Colt McCoy and Matt Carter: "The real win for a man is built on two simple but strategic components—who you trust and who you serve."
What Changed for Me
In Dec. 2009 I went to New York again as one of the candidates for the Heisman award—my second year in a row. But I returned to the awards ceremony only to see the trophy handed to Mark Ingram, Alabama’s star running back. Toby Gerhart of Stanford came in second and I came in third. It was the closest points race since 1985.
One dream lost—again.
I kept pressing on. At the end of the regular season, Texas beat Texas A&M, and my team was headed to the BCS National Championship. This was my absolute final shot at winning the college football championship.
The National Championship was played in California. We traveled there, but my body was still on Texas time. So the evening before the game and all game day prior to kickoff, I had a lot of time to think and prepare. We were the underdogs, but I was confident we could win. By then I’d played with my team for four years. I was the leader of the team, and I knew how everyone ticked. We were all ready. It was on. I was going to do all I could to put our team in a position to win. I’d never been more prepared going into any game as I was that day.
As I was reading my Bible, I came across Isaiah 26:3-4.
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. (ESV)
Go ahead and take the time to read that verse again.
That passage is what I meditated on going into the 2009 National Championship, and it’s become the passage that undergirds what my life is about today. Really, the themes found in that passage are what this book is about too. I didn’t know it just then, but that verse would become incredibly important to me. It works best if Matt and I alternate to tell you this next bit of the story.
The National Championship began. It was the Longhorns versus the No. 1-ranked University of Alabama. I was watching the game on TV at home in Austin, and during UT’s first possession, Colt absolutely dominated the opponent. I mean, Colt drove his team down the field like there was nobody playing on defense. The game was off to an incredible start, and the National Championship looked well within reach. I was shouting at the TV, urging Colt on. Colt and I had been praying for this moment all year, and nothing could stop this kid.
I had to blink twice when I saw it happen. It was still the first main drive down the field, and Colt’s team was on the opponent’s five-yard line. They were ready to score. The ball was snapped, and from the blind side a 296-pound defensive lineman broke free and plowed into Colt’s shoulder, and Colt went down. Colt had been hit harder than that dozens of times before. He should have bounced back up, shaken it off, and run back to join his team in the huddle.
But this time when Colt stood up, something was wrong.
Colt’s arm hung at his side, limp. It looked lifeless. I could see it on camera. Colt wasn’t moving it. And a thought struck me: What happens next has the potential to define Colt’s life for a long time to come.
It had been a beautiful first drive. I had completed five out of five passes up to the point of the hit. We were marching down the field and just about to score. Then—bam!
I wasn’t really in pain. A ton of adrenaline was still coursing through my body. Instead of joining my team in the huddle, I jogged toward the sideline. More than anything, I was in shock, asking, “What is this? What’s going on?” The lineman had come off the edge and hit me square on the shoulder of my throwing arm. My whole arm from the shoulder down to my hand was completely numb. I couldn’t raise my arm. I couldn’t feel my fingers. I couldn’t grip anything. Maybe you’ve felt the sensation that happens when you sleep on your arm, wake up and your arm is there but it’s heavy and dead. That’s what I felt.
So I sat on the bench, and Coach Brown replaced me with my backup, freshman Garrett Gilbert. The trainers began to work on me, and I sat there completely focused on everything the trainers were trying to do for me. I kept thinking, Surely this is going to come back. Surely! My right arm was what had gotten me to where I was that day. But everything in my arm stayed silent.
If it had been my left arm, I would have kept playing. If it had been my ankle, I would have taped it up and gone back on the field. But a quarterback without his throwing arm is useless.
I walked back to the locker room with the trainers and kept trying. I put ice all over my shoulder. They took X-rays, trying to figure out what was wrong so they could wake it up. There was no reaction. Thirty minutes went by. Remember, this was my last game in a college uniform. This was everything. There hadn’t been a quarterback playing at the University of Texas besides me for the past four years. But the truth slowly sank in. I was physically spent, emotionally spent. I was done.
Halftime rolled around, and Alabama was beating us 24-6. The atmosphere in our locker room was dispirited, to say the least. By this time, most of my team knew I wasn’t coming back in the game. I got up anyway and tried to encourage my team the best I could. I would have done anything for those guys in that room, and they knew that.
The trainers were calling it a “nerve impingement,” and there was nothing they could do for it. They told me to hop in the showers and get my street clothes back on. But I was having none of that. I thought, No way. I’m going to put my pads back on, strap my shoes back on, and go out to the bench with a headset on. If there’s any way my arm comes back to life with any amount of time left in the game, I’m going back in. For the second half of the game, I stood on the sidelines and did my best to cheer on the team. That was all I could do. (It would be three more weeks before the feeling returned.)
We lost. Alabama won the National Championship 37-21. It was a tough, tough thing to stand there watching, knowing I couldn’t do anything. It was tough afterward to listen to all the media speculation and all the armchair quarterbacks—people who said I didn’t want to play because I was more concerned with the NFL draft status. (If you know me, you know that thought never even crossed my mind. Ever. I could have left for the NFL the year before. I had just as much opportunity then and possibly would have been drafted higher than I eventually was.)
Right after the game was over, I walked back to the locker room. The heaviest disappointment I’d ever felt in my life descended on me. I knew what the game meant to me, my teammates, my coaches and the fans. Lisa Salters, the sideline reporter for ABC, tugged at the corner of my jersey and asked for an interview. A cameraman stood next to her. I nodded, and the next thing I heard was Lisa saying, “I’m with Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. Colt, what was it like for you to watch this game—the last game in uniform—from the sideline?”
I started to answer twice, stammering, “I … I …” I had no words of my own just then.
I paused to gather myself. Then words came out of my mouth that I now know could have only come from an unseen source.