In the days since a freak shoulder injury forced him out of the biggest game of his life, former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is finding that life does go on.
Just this week, McCoy received a clean bill of health from world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, proposed to his longtime girlfriend on the very field in which he became a Longhorn football legend (she said yes), hired an agent, began training in Southern California for his professional career, and Thursday morning accepted one final achievement award, the Manning Award, named in honor of the college football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning.
During a conference call Thursday, McCoy said that Dr. Andrews termed his injury a "burner," and told him he should regain full strength in his arm in two weeks. McCoy was running on an option play on Texas' opening possession of the BCS National Championship Game at the Alabama 11-yard line when he got tackled and hit on the shoulder. The type of injury he sustained, at first believed to be a pinched nerve, causes temporary loss of feeling in the extremity affected. In McCoy's case it happened to be his golden right arm. He exited the game and, despite efforts to regain feeling in his throwing arm, McCoy couldn't muster enough arm strength to accurately toss a football to his dad in the locker room.
"If the rest of my body was numb and my right arm was healthy, I would have been out there," McCoy said. "There was no way. I did everything I could to get back out there."
After the game, McCoy described his arm as feeling like a "noodle." On Thursday, he said he could raise his arm up over his shoulder by the start of the second half, but that he didn't have the strength or control needed to throw a football. He said the doctors that examined him in the locker room suggested he shower and change into his clothes before heading back to the sideline to watch the remainder of the game.
McCoy scoffed at that suggestion and returned to the sideline in full uniform and pads, just in case his arm somehow came to life.
"I would have done anything in the world to be out there and play on that stage for the last game of my senior year, something I worked for for my whole career," McCoy said. "That is something I will question, why it had to happen, for the rest of my life."
McCoy said he was down in the dumps in the days immediately following the game. But a phone call placed to Texas coach Mack Brown helped to cheer him up and refocus on what's ahead.
"President Obama called Coach Brown and told him to tell me he was sorry for me, hopes my shoulder gets better and he can't wait to watch me play in the NFL," McCoy said. "I think of all people, that actually was pretty neat, it kind of lifted my spirits."
McCoy said with each day of rehab he sees noticeable improvement, and he expects to be completely healthy before the NFL Scouting Combine in February in Indianapolis. McCoy is under the representation of NFL player agent David Dunn of Athletes First, based in Irvine, Calif. McCoy will remain in Orange County, not far from where the Longhorns prepared for the BCS title game, to train.
"My main focus is my shoulder right now, but I certainly expect to go and do things at the Combine," McCoy said. "I haven't thought that far ahead yet, but I would certainly expect to be down there and go through the Combine."
Some NFL draft experts contend that McCoy's draft stock took a blow because he was unable to perform against a top-rated Alabama defense after his subpar outing against Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game. Of course, the week prior, McCoy executed an epic performance at Texas A&M with 479 total yards (304 passing) and five touchdowns.
Projected to be selected anywhere from the second round to fourth round, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound McCoy said he's unsure of where he fits in the draft order. It is a deep and interesting draft class of quarterbacks, including Jimmy Clausen (Notre Dame), Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Tim Tebow (Florida), Jake Locker (Washington), Tony Pike (Cincinnati) and Jevan Snead (Mississippi), among others.
"That's not something I can think about or even hazard an educated guess about right now," McCoy said. "I'm focusing on the task ahead of me, which involves getting both physically and mentally prepared to play in the NFL and getting mentally and physically prepared to have a long and successful career. That's my focus right now. I can't even really give you an educated guess about that.
"I know the quarterback that I am. I know how hard I'm going to work. I know how hard I'm going to prepare and I know what I've done the last four years and that's very special to me. I absolutely expect my shoulder to be 100 percent, ready to go, and I'll be fine."
McCoy, from tiny Tuscola, succeeded Vince Young and went on to start four seasons for the Longhorns. He left with an NCAA-record 45 victories. He threw for 13,253 career yards and 112 touchdowns while completing a remarkable 70.3 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 1,571 yards and 20 touchdowns.
With little rushing game to speak of the past two seasons, McCoy guided Texas to a 25-2 record while throwing for 7,380 yards. He connected on 61 touchdowns with 20 interceptions.
Who knows what might have happened one week ago at the Rose Bowl had McCoy not been injured.
That lingering thought has made finding closure to his collegiate career difficult. But McCoy, 23, boasting a degree in sport management, a new fiancee and the next phase of his football career in his future, has made peace with his past.
"To be able to be in a national championship, the ups and downs of a season is long and hard and we were there. We made it," McCoy said. "For it to be taken away like that, obviously, for me, it's very, very tough. Hard to handle, hard to deal with.
"But, at the same time, I've moved on. I know the best football of my career hasn't even started yet."