Chris McCoy doesn't mind the kidding he takes about his tiny hometown of Morris, Ga. (pop. 850). "There's a post office and a general store with two gas pumps, and that's it," he says, grinning. The nearest movie theater? "Sixty miles away." McCoy's directions to his family's home: Take the dirt road out of Morris, make a right, make a left, pass a big tree, take another left and drive through a two-foot-deep creek—and then you're getting close. "We used to tease Chris that they didn't get Monday-night football out there until Thursday," says Jim McFather, who was an assistant coach at Randolph-Clay High when McCoy played there.
McCoy indeed came out of nowhere on Sept. 9, 1995, when as a sophomore quarterback making his first start for Navy, he gained a Middies-record 398 yards in total offense against SMU, including 273 yards rushing. Since then, his ability to run Navy's option attack has been no secret. He finished the '95 season with 803 yards rushing and ran for 1,228 in '96. This year McCoy, a 5'10" 190-pounder, became only the ninth collegian to surpass 1,000 yards rushing (1,165) and passing (1,129) in the same season.
Entering Saturday's Army-Navy game, McCoy owns Middies career marks for total offense (5,608) and rushing touchdowns (40). Under his direction, Navy (6-4) has had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1981 and '82.
Surprisingly, McCoy almost didn't make it out of Georgia. In the spring of 1993 Randolph-Clay principal Jackie Hammond sent tapes of McCoy's best games to an assistant coach at Navy he had contacted on a whim. After weeks went by without word from the Middies, McCoy was ready to sign with Division II Albany (Ga.) State, the only school that had recruited him. In fact, Chris; his mother, Rosie; and Hammond were meeting with an Albany State coach in preparation for Chris's signing with the Golden Rams when a secretary hurried in with a message: "Mr. Hammond, there's a coach from Navy on the line for you."
Hammond yelped, "Hold everything!" and took the call. The Middies wanted to sign McCoy. "All I could do was tell Albany State I was sorry," McCoy says.
He spent his plebe season as a junior-varsity defensive back but got another break when Charlie Weatherbie was named Navy coach in 1995 and declared all starting positions open. McCoy auditioned for quarterback and won the job.
Despite Navy's success the last three seasons—a 20-13 record, including 9-3 in 1996, Annapolis's best mark in 18 years—the Middies are still looking for their first win over Army since '91. "More than the individual records," McCoy says, "what means the most to me was I was here when Navy football began to turn around."
The folks in Morris and environs have followed McCoy closely. He has been given the key to Cuthbert, the largest town within 15 miles of Morris, and he'll be the grand marshal of this year's Christmas parade in nearby Fort Gaines. Including Saturday, local radio station WCUG will have broadcast six Navy games this year. "Now," McFather says, "you walk into a store here on Saturday and everyone is listening to Chris's games."
McCoy plans to specialize in surface warfare upon receiving his commission this spring, and as the old Navy recruiting slogan promised, he'll see the world. It's just another large step for the rural Georgian who, when asked to name the hardest thing he had to adjust to upon arriving in Annapolis, pauses, then replies, "Uh...people?"