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Hook 'em Horns

9/1/2009
Play2:46

WACO, Texas -- It's no secret that University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is an accurate passer, but just how accurate was the question as he stood on the shore of Lake Whitney, grinning.

"I'm just trying to determine how fast they're going to be coming at me," McCoy said. "I mean, this would be like Randy Moss running a 3.2 40-yard dash. We'll see how this works out."

Sitting on the deck of a boat a quarter-mile down the bank was McCoy's best friend, roommate and No. 1 receiver, Jordan Shipley. Behind the wheel of the Skeeter bass boat with a 250-horsepower Yamaha engine was 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones.

The premise is pretty simple: Jones puts the bass boat on plane, meaning he'll be going at least 40 mph. He runs the boat 20 yards offshore, and McCoy, who set the NCAA record for accuracy in 2008, tries to hit Shipley in the numbers.

Shipley said they used to do this sort of thing on Sea-Doos, so it really shouldn't be an issue.

"I'm not sure how this will go the first time, but second or third time, we should be good to go," McCoy said. "It all depends on how fast Alton wants to drive. If he wants to be nice and drive about 40 … we'll see what happens."

Jones was about halfway to McCoy, going 42 mph, when the prediction changed.

"I actually think I'm going to hit him on the first try," he said. "It's all up to Jordan, he's the one that has to catch it -- he's got to make it work."

When McCoy released the ball, it didn't look like it stood a chance. There's no way he'd need to lead Shipley that much, right? The ball, as Shipley put it, "hit like a ton of bricks" in the middle of his chest.

McCoy threw his arms in the air, and spun around to confirm that everyone who heard the prediction saw it come true. Shipley and Jones were high-fiving in the boat.

The event was a contrived metaphor of two of McCoy's passions: football and the outdoors.

McCoy and Shipley, whose fathers roomed together in college, have established reputations as outdoorsmen. McCoy, of Tuscola, Texas, might have never decided on the Longhorns if it weren't for a hunting trip with Shipley, who had already committed to play in Austin via nearby Burnet.

Former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville once told Bassmaster magazine that recruits who are devoted outdoorsmen have a leg up with him because he knows they can be counted on to get up early and work hard.

"[Tuberville] is right that you do have to be dedicated to get up before the sun and sit in a blind or come throw topwater," McCoy said. "There's a lot about being an outdoorsman that carries over. You learn a lot of life lessons.

"I learned how to work. Hunting, fishing, working on the farm with my grandpa … I developed a passion for work and it carried over to the field."

But this day of fishing on Lake Whitney in central Texas offered a new angle on the quarterback's view of the outdoors.

Jones has been a professional angler for almost two decades. He's won nearly $2 million in prize money with BASS, and that's not counting sponsorship money.

A few hours before "The Throw," on a morning of fishing with Jones, McCoy got to see the business side of his hobby and learned it wasn't too far from his future profession. Never mind that McCoy will probably make more in his first five games next fall than Jones has his entire life. And never mind your position on bass fishing in or out of the realm of sport.

McCoy, Shipley and Jones spent the morning talking about business, competition and life -- one professional to two future professionals. Two young, proven winners to a proven winner.

The Zone

Jones is a year and a half removed from the biggest win of his career. Three days, 15 bass and 49 pounds, 7 ounces on Lake Hartwell in Greenville, S.C., earned him half a million dollars and made him a fishing legend.

"It's kind of strange, when you're on the water that final day and on stage, it just kind of happens," Jones said. "I guess your training and technique kind of take over. It's like a train and you can't stop it. It's just your time to win. Everything goes right. Every decision you make is perfect, every cast is perfect."

McCoy understood. His memory was a little more recent, in what some thought would be the last college football game of his life.

"You were in the zone," McCoy said. "That's what it felt like in that final drive in the Fiesta Bowl. Everything was stacked up against you, but you never thought about it. You just went ahead and just did what you had been coached to do and everything just happened the way it should. You have to know you're going to win."

The Head

Jones is known as one of the calmer anglers on tour. When things aren't going well on the water, it can be difficult to stick to the game plan, especially when 90 percent of the time you're fishing for something you can't see.

"It amazes me how much the mental side of fishing is so much like other sports," he said. "Having the confidence to play to your own strengths and play your own game. It's amazing what a powerful force that is."

McCoy again focused on practice as preparation. He said it's important for him to eliminate doubt and negativity, which, even for the quarterback of the Texas Longhorns, is not always an easy proposition.

"I'm constantly having to fight my own mind," McCoy said "And a lot of time I'm fighting my mind in negative ways. I have thoughts like 'I don't know if I can do this.' I fight that all the time. But I think every person struggles with that kind of stuff.

"But preparation and all the things you have worked on up to that point allow you to say, 'I'm going to do this and I'm going to win.'"

Leadership

For the most part, fishing is a solo game. The argument can be made that the Jones family -- who travel the tournament trail in an RV -- are as much a part of the process as Jones himself, but success eventually comes down to one man and a lot of bass.

On the top bass fishing circuit, the Elite Series, you catch fish or you don't make money.

"I love the position I'm in," Jones said. "I'm the coach, the quarterback, receiver and line. I make the decisions and I live with the consequences."

PHOTO GALLERY

On the water

McCoy said quarterback is just one part of the team it takes to win games, but in his mind, it's a position that assumes the responsibility of all other positions.

"You have to make sure that you're prepared to play, but you also have to make sure that everyone else is ready to go," he said.

In last year's game against Oklahoma, which at the time seemed like it would decide who'd play for the national championship, McCoy said he was put in a position late where he felt the pressure of everyone around him. Texas had done just about everything they could have on offense, but they went into the fourth quarter down by five.

"The coaches, the offensive line, your teammates -- they can't see you get too high or too low," he said. "It's being able to understand that everybody is upset, everybody is disappointed we're not winning, and just to calm them down and say, 'Hey look, just keep playing, something is going to happen for us.'"

Among the top quarterbacks in the nation, McCoy is considered best by many when it comes to performance under pressure, on third down and late in games.

"To fight through that stage and then to lead a drive in the end, and your teammates play great and your coaches coach great, and to come out on top in the end, those are the times that are awesome," he said. "We did that against OU last year and we did it against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl."

Fame

Jones, Shipley and McCoy started fishing docks about halfway through the morning. One of the dock's owners and his friend were putting up their boat when Jones, Shipley, McCoy and two camera boats came idling by.

Both McCoy and Shipley were wearing Longhorn T-shirts and hats -- not too uncommon there -- but Jones was in his tournament jersey and his tournament boat. He's also from Waco, so it was interesting to see who would be correctly identified, if anybody.

"You catching them?" the owner asked, in a voice implying he was hoping for more information.

"Working on it," Jones said. The owner whispered a few things to his friend, but never asked the "Who are you?" question.

"I get told a lot when I'm out that I look like Colt McCoy," McCoy said. "I just smile and walk away as fast as possible."

Shipley said he gets asked, too -- not if he's Jordan Shipley, but if he's Colt McCoy.

"They even ask one of our big tight ends," Shipley said. "He's about 260 pounds -- people don't really know."

McCoy said he usually runs in packs to class just to be safe, but adds that people are generally respectful of his personal space.

"It's better having people want to come talk to you rather than having them not like you, not care," he said. "I enjoy it. I think it's a great opportunity to meet different people."

It's reading about himself in the paper that he said he doesn't like and doesn't do -- a lesson he learned from his coach, Mack Brown.

"He said don't read the paper," McCoy said. "Because there are going to be people that love you and write great things about you, and there will be people that hate you and write negative things about you, and you really don't need to hear either one of them."

Faith

McCoy and Shipley handpicked Jones for this outing, in large part because they all share a similar faith. On the left sleeve of Jones' jersey it says "Acts 4:12," which reads, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

McCoy adds "Colossians 3:23" to most of his autographs. It reads, "And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."

Both see their positions of influence as platforms to share their beliefs, but also deal with distractions of their positions. McCoy said staying focused on his faith was a sticking point while discussing schools with Shipley in the deer blind.

"I knew I'd have someone that enjoyed doing the same things I do, that believes the same way I do, and was a great guy," McCoy said. "You develop a relationship of trust. You know he's there to help you, whether that's off the field or on the field."

For Jones, 46, it took one day on the water to grow deep convictions for Texas' top threats.

"They don't want to just put up stats and win a Heisman trophy, they want to make a difference in people's lives," he said. "Character runs deep in both of these young men. I was thoroughly impressed."

Awards

On Sept. 12, Jones will be one of 12 anglers in the Elite Series playoffs vying for the top honor in bass fishing, the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title. He's four good days away from another $250,000 and the title of best angler in the world.

Points are accumulated through an eight-tournament regular season, and Jones admitted it can be a distraction.

"I'll still catch myself on game day letting my mind wander to some of those distractions, like Angler of the Year race or how is this going to affect my points," he said. "It's not easy staying focused on the next fish."

As Heisman trophy runner-up, McCoy had a front-row seat at Sam Bradford's coronation last year, and McCoy is among the favorites to win it this season. He claims he's not big on awards -- that it's a team sport and individual awards don't make sense.

Before he left for the Heisman ceremony he told his coaches and teammates he was representing the hard work they all had put in, and if he brought the trophy back, it would be a team award.

"It ended up not happening that way, but I was glad I was there; I was glad I could represent my team," he said. "If it happens again -- great. We have high expectations as a team, we've set our goals really high, and we're looking forward to this year."

Bass Fishing

McCoy caught his first bass when he was 3. Jones spent his childhood dreaming of winning the Bassmaster Classic. Shipley fishes in a Wednesday night league.

Between all the talk of life, business and competition, these guys were looking to catch bass.

"We bass fish a lot," Shipley said. "During the offseason, at least once a week."

It was obvious. McCoy was about as accurate with his bait as he is with the football.

"I just love it," McCoy said. "I love fishing with Jordan or Alton Jones, or even bringing some of my teammates that have never fished before -- they say, 'Man, I know you fish. Take me, I want to go fishing.'

"It's a way that we can carry our relationship off the field. Fishing is just something I love to do and I think everybody should do it."

McCoy won the day, landing three nice bass in the 4-pound range. Jones said he knew early on that it was not just a celebrity guiding trip.

"If they play football this season half as well as they fished today," Jones said, "Texas should be in good shape."