Colt McCoy has been featured on the cover of far too many magazines to count.
Once the face of Texas football, McCoy was a consensus All-America for the Longhorns, a Heisman Trophy runner-up and the second-winningest quarterback in NCAA history. He has been featured on the covers of Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine, Sporting News, Street & Smith’s and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, among others, for his prowess throwing the football.
But you’ll find only one magazine cover framed at his Austin home – the September/October 2009 issue of Bass Master.
Colt McCoy, quarterback?
Try Colt McCoy, fisherman.
McCoy was in his junior year at the University of Texas and got a call from the school’s sports information director, John Bianco.
“Have you ever heard of Alton Jones?” Bianco asked.
“The professional bass fisherman?” McCoy answered. “Of course I have.”
“Do you want to go fishing with him?” Bianco asked.
“Can you get this through (NCAA) compliance?” asked McCoy, “because I’d love to.”
So McCoy got up early one morning in Austin and drove the two-and-a-half hours north to Lake Whitney to fish with the 2008 winner of the Bassmaster Classic.
“He taught me so much about fishing on big lakes, where to throw it, what to use in different times of day based on the color of the water,” McCoy says in an exclusive interview with Hook & Barrelmagazine. “We fished all day and it was a wonderful time. At the end of the day, we took two pictures of the fish we caught. I ended up catching the biggest fish of the day, almost five pounds. I held it up, we took some pictures and I ended up being on the cover of Bass Master.
“I wouldn’t call myself a professional bass fisherman. That would be doing those guys an injustice because they are unbelievable. But to be on the cover of that was a really cool honor. Of all the magazine covers I’ve been on, that’s the one hanging up in my house.”
Somewhere in that same house is another certificate of outdoor accomplishment.
Colt McCoy, hunter.
Again, when McCoy was a college student, he was invited to go on a white-tail deer hunt at a ranch in south Texas. He was eager but this time the NCAA was unwilling. So McCoy had to pass. “But when I graduated, they circled back to me and said, `Hey, if you want to come down and hunt, the offer is still on the table. We’d love to have you down,’” McCoy says. “So I went to this huge ranch – it was free range, wide open, brush and country and real rugged but just covered in deer.
“On my hunt I ended up shooting a huge eight-point that had a drop-tine. I never shot one (with a drop tine) before. He came out in the afternoon and I just about lost it. He was the biggest one, certainly mature, and I took him. It was a hunt I’ll never forget. The 8-point score was a 173 and ended up winning the Los Cazadores biggest eight-point of the year down in south Texas.”
McCoy did a bit more than hunt and fish during those five years he spent on campus in Austin. Over at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, McCoy showcased himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the college game. He was a four-year starter for the Longhorns and the only player in school history to win or share team MVP honors all four of his seasons. He also is one of only three FBS quarterbacks in NCAA history to average at least 10 victories per season over a four-year career.
McCoy started a school-record 53 games and won 45 of them, which places him second in NCAA history behind Boise State’s Kellen Moore. McCoy ranks 12th in NCAA history with his 13,253 career passing yards and 14th with his 112 touchdown passes. He also set the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage at 76.7 in 2008.
In his final season at Texas, McCoy won the Maxwell Award as college football’s top player, the O’Brien and Manning awards as college football’s top quarterback and the Unitas Golden Arm Award as the top senior quarterback. He also was the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and the unanimous first-team All-America quarterback. He left Texas with 32 school records and the Longhorns have since retired his jersey, number 12.
But when McCoy entered the 2010 NFL draft, talent evaluators dinged him for his height (6-1), his hand size and his arm strength. That slid his draft stock into the third round, where the Cleveland Browns made him the 85th overall player and fourth quarterback selected. In the great outdoors, McCoy has never found any white-tail deer or fish to be as judgmental as NFL talent evaluators.
Understand this about McCoy: He held a fishing pole and a shotgun long before he ever called any plays in a huddle. His grandparents own a ranch in West Texas, which afforded him the opportunity to explore nature. He picked up a fishing pole for the first time at 3 years of age. He pulled the trigger of his first shotgun at the age of 8. He bagged his first deer at the age of 11.
But his life has become a study in contrasts. At Texas, he regularly played in front of home crowds of 100,000. He played against the University of Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown annually in front of crowds in the 90,000s and lined up for a national championship against the University of Alabama before 94,000 at the Rose Bowl. He started in the NFL against the Dallas Cowboys in 2014 in front of 87,000 at AT&T Stadium.
However, sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake or taking cover in the brush during a hunt, you hear no cheers, no boos, no criticism.
“There is such an attraction to me to being outside in the outdoors and listen to birds chirp and the crickets,” McCoy says. “There’s a serenity and a peacefulness that comes from no crowds and just hearing nature. If I could have that every day, I would be in a good place.
“I love the game – the screaming and yelling of 80,000 and 90,000, everyone cheering, happy and upbeat and all those pats on your back. Those are great. But being outside and fishing on a boat somewhere in the middle of nowhere – I don’t think it gets any better than that.”
McCoy, 32, enters his ninth NFL season in 2018 with his third team, the Washington Redskins. His NFL career has already outlasted those of first-rounder Tim Tebow and second-rounder Jimmy Clausen from his draft class. McCoy has started 25 games in his career with non-playoff teams and won seven of them. He has beaten the Patriots with Tom Brady, the Saints with Drew Brees and the Cowboys with Tony Romo. He completed 25 of 30 passes against the Cowboys for 299 yards and also threw for 350 yards in a game against Indianapolis and 392 more against Tennessee.
Even though McCoy has spent the last eight falls in Ohio, California and Virginia, he did not leave his outdoor roots behind in Texas. He took up hunting with a compound bow in 2012. He also has fished the Great Lakes and the Potomac and, of late, gets away to fish private lakes near the Redskins’ training facility in Ashburn, Va.
“Fishing has been my escape,” McCoy says. “I’ve been fortunate to play football for a long time and love every bit of it. But to a certain extent we’re caught in a glass box at times. Everybody knows everything about you. For peace of mind and just to get away, if I can get out on a lake somewhere and go fishing, I’d be the happiest guy you’ll find.
“During the season, if I can sneak away for a couple hours, wet a line, that would go a long way for me as far as stress levels and calming down, reflecting and having some quiet time. My wife has been great. She totally understands that going out, being in the outdoors, hunting and fishing, just getting a few hours away goes a long way for my psyche of being a dad, a football player and handling my responsibilities. She understands, which is sweet.”
McCoy has spent a lifetime in boats, fields and huddles and has embraced the challenges presented by all three. So which does he do best?
“I am a better fisherman and a better hunter,” McCoy says, “then a better football player. I’ll put them in that order. I can fish with the best of them, I can hunt with the best of them and I’m working to throw a football with the best of them.”