Oct. 9, 2008
Zach Barnett, Texas Media Relations
The phrase "Football is Life" rings a little more true for certain members of the Texas football team than for the average football player, coach or fan. That's because life for these Longhorns has revolved around the game of football for literally their entire lives.
Junior QB Colt McCoy, senior WR Jordan Shipley and freshman DB Blake Gideon are just three Longhorns that are coaches' sons. All totaled there are six members of the team that grew up in football-dominated households, McCoy, Shipley, Gideon, freshman WR Brock Fitzhenry, freshman DB Nolan Brewster, whose father, Tim, is a former UT assistant current head coach at Minnesota, and junior TE Mac McWhorter, whose father of the same name is the current associate head coach and offensive line coach at Texas.
In the cases of McCoy, Shipley and Gideon, football has been a way of life for as long they can remember because their high school football head coach also answered to "Dad."
While even the most ardent football enthusiast may consider their lives football overkill, the Longhorns trio could not have picked a better upbringing.
"I wouldn't have traded that for anything because that's where I learned to play the game," said McCoy. "I grew up around it. I was around it since the time I could walk until now. That's where I learned how to throw, to catch and to play the game."
As is the same for many young boys, sitting still was not an option while dad worked, so they were involved in practice and film study seemingly as soon as they could walk.
"I've been messing around at dad's practices and games for as long as I can remember," Shipley said. "My dad started off as a college coach when I was little, so I was always up at his practices running around catching balls. I remember holding extra points for their kicker when I was probably five years old."
All the extra time on the practice field was not just fun and games, however, because the players used the chance to develop their football skills past their own age.
"When he was about in second or third grade he was always wanted to go around form-tackling people," said Steve Gideon, who coached Blake at Leander High School. "And then he would ask me, 'Dad, is that right?'"
The players were not lost on the grace required from their fathers to handle being coach and dad, as well as the opportunity bestowed upon them to accelerate their football talents.
"I think my dad always did a good job of being my dad at home and being my coach at school," Gideon remarked. "In a sense, I was fortunate enough to have a dad that knew a lot about the game I loved, was able to answer questions for me and help me out as I grew."
Growing up around football has definitely given them a unique advantage, the players say.
"(Life as a coach's son) prepared me a lot more than I would have been had I grown up in a different situation," said Gideon. "At the time in high school, I wanted to go out and hang out with my friends and instead I would stay at home and watch tape with dad a lot of the time. I'm thankful that I did that now."
The value of the advanced football knowledge coaches' sons possess is not lost on the Texas coaching staff, especially not Mack Brown, who is himself a coach's son.
"When we can find a guy that grew up with a coach, he understands the passion, the techniques and has instincts beyond some that might not so it's really fun for us to coach a coach's kid," said head coach Mack Brown.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Greg Davis echoed Coach Brown's sentiments when asked about McCoy.
"At 10 or 11, he was suggesting plays," Davis added. "He grew up with that mindset. He also understands the ebb and flow of the game from watching his dad. I think in most cases, players of coaches bring that to the table, especially quarterbacks."
As the sons move from high school football and living at home, to moving away to play at the collegiate level, the relationship between father and son, coach and player changes, but it will never end.
"He's my dad but he's also been my coach my whole life," McCoy said. "We still go over plays. Obviously he doesn't know our offense as far as terminology so I'll tell him things we're doing based on terminology from what I did in high school. That's the way that we can communicate. He knows how I react to certain things and he knows how I play under pressure. He knows everything."
However, the flow of knowledge is not always a one-way street.
"He helps me more than I help him," said Bob Shipley, who coached Jordan at Burnet High School and is now coaching at Coppell High. "He always tells me things they're doing and gives ways to help his younger brother who also plays receiver."
Having sons playing college football creates an interesting dilemma for fathers. According to Colt's father Brad, who coached Colt at Jim Ned High School in Tuscola and is now the head coach at Graham, many fall weekends are spent in a state of transition. Friday night is spent on the gridiron, and most Saturdays he is up in the car to catch the Longhorns' game (including this Saturday in Dallas), and then back to Graham Saturday night to begin preparing for the Steers' next opponent.
"It makes for some pretty long Sundays," said Brad McCoy. "Luckily I have coordinators that have been with me for nine years now so they pretty much know what I want done."
Although they may not have experienced the traditional father-son relationship as a child, the consensus among the Longhorn players was that their childhood was an experience that could not be exchanged for anything.
"I wouldn't have traded anything in the world than to have been a coach's kid," said McCoy.