With the season opener against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish now upon us, former Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy has done his part to motivate the current team with “Dear Longhorns,” an open letter to the 2016 ‘Horns via The Players’ Tribune.
McCoy, now a seventh-year NFL quarterback with Washington, needs no introduction to Texas fans or to the team. He worked out with some of the players during the offseason and both knows and admires Charlie Strong.
His letter begins with a description of his old pregame routine: Finding a quiet spot to take it all in and reflect on being a part of something so much bigger than himself.
McCoy’s second career start was as a redshirt freshman in 2006 as the quarterback of the defending national champions. The opponent? No. 1 Ohio State.
No pressure, right?
He uses the game as an example to the many young members of the 2016 Longhorns.
Here’s the thing I learned eventually: The pressure doesn’t go away. It’s always there. You’re at Texas — the expectations never ease up. So what I discovered over time (and what you will as well) is that the pressure is a good thing. Eventually I learned to feed off of it. I even craved it, because it pushed me to be the best version of myself.
McCoy is glad he played before the social media era, when fans can instantly tell players how great or terrible they are.
What’s important is to shut out the noise and remember that the only thing you are in complete control of is your own performance. If you play to the very best of your ability, that’s all you can ask of yourself.
Like any older person, he reflects on his younger days playing in Austin, and remembers most of all how fun winning was.
I remember listening to Coach Brown’s postgame speech after a big victory, and then the entire team singing “Texas Fight!” together at the top of our lungs. I remember that feeling of walking to class with my teammates and having everybody we passed throw up their horns and congratulate us. I distinctly remember the pride I felt, but also the pride other people felt because of our performance. When we won, we lifted up the entire campus. And I remember wanting to have that feeling all the time. Our entire team did. I wanted to win for our school, I wanted to win for our coaches and I wanted for my teammates. That was part of what made us great.
Of course, practice is where the work gets done, and that work never stopped. Every day McCoy competed against the likes of Earl Thomas, Aaron Williams, Michael Griffin and other future NFL players. He says practice was so hard the games were fun because you finally got to take everything out on another team.
We reminisce about bowl games, 45-35 and the great run in ’08-‘09 when we only lost one game. We laugh about things that happened in the locker room and in the dorms. And we thank each other, even without directly saying it, for being a vital part of the period of our lives when we became men.
Someday, many years from now, maybe you guys will get together and look back on your time at Texas. And you’l reminisce about some disappointments from last season, when you lost some close games, but won some big ones. Then you’ll remember that season opener against Notre Dame, when you all realized just how talented you were, and showcased it in front the entire nation. You’ll look back and take pride in how you lifted Texas football out of the lean years and defined a new era of greatness. In some ways, I’m jealous of you. You have so many memories just waiting to be made.
McCoy has gotten to know new head coach Charlie Strong and sees big things in his vision for the program’s future.
I like where our program is right now. I really do. I had the opportunity to work out with a few you this summer, and it made me feel even better about the team. The talent is there. I see flashes of the same greatness that I was fortunate to be around while I was on campus. Yes, people have been frustrated with the results the last couple of years — and rightly so. But if you look closely, you can see that we’re turning a corner. You have the opportunity to erase a lot of bad memories for every person who feels a little bit of pride when they see burnt orange.
I don’t need to tell you that Notre Dame is good. You saw that last year, and I’m sure you’ve been hearing about how good they are just about every day since then.
But on Sunday, last year won’t matter. Not one lick. Your record right now is 0-0. Everything is ahead of you.
On Sunday, Texas players have to trust themselves and their abilities, just like McCoy did a decade ago.
Before kickoff on Sunday, find a quiet place on the sideline. Take a knee and look around the stadium. Breathe in the air and appreciate the atmosphere. And take a moment to collect your thoughts, say a little prayer and remember how blessed you are to be playing the greatest game on earth at the greatest school on earth.
Then get on your feet, strap on your helmet and go show those boys how we play ball in Texas.