Thirty years ago when Abilene Christian teammates Brad McCoy and Bob Shipley suited up every Saturday to live out their gridiron dreams in a bleacher-lined high school stadium, never could they have envisioned how their futures, through football, family and good timing, would forever be interwoven.
The college roommates both met their wives at ACU. They both set out on what would become long and successful careers as high school football coaches dotting rural Texas towns. They had children. The McCoys have three, all boys. The Shipleys have four, two boys and two girls. The first three children down the line are all very close in age. Brad and Bob would go on to coach in playoff games against each other. Their kids would play together by day and compete against each other on the football field come Friday night.
Brad McCoy's eldest and youngest sons and both of Bob Shipley's boys would go on to play major college football. Strapping, small-town sports heroes, the heady, ultra-competitive sons of coaches, all four arrived on the biggest football stage in the state as Texas Longhorns.
For four victorious seasons from 2006 to '09, McCoy and Shipley -- McCoy to Shipley -- were the two most frequently heard names echoing from the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium speakers since Vince Young.
Suddenly, their younger siblings have taken over the stage.
This is their story through the eyes of their fathers.
"We weren't near as athletic as our boys are, but we were just happy to be playing ball at Abilene Christian," Bob Shipley said. "I remember vividly, Brad and I, at the end of Jordan and Colt's careers saying, 'You know, if these other two guys have half the success that the older brothers have had, we're so blessed.'"
First came Daniel "Colt" McCoy, the clean-cut, now-legendary Longhorns quarterback, whose No. 12 was retired not long after leaving Austin for the Cleveland Browns; and the shaggy-haired Jordan Shipley, the fearless, middle-of-the-field favorite target of his boyhood buddy and the school's all-time receptions leader who is now a Cincinnati Bengal (he is on injured reserve and underwent knee surgery to repair a torn ACL this week).
Together, as best friends, teammates and roommates just like their dads, they fueled Texas to the brink of a national championship.
Two seasons removed, sophomore quarterback Case McCoy and freshman receiver Jaxon Shipley -- tight as brothers since at least the fourth grade when Texas coach Mack Brown first recruited their brothers -- are now teammates and roommates just like their older brothers and just like their dads. They're hooking up -- McCoy to Shipley -- and helping to lift the surprising Longhorns (4-0) from the brink of a program collapse after last season's duress.
On Saturday morning at the Cotton Bowl, the McCoy and Shipley clans will be back inside the historic and familiar Dallas edifice to watch this unique and unfolding saga, the second coming of McCoy to Shipley. It is the backdrop of yet another crucial Red River Rivalry showdown featuring two unbeatens as the youthful No. 11 Longhorns take on the veteran and battle-tested No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners (4-0).
"The fact that [Case] has the opportunity now and he's been able to really help the team and be able to do it with Jaxon there kind of in that legacy of the McCoys and the Shipleys, it's been a lot of fun," Brad McCoy said. "That's a good side story, but both of those kids are about Texas and making Texas win and being great teammates."
It's not that brother legacies are terribly unique or new anywhere in college football. Little brothers tend to follow their big brothers, it's a natural order. Texas senior linebacker Emmanuel Acho is the younger brother of just-graduated linebacker Sam Acho. Freshman cornerback Quandre Diggs is the younger brother of former cornerback Quentin Jammer. Lyle Sendlein followed big brother Austin.
In the 1960s, Ted Koy followed his big brother, Ernie Jr. The brothers each won a national championship and followed in the footsteps of their dad, Ernie Sr., a three-time all-Southwest Conference selection in football and baseball in the 1930s.
Perhaps the most noted brothers to impact Oklahoma football were the three Selmons -- Lucious, Dewey and Lee Roy in the 1970s.
Sooners coach Bob Stoops had younger brother Mike follow him to Iowa, and they later coached together at OU before Mike took the Arizona job eight years ago.
"I was very lucky not just to have my brother follow me, but we played together for a number of years and we went to bowl games together," Stoops said. "It was pretty neat and for [Texas] I'm sure it's very unique to have the multiple brother combination that they've got going at the same positions."
Stoops nailed the uniqueness of the McCoy-Shipley legacy. This is not just one brother following his big brother, or even better following him at the same position. This is two sets of brothers together following in the footsteps of their older brothers who also happened to be two of the very best at Texas to ever play the positions.
For Case and Jaxon to have burst onto the scene just as Texas had little choice but to move away from the struggling Garrett Gilbert, Colt's heir apparent a season ago, and just when it demanded a playmaker step up at receiver, makes the story all the more enticing, if not unfathomable.
Asked if he's ever seen such a situation, Stoops said, "I don't believe I have."
Of course, Stoops knows the former McCoy-Shipley duo quite well. This new combination is making its first appearance in the rivalry game and is unproven in such a pressure-filled atmosphere. Youth in this Texas transition season is arguably its greatest weakness against the Sooners' defense, and on the other side, the steady hand of third-year starting quarterback Landry Jones.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Case McCoy was Gilbert's backup last season, but he frustratingly was not called upon as the season slipped away. He is now sharing snaps on game day with impressive true freshman David Ash. The duo replaced Gilbert in the second half against BYU in Week 2, and with Jaxon Shipley's game-high three catches, led the comeback that perhaps saved the season.
Since, Texas has twice won big and the exciting newcomers have added voltage to new offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin's dynamic scheme.
Case has thrown about twice as many passes as Ash and has done so effectively and efficiently.
Jaxon is far and away the team's leading receiver with 16 catches -- no one else has more than nine -- for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
For the speedy, 6-1, 190-pounder, who starred at receiver under his father's direction at Brownwood High School, following in Jordan's footsteps was never a topic brought up for discussion.
"We never sent film or fielded a phone call from one other school," Bob Shipley said.
If Case, who played for his dad at Graham High School, never had a second thought about following the beloved Colt, college football's all-time winningest QB, Brad McCoy did.
"I love Texas and I'm glad that he's there, but there was some hesitation because how do you follow somebody like Colt, especially since he's your brother?" Brad McCoy said. "That's just hard. I think it puts a lot of extra pressure on a kid when you're at the same school."
During Colt's days at Texas, the McCoy family became friends with the first family of quarterbacking, the Mannings. Brad asked Archie Manning, the former New Orleans Saints great, for advice. Brad obviously wanted to know why little brother Eli chose to attend Ole Miss and not follow big brother Peyton to Tennessee.
"He said, 'Yeah, it will put pressure on Case,'" Brad said. "But, we talked about it a lot and there was no convincing Case. Case was dead-set that that's where he needed to be and he trusted [Texas] coach [Mack] Brown. No matter what, that's where he wanted to go."
After all, how do you tell an 18-year-old to go somewhere unfamiliar when so many of his childhood memories are inviting: Hanging around the Texas coaches' offices, the practice fields, the games, the players, his big brother and his young buddy Jaxon, who did all of those same things?
"Someone laughed yesterday and said, 'Did you only recruit Colt and Jordan to get Jaxon and Case?'" Brown said. "I hadn't thought about it because I've told the story when Jordan and Colt just got to school here you'd see Case hanging out around the offices as a little kid, and I've said many times that Jaxon used to roll down the hill out at the practice field and we'd have to have our administrative staff walk over and tell that little kid to quit rolling down the hill, he might hurt himself."
"He would take off and dive on his stomach and slide down the grassy hill," Bob Shipley said. "Coach Brown was always saying, 'Get some cardboard or something, you're going to hurt yourself.' So obviously, I think he always envisioned himself practicing on those fields and playing in that stadium."
Whether the new McCoy-to-Shipley tandem can help Texas, a 10-point underdog to the Sooners, pull the upset and remain unbeaten, it appears the Longhorns have found a new, yet hardly unfamiliar dynamic duo for perhaps yet another few seasons to come.
"Bob and I are still best friends and see each other a couple of times a week, but even in saying that, when we stop to really think about what has happened through the years and what's happening now, it is very uncommon and kind of unbelievable to us," Brad McCoy said. "Jordan and Colt got to know each other after we started coaching at a pretty young age in junior high and that relationship really bloomed. And, therefore, Case and Jaxon were friends when they were young, young, 5, 6, 7, 8 years old. They understand each other and they know how to work with each other and it's just really special.
"But," Brad concluded, "it is pretty unbelievable."
Jeff Caplan covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com.