McCoy headed back to Peru on spring break missionary trip

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Many college football players with a week at leisure probably would be thinking about visiting a beach somewhere warm and resting from their time away from practice.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is a little different than most. It's why he's again headed back to the Amazon wilds of Peru for a second straight spring break as he participates in a week-long sports ministry developed for orphan and disadvantaged children of the area.

McCoy got his malaria and hepatitis shots and started taking his medicine earlier this week to get ready for his trip. He'll be leaving for Lima shortly after the Longhorns complete their practice work for the week on Thursday.

Again, he's excited about sharing his faith and teaching sports to underprivileged Peruvian youths.

"There's a little bit of a hardship and you have to take your food and water with you," McCoy said. "But I get so much out of going."

McCoy spent a week last year at a campsite about a 90-minute drive from Iquitos, Peru, traveling along muddy, unpaved roads to get to his camp. The creature comforts were rudimentary as he often remembers dinner being a simple bowl of rice and not much else.

"I went with the mentality I was giving back," McCoy said. "God has given me so many things in my life. I've been blessed and you really realize that after you experience something like that."

The trip taught McCoy a profound lesson about not taking anything for granted in his life.

"The people I came in contact are happy with much of anything," he said. "They are content with their lives and we're always talking about the inconveniences we have. We complain and take things for granted all the time. It's encouraging to come in contact with them and learn those lessons."

McCoy, 22, is a member of the Church of Christ and had always told his friends and parents he wanted to do missionary work.

Maybe some of that zeal came from his grandparents, Jan and Burl McCoy, who have traveled to Zambia to perform volunteer work with doctors and dentists.

That helped lay a framework of community service that the 2008 Heisman Trophy runner-up accomplishes in his rare moments of free time.

He's traveled across the state of Texas speaking at banquets for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. That association helped steer him on the two Peru trips that are sponsored by the group T Bar M of New Braunfels, Texas.

The Portuguese-speaking villagers sent their children, about 200 in number, to the camp. Each counselor spent three hours each day teaching the children about football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and soccer. At night, they shared stories of their faith and taught Bible lessons with help from translators.

Again, the group will traverse the jungles along muddy roads, coming across orphan children who have little possessions but the shirts on their backs.

McCoy compares his work next week with something that might take place at a summer camp. He plans to emphasize his sports lessons with Biblical references as he teaches about his sport and his faith.

"I'm teaching them a little about football," McCoy said. "Soccer is the main sport, but I'm trying to teach them a little about my sport. It's neat, but at the same time I use that sport to help minister to them while I'm there."

It's why he'll be packing his sleeping bag to sleep on concrete floors covered with mosquito netting. He lost about 10 pounds last year and joked he ate so much rice that he didn't eat any more of the staple after he got back home for "about six months."

"Some of the guys are going to the beach or taking a vacation when we get away from football," McCoy said. "But this is what I enjoy doing."

McCoy left most of his clothing behind, sharing his Longhorn gear with the kids he came in contact with. His favorite little friend was a small boy named Juan who developed an affinity for football after coming in contact with the Texas quarterback. McCoy can't wait to see if he still has the Longhorn T-shirt he left him with from his trip last year.

Coming into contact with the youngsters provided a profound lesson for McCoy that carried over into his own life when he returned.

"I had the mentality that when I was going down there that I was giving back, but I get so much more than I ever could have imagined from them," McCoy said. "The smiles that they bring to me, you can give them things that they've never been given before and they are so happy. When I got back, it really hit home. We need to be thankful and grateful for everything we've got."