The real McCoy

Sunday, August 15, 2004

The average football fan probably thinks Charles McCoy is out of his mind, passing up the big-time atmosphere of Southern Cal and Nebraska for low-profile, Division I-AA Southeast Missouri State University.

But McCoy has no doubt that Cape Girardeau is where he and wife Stephanie were meant to wind up.

"I'm glad to be here. I really like it and enjoy it," said McCoy, who participated in the Indians' first scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday. "I trusted my faith that it would all work out. I always put God first, and I think this is where he wanted us to be."

Much to the delight of Southeast coach Tim Billings, who is certain where the 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback with exceptional speed ranks among the program's all-time recruits.

"We're really excited to have him," Billings said. "He's the most highly recruited kid to ever play here."

Considering that defending national champion USC and perennial power Nebraska were both very interested in signing McCoy, Billings is probably right.

A long, winding road

The story of how McCoy -- nicknamed "Twin" because he has an identical twin brother -- ultimately wound up at Southeast after being pursued by two of the nation's elite big-time programs is interesting to say the least.

A native of Tallahassee, Fla., McCoy was a high school standout who attracted plenty of recruiting interest but his academics weren't quite up to par at the time for him to play in college. Then he got married, which changed his outlook considerably.

"I wanted to take that role on, so I got a job and supported my family," McCoy said.

For the next three years, McCoy worked and did not play any kind of organized football. But the sport was never far from his mind -- and then his telephone rang one day.

"I got a call from someone I knew who wanted me to go to California and play football," McCoy said.

So it was off to Santa Monica Community College, where McCoy blossomed into a two-time all-conference performer and a junior college All-American.

"It was a good opportunity for me and things worked out well in California," McCoy said.

Indians in early

As fate would have it, one of Billings' former players from his assistant coaching days at Marshall was on the coaching staff at Santa Monica Community College and alerted Billings to the impressive talent, so Billings and his staff were virtually the first four-year program to begin recruiting McCoy.

"We got in on him early," Billings said.

And, as it turns out, that would prove critical because Southeast's coaches had already formed a strong bond with McCoy by the time the likes of USC and Nebraska began courting him hard prior to this year's signing period.

"SEMO's coaches had been on me from the start. Several of their coaches came out to see me, and I was really impressed when coach Billings came," McCoy said.

McCoy, personable and well-spoken, admitted that he was tempted when the Trojans and Cornhuskers both wanted his services. But not tempted enough to discard Southeast.

"It crossed my mind on the recruiting trips, that I could be playing for those programs," McCoy said with a smile. "It was tempting, but I'm not caught up in all the fame and glory.

"I just want to get a good education and be some place where I can play. My wife and I felt welcome here, it felt like home. We just put our trust in God and went with our heart."

Impressed with Southeast

McCoy, 23, and Stephanie have been married four years, and they have no children. He figures that part of their life can wait. In the meantime, he's intent on hitting the books and using his impressive physical skills to help the Indians win games.

Already, in the first week of practice, McCoy -- picked by Street & Smith Magazine as the Ohio Valley Conference's top newcomer -- said he has been impressed with the talent displayed by Southeast players and expects the Indians to contend for the OVC championship.

"We've got a lot of talent," he said. "I was kind of surprised, for a I-AA program. All our positions are deep."

Southeast appears to be plenty deep in the secondary, but there seems little doubt that McCoy will make an immediate impact.

"I think he's going to be a really exciting player for us. He's really talented and he's just a great kid," Billings said. "He's a little bit older, a little more mature, and I think Cape and Southeast just seemed like a good place for him and his wife. It's great they're here."

If McCoy lives up to his advance billing over the next two years, it's highly likely he'll at least receive some looks from the National Football League.

But he's not about to take anything for granted as he focuses on earning a criminal justice degree and hopefully becoming an FBI agent some day. In the long run, McCoy figures he and Stephanie will be taken care of no matter what happens.

"The NFL would be great, and I'll do what I can to make it," he said. "But I'll go with whatever God has in store for me."

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