From Greatness to Obscurity and Back : The LeSean McCoy Story

Paul SieversAnalyst IDecember 12, 2008

A friend of mine went to Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, PA. When I asked her about LeSean “Shady” McCoy, she simply replied “the cockiest kid you will ever meet”.

My friend was two years ahead of Shady at McDevitt, so when she knew him, he was a can’t miss running back prospect who seemingly had scholarship offers from every school in America. USC and Miami were the two early favorites in the Shady sweepstakes.

Then, during his senior year, when the lights were brightest, Shady suffered a gruesome ankle injury. The injury not only meant a year of prep school, it also meant USC and Miami were no longer interested. Shady would later say about the injury, “I learned who was my friend and who was trying to use me.”

Through all of the ups and downs, only Penn State and Pitt continued to recruit Shady, though only Pitt made him feel welcome.

On his official visit, he took in a Pitt basketball game. Twelve thousand fans chanting “we want Shady” was enough to seal the deal.

While Shady put together a phenomenal freshman campaign, it wasn’t without his fair share of growing pains.

Early in his career, he developed a habit of trying to break every run for a touchdown, often turning short gains into big losses. He also was occasionally guilty of lax ball security, which was on full display in 2007 in a game against Louisville when he fumbled what would have been the game winning touchdown on the goal line.

These flaws have not completely disappeared, but he has certainly worked hard to correct these problems. These weakness are overshadowed by immense ability and fierce determination.

With a style very similar to a young Tiki Barber, Shady has a great blend of speed and strength. He is more of an east-west runner, but it takes more than an arm tackle to bring him down.

It seems as if all of LeSean McCoy‘s setbacks have only made him stronger. The injury, the cold shoulder from Pete Carol and Randy Shannon, the fumble against Louisville, all of this fuels LeSean McCoy. He is out there trying to prove that both he, and the university that remained loyal to him, demand respect.

It is that attitude that has allowed him to come through in the big games, specifically "The Backyard Brawl." In his only two games against Pitt’s bitter rival, West Virginia, Shady has amassed 331 yards and scored two touchdowns. More importantly, he has been key in keeping Pitt’s drives alive in those two games and keeping WVU QB Pat White on the sidelines.

It will be very interesting to see how Shady responds to his first bowl game, because if LeSean McCoy wasn’t popular enough with Pitt fans, his knack for saving his best performances for the big games has made him the most beloved Panther since Larry Fitzgerald donned the blue and gold. A big game against Oregon State, and we would have to talk about him in the same breath as all of the other Panther greats.

Shady has already passed Tony Dorsett and Larry Fitzgerald for the school record for most touchdowns by an underclassman. While he has said he plans to return for his junior season (due to the year at prep school, he is draft eligible) even if he leaves, LeSean McCoy has left his mark on college football.