Texas quarterback Case McCoy embraced the underdog role at a young age.
Whether it was growing up with a rare skin disease, living in the shadows of older brother Colt McCoy or consistently being a backup quarterback at Texas, Case McCoy's journey has not been a Cinderella story.
At five-years-old, McCoy was diagnosed with scleroderma—a rare skin and muscular disease. Although it was not life threatening, the disease put him at a disadvantage early in his life.
"It was tough," McCoy said of the disease. "It was not ideal. I didn't really understand it. It was something I struggled with for eight or nine years, but it made me who I am today.
"It was a disadvantage I was put at early, but at the same time, I don't think I would be here if it weren't for it. It made me work harder and made me want all of this more than I probably would have if I was a normal, healthy child."
The trials faced at a young age have helped add to the chip on McCoy's shoulder, that can be seen anytime he takes the field.
My dad was my coach and I told him at a young age, 'Don't treat me differently. Coach me just like you did my brothers and allow me to achieve my dreams,' at a time where doctors were saying it was not possible.
That has been a motive my whole life. You can tell me what you want, you can tell me I can't do something, but I will do it and I will prove you wrong.
Proving people wrong is what he does best. McCoy has led Texas to significant wins during his time in Austin, most recently when Texas upset No. 12 Oklahoma 36-20 in the 108th Red River Rivalry.
But, the road to his senior season has not been an easy route.
Bumps in the Road
Case McCoy followed his brother's path when he chose to attend Texas over scholarship offers from Arizona, Auburn, Colorado State and Texas A&M. But his journey as a Longhorn has been the polar opposite of his older brother's career.
In 2010, Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert significantly struggled in many games. His worst performance happened at Kansas State when he completed 32 of 59 passes and threw five interceptions in the first three quarters. McCoy was not given the chance to help his team, even though a quarterback change was desperately needed.
Gilbert finished the 2010 season ranked No. 99 in passing efficiency, with a quarterback rating of 111 and No. 113 in interceptions thrown (17). McCoy took seven snaps total in two games his freshman year and attempted one pass and one rush.
For a guy who was pretty highly recruited, you want to play instantly and make an impact. That was never the situation for me. I've battled to be first team, second team, third team. But, at the same time, I wouldn't change it. It has made me who I am.
McCoy's chances of starting for Texas appeared brighter than ever after Gilbert left the Longhorns two weeks into the 2011 season. But rumors about McCoy's future as a Longhorn surfaced when McCoy ended up splitting reps with true freshman David Ash.
McCoy served as a backup to Ash in his junior season in 2012 and only started one game after Ash broke his ribs against TCU. McCoy managed to make headlines for an off-the-field issue at the 2012 Alamo Bowl when linebacker Jordan Hicks and he were sent home for "violating team rules." A San Antonio police report later revealed a sexual assault allegation against McCoy and Hicks.
No charges were filed.
"I owe an apology to everyone," McCoy said of the incident in San Antonio. "I let down my coaches and my teammates. Luckily, David (Ash) played great [in the Alamo Bowl] and was healthy, but you never know the situation that could happen in a game. I have learned from my mistakes and thankfully, my coaches and teammates accepted me back to the team and we move forward."
McCoy went on a 10-week mission trip to Peru in the summer of 2013, rather than spending the time working with his team. The mission trip once again sparked rumors of McCoy's future as a Longhorn.
"[The media] made it seem like I was leaving, but I was never leaving," McCoy said Monday. "I chose this school for a reason. I always wanted to play for the University of Texas and I don't know if there is a guy on this team that has more pride for this school than I do. I am doing everything I can, week-in and week-out, to get this school back on the map."
McCoy spent the summer installing water filtration systems in poverty-stricken villages in Peru. Helping those in need helped McCoy to realize how blessed he is, not only to live in the United States, but to also play the game he loves.
"That trip to Peru has made me a better quarterback and a better teammate," McCoy said. "I would never change my decision, I would do it again today. Being separated from [football] for 10 weeks made me realize how much of a passion I have for the game and how much love I have for my teammates.
"There was a time where I was kind of going through the motions and not relishing the moment I am living in. Once I realized that and understood that I had one more year to do what I love and to continue to try to achieve this dream I've had for so long, that was biggest impact I got from the trip. I was ready to get back to my team as soon as that all hit me."
"If he had been the starting quarterback, he probably wouldn't have gone," Mack Brown said of McCoy's mission to Peru. "But being the backup quarterback going into his senior year, we actually felt like David (Ash) could lead the summer, and he needed to be the guy and be the leader. So it worked out well."
McCoy's Unexpected Senior Season
McCoy's role as the Longhorns quarterback unexpectedly became larger than ever when starting quarterback David Ash suffered a head injury in Week 2 of the season. McCoy has helped Texas overcome its 1-2 start and has the Longhorns contending for the Big 12's BCS berth at 3-0 in conference play.
"I grew up being an underdog," McCoy said. "I've been at a disadvantage for a long time. I went to a high school where we were always the underdog. And I love it. I love the us-against-the-world mentality because that's where you grow. That's where you become a team."
Everyone outside of the Texas football program expected the Longhorns to fall on their face against the Sooners. But in true Case McCoy form, he led Texas to its first win over Oklahoma since 2009 and did so with a giant chip on his shoulder.
"Complacency is when you start to fail, especially as a quarterback," McCoy said after being asked about the chip on his shoulder. "The way I avoid that is by keeping a chip on my shoulder. No one thinks I'm any good but my team. That's why my team keeps playing hard and I'm excited to go to war with these guys.
"This team is rolling. I'm a competitor. I want to be the guy. I'm not going to lose that job."
McCoy's confidence of maintaining his starting role seems to be relative in his current situation. Speculation of true freshman Tyrone Swoopes taking over as quarterback reached an all-time high when Ash went down at BYU. But, the way Mack Brown discussed Swoopes' future Monday has somewhat silenced the rumors.
The thing you want to try to do is be fair and not put him (Swoopes) in if David is coming back because David and Case would be the two quarterbacks and then he (Swoopes) loses a year.
Until Ash is cleared to play, McCoy is not going anywhere.
McCoy has continued to step up to the challenge of transitioning from a backup quarterback into the starting role and vice versa. The expiration date of McCoy's starting career is up in the air with Ash's head injury being a week-to-week battle.
But, what will happened if Ash returns?
After the Oklahoma game, Mack Brown told the Longhorn Network that this team is McCoy's team. Brown later clarified saying, "At this point, it is Case's team. When David returns, we'll have to look at it, but that's not an issue at this point."
It is also not an issue this week as the Longhorns prepare for TCU.
Nobody outside of the Texas medical staff and football program truly knows what is going on with Ash's injury. All that is known is Ash suffered a concussion in Week 2 against BYU, had recurring concussion symptoms at some point in the first half of Texas' game against Kansas State two weeks later and has not been seen by the media since.
With no timetable set for Ash's return, Case McCoy's future as the Longhorns' starting quarterback resembles his career at Texas: a week-to-week battle as the underdog.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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