There was the Rico McCoy who last fall showed a lot of immaturity. The 6-1, 215-pound junior linebacker let his academics slide and, in the process, let down his teammates and coaches. When the Vols showed up in Tampa for their Outback Bowl date with Wisconsin, McCoy was back in Knoxville – ineligible to participate.
Then there is the Rico McCoy who last week was showing a lot of remorse for last season's undisciplined behavior. He emphasized the importance of being diligent and accountable – on the field and in the classroom – so he can regain the trust of his coaches and teammates. He wants to redeem himself and he wants to be a team leader.
Which Rico McCoy will show up when Tennessee visits UCLA Sept. 1 in Pasadena? That remains to be seen, of course, but he seems genuinely repentant after failing last fall to pass the hours necessary to qualify for bowl eligibility.
“That was one of the bad points in my life,” he said, his voice seemingly filled with regret. “It showed me not to take anything for granted – anytime you're on the field or anytime you're in the classroom, as well. That was just a lesson learned.”
As badly as McCoy felt about miss the Outback Bowl game, he realizes things could've been much worse. Ellix Wilson, filling the void in UT's linebacker corps, recorded 6 tackles to help the Vols beat Wisconsin 21-17. Had McCoy's absence caused Tennessee to lose the game, he would've felt downright miserable.
“I was so happy they got the win,” he recalled. “I already felt bad about not being there. If they would've lost, that would've felt like the end of the world because I didn't contribute or help my teammates.”
McCoy's actions in 2007 suggested he needed to grow up a lot. McCoy's words in 2008 suggest he has done just that.
Which is the real McCoy?