Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Texas Longhorn QB Colt McCoy Finally Learns to Relax

In his last home game, Colt McCoy, the University of Texas Longhorns' quarterback, burned the Kansas Jayhawks for 396 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on 32 of 41 passes, one incompletion short of 80 percent.

In that game, McCoy set a record by winning more college football games than any other quarterback in the history of the sport. He has completed a higher percentage of passes in one season (76.7, in 2008) than any other quarterback in the history of the sport.

The 6-foot-3, 214 pound McCoy, from Tuscola, Texas, has led the No. 3 Longhorns to an 11-0 record and the Big 12 South championship. He is 3-0 as a bowl starter. He is 3-1 against Oklahoma.

Until recently, however, McCoy never satisfied; and driving himself crazy.

"You come back for your senior year after a good year," McCoy said. "You have the opportunity to go to the NFL. You win a bunch of awards. You almost win the Heisman. All those things you accomplish, and you come back as a senior, and you have to do this and do that and play perfect."

Offensive coordinator Greg Davis has preached for five seasons, that McCoy could be a better quarterback and leader by relaxing.

McCoy not only set that completion percentage record last season but also led the Longhorns to a 12-1 record and a No. 4 finish in the final poll.

"I called him in January," Davis said. "I said, 'Look, you just completed 77 percent of your passes for the season. I just completed 36 years of coaching. I've never had a guy do that.

"'Now, let me go a step further. Nobody who has ever coached quarterbacks has had a guy do that. So to think you're just going to walk back out here next year and it's going to go to 80 is unrealistic.'"

But, McCoy entered the 2009 season trying to be perfect, do everything right, but ended up playing too cautiously. The team continued to win, but wasn't playing well, and most certainly wasn't having fun. The entire team was tight and underperforming.

"I was playing good and giving my team its best chance to win," McCoy said, "but at the same time it was not fun. I was beating myself up. I kept digging myself deeper and deeper in a hole that I couldn't get out of."

"You put so much pressure on yourself and expectations on yourself to be the best, to complete all your passes and throw three or four touchdowns and throw for 300 yards," McCoy said. "When you don't, and you decided to come back for your senior year and come back and have an up-and-down year and you don't do all that, it hurts you mentally. You end up not having fun. You stress out all week. You think, 'I'll do better next week.'"

"It's easy to say, 'I'm going to get out of it,'" McCoy said. "But to get out of it, physically and mentally and completely, was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

"I wasn't losing it on anybody else but myself," he said. "I wasn't being myself around the facility, around my teammates. I was most pissed off at myself. When you're a quarterback, a leader, you've been here for four years, you can't do that. That's something I know. I wasn't trying to act that way. I was in a hole. I was concerned."

Nevertheless, Texas kept winning. The Longhorns went into Dallas to play Oklahoma with a 5-0 record.

"I could have been so much better," McCoy said. "I could have been such a better leader and teammate. … I was frustrated and trying to figure out what was wrong with me instead of helping the young receivers, staying after practice, making sure they knew where I want them to be."

McCoy had his worst statistical game of the season against OU. He completed 21 of 39 passes for only 127 yards. He lost two fumbles, one at the Oklahoma goal line. With Texas trying to extend a 16-13 lead, he threw an interception to Sooners cornerback Brian Jackson at the Oklahoma 9. McCoy chased Jackson down and made the tackle.

That might have been the play that saved McCoy's season. After Davis broke down the video of the game, he called McCoy into his office.

"I said, 'Of all the records you've broken, of all the things you've done, I'm probably more proud of you for this ballgame than I am for any ballgame,'" Davis said.

"He said, 'Why?'

"I said, 'Just because of the way you competed and the way you put the team first. You throw the interception, and a lot of guys would have been over there kicking the dirt. And you went and made the tackle. We ended up getting the ball back. You competed for 60 minutes against a quality defensive football team, and because of that, we won the game.'"

"The week after Oklahoma, I let myself go," McCoy said. "Forget about everything. I walked up to Coach [Mack] Brown and Coach Davis and said, 'As far as I'm concerned, we're 0-0. This is going to be my first game. I'm starting over completely.'

"I've been so much better since," McCoy said. "I can feel my teammates following me, responding to me, and I'm feeling confident."

In the past five games, McCoy completed 77 percent of his passes for 1,487 yards and 12 touchdowns and threw only two interceptions. Again, aainst Kansas on Saturday night, McCoy threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns.

So, what happened?

"He relaxed," Davis said.

Excerpts from ESPN.com, November 23, 2009.

For more on peak performance and mental conditioning, click on The Handbook of Peak Performance.
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