ARLINGTON, Texas — Just the prospect of Washington quarterback Colt McCoy playing in his return to Texas was enough to get family and friends buzzing.
The former star for the Texas Longhorns will start Monday night against the Cowboys if the Redskins decide, as expected, that Robert Griffin III needs at least another week to recover from a dislocated ankle.
Even if Washington does the unexpected, the past week has been a refreshing one for McCoy. He was signed by the Redskins in the offseason only because they wanted a third quarterback to absorb some work behind Griffin and Kirk Cousins.
“I was going to get a few tickets before (when) I wasn’t playing and now it has turned into a laundry list,” McCoy said. “I don’t want it to be too big of a distraction, though. I am excited about going back to Dallas.”
McCoy’s return to the site of his last college game in his home state feels more like a revival than a reunion.
The 2010 third-round pick by Cleveland started 13 games for the Browns in 2011 before he was sidelined by a head injury. He hasn’t started since.
McCoy got the call at halftime last week when Cousins was struggling, and led a fourth-quarter drive to Kai Forbath’s last-play field goal in a 19-17 win over Tennessee.
He’s ahead of Cousins on the depth chart for now, but he’ll never be ahead of a healthy Griffin, the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year who won the Heisman Trophy a year earlier at Baylor, just up the road from McCoy’s college home.
None of that will matter if McCoy is under center on “Monday Night Football” in one of the NFL’s oldest rivalries at the $1.2 billion home of the Cowboys.
That’s where McCoy’s pass off the railing with the clock approaching 0:00 led to the officiating crew putting a second back on the scoreboard. Texas kicked a field goal in a 13-12 win over Nebraska for the 2009 Big 12 championship and a spot in the national title game.
Alabama then won the BCS crown after McCoy was sidelined early by a shoulder injury.
“I’ve seen a lot,” said McCoy, whose record as a starter is 6-15. “My path in the NFL so far has been a lot different than other guys, but I’m thankful for the things I’ve learned and the experience I’ve gained.”
McCoy will be wearing a burgundy No. 16 rather than the burnt orange No. 12 that’s so familiar to fans of the winningest quarterback in Texas history.
And he’ll have one of his former offensive linemen on the other sideline in Tony Hills, a tackle who protected McCoy’s blind side for the quarterback’s first two seasons at Texas. Hills will be in his second game with the Cowboys after getting signed off Miami’s practice squad.
Hills, a fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh in 2008, knows a thing or two about NFL purgatory. He sat out last season wondering if his career was over at 28.
“And now I’m back home in the state of Texas,” said Hills, a backup who isn’t likely to play. “You’ve just got to keep the faith, keep grinding, keep pressing.”
The challenge for McCoy will be trying not to make too much of a sudden return to the spotlight he grew so used to managing when he was the small-town West Texas kid. McCoy twice had the Longhorns in contention for a national championship.
“I just don’t want to get caught up in this ‘huge opportunity’ thing,” McCoy said. “I just want to go out there and be who I am — that is who I am every day in here — be confident and play the best football I can play.”
Just being out there is more than family and friends would have expected two weeks ago.