall and some of the senior linemen gathered under the south goal post, not ready to leave.
Heck, they might as well stay – most of the more than 100,000 who had come to see them were still there, anyway.
And so they began a victory lap, and in their midst was their quarterback, the all-time winningest starting quarterback in all of college football. They circled, they fired the cannon, they slapped hands and took pictures with the cheerleaders and then dog-piled on the Longhorn in the center of the field.
Some minutes before, Colt McCoy had been there, standing with Kansas coach Mark Mangino, who had joined players and coaches from other teams who all season wanted to take just a minute to congratulate the Longhorns quarterback on what he had meant, and how he had played the game.
An hour or so later, surrounded by family members and friends, Colt McCoy stood at the same place where he had stood those short three years and four football seasons ago. He was smiling now, because his work in that locker room on a game night was finished.
Soon he would head to his pickup, going home so he could get up and go to church and then be ready for a really short week’s practice and a trip to Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night.
He has neither the time, nor the inclination, to be concerned about individual awards or to bask in the moment. In his final postgame press conference in Austin, he paid tribute to his coaches Greg Davis and Mack Brown, and he honored his God and thanked his teammates.
Destiny will determine where all of this ends for him and his teammates on this team of 2009. But as to Colt McCoy’s place in the special place that is Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, it is forever locked in the admiring eyes of the little kids and the grown men and women, who have seen something, and somebody very special who gave them something to believe in.
And if you want to define him, go back to the beginning of this commentary and check out his words: “This team….”
Because it never was about him. It was about them.