Tony McCoy: I really enjoyed my college days. I went to visit the University of Florida and it was my first college trip and after being there that weekend I said, "I want to be a Gator." Coach Hall was there and I pretty much signed the letter of intent that day - I always wanted to be there.
Coming in with Emmitt, he was a hard worker and I really enjoyed the friendship we established and with coach Spurrier - I really loved him as a coach. Most people couldn't stand him, but I never had a problem with him because he was an individual about no nonsense and he really came in and turned that program around. He can be a players' coach and that is the part of his character that the public doesn't see. I understand most coaches and individuals see him as arrogant, but as players we saw him as very confident. We really saw it as a vote of confidence in our ability that he had, but as an outsider looking in you could say, "Man he is very arrogant."
TT: As a Florida native being used to playing on winning teams what was it like moving up north to play for the Colts, who went 1-15 the year before?
TM: That was an eye-opener for me coming from Florida, where we had a great two or three years. The biggest thing for me was the climate difference. I was born and raised here in Florida, so going somewhere it could be 15-20 degrees below took some adjusting on my part. I always felt fortunate to be drafted with the class of individuals that were just serious about winning and had great work ethics and were serious about turning things around. I remember one time the strength coach said, "Hey, you rookies don't have to finish this drill." All the rookies, we went in (to the locker) and we were sitting around and I think one person said to the other, "I don't know if this is a test or what, but lets go out and finish our workout."
So we actually went back out onto the field and finished our workout; those were the types of individuals that were in my recruiting class and I think the Colts knew things would be turning around for the better. I don't think we really came around until that second coach change when they brought in Greg Blache and the Tobins.
TT: What about that team in 1995, it definitely was a solid team, but once Marshall Faulk went down nobody really gave the team a chance. Did you guys feel like you had a chance, and what affect did Ted Marchibroda have on that season?
TM: Playing for Ted, for me, was like playing for your grandfather. He had a whole bunch of wisdom and was a great guy - I love him. I would not have become the NFL player I became if not for God as well as the Tobins and Blache; also having Marchibroda as a coach because he was always that steady guy, but he would pull you aside, talk to you and get you straight in a moment. So, yes, I really, really loved playing for him.
About that 1995 season, many people called us the "Cinderella team" that year. And the reason being is that we had a bunch of no-name, individuals, what they call "has beens" or people who had not had the opportunity to show what they could do. For instance, myself; 1995 was the first year of me coming out and showing that I could be a confident starter and play week-in and week-out regardless.
I think Jim Harbaugh was someone that was pretty much put on the bench for the likes of Magic (Don Majkowski) who came in, but then you get him in the middle of the season saying, "Get me the ball and I'll lead this team." Then you had Tony Siragusa who most people called overweight, etc.; he and I worked so well inside and then you had individuals on the outside like Bernard Whittington, who had not played a full season, and Tony Bennett, who was very undersized. We kind of used the criticism, what individuals were saying about us, as our strength, to pull us together week-in and week-out to make us perform. I think also with a coach like Ted, it wasn't criticism against us, it was also words against him. I remember having my knee scoped and they told me it would be about three weeks and I just remember saying, "I'll be back in seven days." The Lord really blessed me to get back and it was mainly because of the coach and my teammates. I just felt like I needed to be there.
TT: Having practiced on the other side of the ball against both Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk, what was it like playing with two of the best running backs of all-time and how would you compare or contrast the two?
TM: That's a tough question; both of them have great work ethics, great pride and great confidence. Working with Emmitt at UF, he was the type of individual that would get up at 5 a.m. and would be in the gym working out, running. Marshall Faulk was more of a pure talent, but he had a lot of pride about himself. Both of them in the fourth quarter or when the game was on the line would say, "Give me the ball." That was the good part of being with them.
I'm kind of biased toward Emmitt because I was with him a long time at Florida and I know how hard he works. I've never seen a running back work as hard as Emmitt Smith. I can say this too; as far as speed and pure talent, I think Faulk would probably surpass Emmitt in that category. But what makes Emmitt so special is he wasn't the fastest back in the world like Marshall who could who could just get a step on you and he's gone, but Emmitt was definitely a hard worker who was dedicated to the game. I've known him personally and at UF when everybody was going out and doing things, he was thinking about football and school, so I saw that first hand. So pure speed and talent, you would have to say Faulk; but pure heart and the ability to work on his talent, I would have to say Emmitt would be my choice.
TT: Not only were you part of the Colts' 1995 season, which at that time was the biggest turnaround in NFL history, but you were also part of the 1999 season that surpassed it as the greatest turnaround season in NFL history. Did you know that 1999 team had the makings of something special?
TM: Yeah, you really did with Peyton coming in at the helm. The first year he
was just really feeling his way around. I tell people today when they ask what
it was like to play with Peyton Manning; I've never seen a student of the game
like him in my whole life. I tell people all the time, even the commercials
don't do him justice when they show him studying all the time. He would come in
at 5:30 a.m. and leave at 8 p.m. You don't hear about him in clubs or fighting
or any of those things.
He was a true team player. In the offseason, he and Marvin would be throwing the ball. He is a great competitor and he is such a student with a great history of the game. I remember one time Archie came in after a loss and I think Peyton and I were the last two players in the locker room. And I distinctly remember those two going over the game again after we had lost - this was his first year. To me, that was when I knew that one day this guy was going to break out. Did I think it was going to be as quick as it was the following year - I didn't think so; but once he got on that run you knew he was the captain of the ship and he wasn't going to back down for anybody.
TT: Tell us a little more about your church, Hope International, and how you ended up back in Florida…
TM: Back in Indianapolis my wife and I started a ministry called, We As One Ministries. And this was geared toward helping inner city individuals by supplying and rebuilding homes. We would go in and take homes, rebuild them and refurnish them and put families in them. We would get them involved in local faith based institutions as well as teach them how to budget and get them jobs.
When I went to Arizona, we also teamed up with local churches there and started inner city feeding programs, so that was really nice. After I retired I knew I was a Florida boy and wanted to come back home, moved a little north to Clermont, FL. We started a church, Hope International. It is a great church; we are multi-cultural - about 60 percent African American, 30 percent Caucasian and 10 percent Hispanic. It's an array of people here and our mission statement is, "Encouraging hearts and changing our surrounding communities." We are two years old now and our role is up to over 300 members so we are excited about that and what the Lord is doing here in the Lake County area and I think this is an area that is growing and also in great need of ministering.
TT: When you realized you were going to be a professional athlete, was giving back to the community something you always planned on doing?
TM: Yes, even when I was in Indianapolis, I became an ordained minister back
in 1995. Some of my prayer was, "Lord please bless me to be financially
able," so that when I get out, that I could just preach the word and not
worry about salary, because when people pay you, they kind of control you and
what you can say. So from the pulpit I wanted to be able to speak exactly what
the Lord had commissioned me to say.