AUSTIN, Texas - As first impressions go, Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo thought Colt McCoy would be, well, bigger.
Instead of the possible successor to larger-than-life Vince Young, Orakpo saw "a little scrawny quarterback out of Jim Ned High school. He was so small."
Now, nearly four seasons after he arrived on campus, McCoy stands on the verge of surpassing Young as the winningest quarterback in Texas history. Both have 30 victories.
All McCoy has to do is beat Texas A&M, the only school in the Big 12 South he hasn't defeated.
Two years ago, he was taken off the field after a late hit. Aggie fans christened him Cart McCoy, a name resurrected this week by former Aggie and current Dallas Cowboy Martellus Bennett this week. Last year, the Aggies gave coach Dennis Franchione an upset farewell win.
"I'm not focused on them," McCoy said. "I'm focused on us and the job we have to do on Thursday. ... It has nothing to do with anything in the past."
The game carries bigger stakes than settling a score, as McCoy understands.
The Longhorns have one chance to impress poll voters and improve their computer rankings. If Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma each win, the Big 12 South winner will be decided by the BCS standings.
Heisman voters have another chance to assess McCoy. Coach Mack Brown even compared McCoy's combination of running and passing to last year's Heisman winner.
"He's done for this team what Tim Tebow has done for Florida," Brown said, noting McCoy's 3,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing.
Everything started in 2005.
McCoy never played a down as a redshirt freshman.
"I was impressed that he was always asking questions, wanting to know how I did things or what I did as a freshman," Young said in an e-mail sent through the Tennessee Titans.
"I encouraged him to keep asking questions to me and the coaching staff because as a freshman you don't generally get the attention that the starter is getting, so to stay in the coaches' ear and keep learning."
McCoy did, making mental notes on Young, whom he calls one of the great college quarterbacks ever.
"I was in his ear, in his hip pocket all the time, learning, watching film, watching his leadership skills," McCoy said.
The remaining Longhorns, who had seen Young lead them to a national title in 2005, quickly had any doubts about McCoy erased in spring practice.
Going head-to-head with highly regarded recruit Jevan Snead, McCoy won the job. Snead transferred to Ole Miss, where he has the Rebels on the verge of a Cotton Bowl bid.
"We learned off the bat that Colt was the guy," Orakpo said. "When he and Snead would go at it in quarterback battle situations, he was the guy doing things to perfection."
As a freshman, McCoy won nine of his first 10 starts before suffering a shoulder stinger against Kansas State, one that dramatically limited his effectiveness against A&M.
Another 10-win season followed, although McCoy's numbers suffered.
Bulked up to 210 pounds on his 6-3 frame, he has Texas in the national championship mix.
"Two things stand out to me - how well he handles blitz situations and how he has dealt with the pressures of being the starting quarterback at Texas," said Young, who still exchanges text messages with McCoy. "It depends on what is going on with him and the team, but it is usually encouragement, keeping the team focused and remembering the big picture."
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis tells quarterbacks they need to develop their leadership styles based on their personality.
Young did, dancing on the field before the national title game. So has McCoy, whose low-key style befits a player whose favorite activity is dove hunting.
"Both of them are guys who want to win," offensive lineman Cedric Dockery said. "They're pretty much similar in every way. They're the same player. They have different attributes."
Now all McCoy needs to do is beat A&M to pass Young and every other UT quarterback in wins.
"That's crazy," McCoy said. "That's the biggest record that's significant for a quarterback. Every time you step on the field, that's your goal."
COLT IN THE CLUTCH
How Colt McCoy performed in two late-game situations this season against Oklahoma and Texas Tech:
Oklahoma: With Texas trailing, 35-30, with 11:42 remaining, McCoy led two touchdown drives and completed six of seven passes for 67 yards.
Texas Tech: With Texas trailing, 29-13, with 2:38 left in the third quarter, McCoy directed three consecutive scoring drives and briefly gave Texas the lead in a 39-33 loss. On those three drives, he was 8-of-10 for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
Total: 14-of-17 for 225 yards and two touchdowns.