Payday for McCoy Navy: Quarterback Chris McCoy hopes to finish his remarkable career today with the only memorable feat that's eluded him -- a victory over Army.

December 06, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The poignant documentary, "Anchors Aweigh For Honor And Glory," debuted at the Naval Academy last Sunday to inspire the Brigade of Midshipmen for today's battle with Army at the Meadowlands.

Navy football legends Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach and war heroes John Hopkins and William Lawrence were interviewed. All told of their abiding devotion to Navy football and the academy.

The last voice heard was that of current Navy co-captain Chris McCoy.

"I'll always have family here no matter wherever I go in life," he said. "In the world, there are so many negative things going on, but we can still be a positive light in the world."

Then, in a voice filled with emotion, McCoy concluded, "I'm just proud to be here. It's a most humbling experience. Go Navy Beat Army."

It is the only unfinished business for the celebrated senior quarterback, who has rewritten the academy record book in his two years of running Charlie Weatherbie's intricate option offense.

In his previous two games against Army, McCoy came up short and was relieved in the final quarter by Ben Fay.

In 1995, with Navy leading 13-7 in the fourth quarter, Weatherbie spurned a near-certain field goal from the 1-yard line, and McCoy's fourth-down pass fell short of Cory Schemm's diving attempt in the end zone. Army then marched 99 yards for the winning touchdown. Fay played the rest of the game.

Last December, McCoy staked the Mids to a 21-3 lead, but Army rallied to pull ahead, 28-24, in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver LeBron Butts dropped a pair of McCoy passes in the end zone before Fay was summoned again. Fay quickly moved the Mids down the field in the closing minute, only to have an interception end the desperate drive.

"That's why this game is the most important in my career," said McCoy. "We've been involved in some great games the last two seasons and almost beat Notre Dame this year. We've accomplished a lot, but we haven't beaten Army. To win this game would really finish a great career for myself and my fellow seniors."

But McCoy insisted he is not haunted by the losses to the Cadets.

"You can't think about the past," he said. "If you do, you're cheating your teammates. You have to stay focused. You can't let the emotional level take control. This game is unique because you can only think about what is happening right here, right now.

"You know the guys on the other side have the same goals and values in life. You know you may serve with these guys one day, and know one of them may take a bullet for you.

"I know exactly what every guy on their team is going through on any given day. I've gone through the same thing. Most college football players don't have to go through what we do at the academies. It's a lot harder than people think.

"That's why you have to play to the best of your ability and take the game to a higher level. You have to show the respect you have for them, the love of the game and the love you have for your service. In my mind, the winner of this game is the best of the best."

McCoy has already earned his place among the best players in Navy history.

Most notably, the converted defensive back has set school records for points (246), and touchdowns (41), and he has rolled up a record 5,608 yards in total offense. This year, he became only the 10th player in NCAA history to run (1,165 yards) and pass (1,129) for more than 1,000 yards.

His is an unlikely success story. His football future was all but buried in the clay of the back roads of southwest Georgia, where he grew up in the tiny town of Morris.

On rainy days, McCoy had to walk several miles through ankle-deep mud to the bus stop that would carry him to Randolph-Clay High School in neighboring Cuthbert.

At 5 feet 7 and 157 pounds, he played quarterback and defensive back for a team that won two of 20 games his last two seasons. But McCoy earned All-West Georgia honors by leading the region in interceptions three straight years.

"I remember this scrawny kid showing up at practice one day and telling me, 'I'm going to be your quarterback,' recalled his former coach, Jim McFather. "I almost had to bite my lip. But he worked so hard, and he had a coach's mentality. He was one of the only bright spots we had running our winged-T."

When graduation came, McCoy's future football options seemed severely limited.

"My best friend, Andre Bussey, and I were ready to sign with Albany State, which was close to home," he recalled. "But my school principal, Jackie Hammond, thought I could do better and sent some game tapes to Navy. It got down to an hour before I was ready to sign with Albany State that Navy coach Frank Hickson called and asked if I was interested in going to their prep school."

It was an easy decision.

"A lot of kids are afraid to stray far from home and don't take advantage of their opportunities," said McCoy, who had never before been on an airplane. "I just know I wanted more for myself."

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