SAN ANTONIO, Texas _ Colt McCoy sat in the Marriott Thursday answering question after question about his neck injury. The Texas quarterback was looking for a break when he was asked about his counterpart in Alamo Bowl, Iowa's Drew Tate.
McCoy's eyes lit up, like a kid talking about a hero. The Longhorn freshman has kept up on Tate's exploits at Iowa and was well aware of his high school career.
"I know he holds all the records in Texas high school football history," said McCoy, who prepped in Tuscola, Texas. "Any quarterback in this state knows of Drew Tate because he throws the ball and he's got all of the records."
Tate starred at Baytown (Texas) Lee High, where he established state career records for completions (970), attempts (1,576) passing yards (12,180) touchdown passes (113) and touchdown passes in one half (7). He guided Lee to four consecutive Class 5A playoff appearances, Texas' large-school division.
"I follow him," said Longhorn Running Back Selvin Young, who prepped in Houston. "I'm a fan of his. I watched him all through high school. I've always watched his progress and always tried to look and see what he was doing."
Texas high school football has always been regarded to be among the best in the country, if not No. 1. It has produced in the neighborhood of 300 Division IA prospects for several years and has proven to be a breeding ground for some of the nation's top college players.
Young said he follows Texas prep stars that go on to other universities across the country.
"It's not even as a rule," he said. "It's for the love of the game. That's why we feel Texas football is the best football anywhere. It's not because guys are thinking they're going to make some money doing this, it's for the love of the sport. If you love the sport, it shows by guys looking at other guys and not just themselves."
Young takes pride in what Tate has accomplished at Iowa, where he ranks second to Chuck Long in most of the big passing categories.
"Every game I watch him, I'm rooting for him," Young said. "If he makes a mistake or he's hurt, I'm wondering what's going on. He had the thumb thing and I was wondering if my thumb (injury) was like his thumb (injury)."
RESPECT: The national pundits, odds makers and general college football fans look at the Iowa-Texas as a mismatch. It's a 9-3 Longhorn team coming off a national championship run. The Hawkeyes limp in off of 6-6 regular season that saw them lose five of their last six games.
"You listen to what you want to listen to and hear what you want to hear," Young said. "Ultimately, if you're a team that has the understanding that you're trying to win than that stuff doesn't have a place."
"Look at who they played," Texas Guard Kasey Studdard said. "They have so many good teams in the Big Ten, you can't say, "Oh, 6-6, it will be easy." Are you kidding me? Look at the competition they've played. Fans might look at it like that, but as a team we know Iowa is a great team."
Texas players also know that the Hawkeyes were hit with numerous injuries throughout the season, including Tate and starting running back Albert Young.
"Their quarterback was hurt a good deal of the season," Longhorn Offensive Tackle Justin Blalock said. "They lost some close games to some very good teams. The record can be deceiving. If you look at the tape, you see the type of players that they have. There is a lot of talent on the field, especially in their front seven."
SIMPLY GOOD: Critics blamed much of Iowa's '06 problems on a lack of imagination on defense. The Hawkeye seldom used blitzes and shied away from nickel and dime packages.
"Sometimes simple is good," Blalock said. "Some people said that our offense was simple last year. You just get to a point where you have to execute those set of defenses. If you do that well, it doesn't matter how simple it is. There's no need to complicate things."
The Texas offensive front knows the key to gaining on the Hawkeyes is by controlling their front four.
"They don't blitz a lot," Blalock said. "It's probably the least we've seen all year. With that being said, they do a good job of controlling the game with their front four. They ask those guys to do a lot, and they get it done more often than not. They're very productive guys. As an entire line, it's as athletic as any we'll see all year."
Said McCoy: "They're good at what they do. If they are good at what they do, why do something else? They're going to throw in blitzes when they need to and try to catch teams off guard. But they're so sound in what they do that they do a great job."
Blalock pointed out that Iowa's defense likes to take away the big play and make you chip away down the field. The Longhorns are prepared to be patient.
"We've worked a lot this week on taking what they give us," McCoy said. "It might be five yards, but if we break a tackle it might go all the way. We really harped on that and we really prepared for that."
NEVER SATISFIED: Tate started his Iowa career in rock star fashion. He led Iowa to a Big Ten title and a dramatic win the Capital One bowl as a true sophomore.
The Hawkeyes have struggled to a 13-11 record since that season, and Tate has gained his share of critics.
McCoy has experienced the same type of accolades this season while throwing for 27 touchdowns, a single-season record at Texas. The redshirt freshman has realized that doesn't guarantee anything for the rest of his career.
"Anytime you step on the field, you have to be prepared because every defense that we play is going to do something different than they normally do to give them an edge, to give them an advantage to beat us," McCoy said. "Coach Davis harps on me every day that you have to be prepared, you have to study film, you have to watch and learn. That's what keeps me going. I want to be my best for this football team, so I'm going to prepare my best. That's the mentality you have to have every time you step on the field."
QUICK QUIZ: We hit Young with a little test on Thursday to test his knowledge of Iowa.
"I know that inside the 20 they blitz 33 percent of the time," he said. "I know that outside of the 20 they blitz 12 percent of the time. I know they like the 6-1 blitz. I know they like to man up. I know they like to have a safety running down in the hole for the run. I know they stunt."
Yeah, but do you anything about the Hawkeye State?
"Not at all," he said with a big smile.