On his first day of summer football workouts at Indiana State, Titus McCoy showed up wearing red.
It’s a color that has figured prominently in McCoy’s wardrobe during the last four years while he starred at Center Grove. But in Terre Haute, where the Illinois State Redbirds are the hated rival, red is a major fashion faux pas.
“I wore red the first day,” McCoy said. “They’re like, ‘Dude, you can not wear red anymore. Don’t let coach see you.’ ”
Clothing overhaul aside, the transition to college life has been a smooth one thus far for McCoy, who for perhaps the first time in his football life finds himself having to build his reputation up from scratch.
At Center Grove, he was an iconic figure, the running back who scored 30 touchdowns in leading the Trojans to the Class 6A state title as a junior. At ISU, he’s coming in as the low man on the totem pole — but he’s eager for the opportunity to climb his way up.
“I actually kind of like that challenge,” McCoy said. “Leaving Center Grove, the legacy is something that I’ll always remember and cherish, but starting fresh here at Indiana State … I think I’m more anxious and ready to start a new chapter than anything.”
Currently tipping the scales at or just below 180 pounds, the 5-foot-10 McCoy is still on the small side as running backs go. But that never deterred him during his time with the Trojans, and it won’t now, either.
“I’m not worried about that,” McCoy said. “I always feel that whenever I get the ball in my hands or no matter what it is, I have confidence in myself. Not in a cocky way, just knowing that I can do anything.”
McCoy also has some extra motivation after his final high school season fell short of his expectations in nearly every way.
The front-runner for Indiana’s Mr. Football heading into the year, McCoy injured his ankle in a season-opening loss to Warren Central and was limited to just five regular-season games, carrying the ball just 39 times for 148 yards.
He bounced back in time for the postseason, gaining 390 yards and scoring six touchdowns on 71 carries in five tournament games — but he was injured again on his final high school carry, a run to the 1-yard-line in a 16-13 overtime loss to Carmel in the Class 6A title game.
The disappointment of 2016 has lit a fire under the already-passionate McCoy.
“The way last year’s season went — the first game to the last game, dealing with injuries — is something that has built my character and built me as a person,” he said. “As an athlete, it’s very motivating, and it’s pushing me to levels that — I’ve really never worked out as hard as I have, just because I don’t want that to ever happen again.”
He also wants to be able to work his way up the depth chart and make an immediate contribution with the Sycamores, whether it’s at running back or on special teams.
And the more immediate, the better — Indiana State’s second game this season is a Sept. 9 road trip to Knoxville, Tennessee, for a date with the Volunteers at Neyland Stadium, one of the largest stadiums in the world with 102,455 seats.
McCoy has been looking forward to that game since he found out about it a week before he committed to ISU last summer.
“What’s interesting is — and you can ask any of my closest friends — I grew up the biggest Tennessee fan ever,” he said, “to where I even thought about bringing up my blanket, because I had comforters that were Tennessee.
“Everything was Tennessee. So I think it’s cool that I get to play against one of my dream schools, so just playing there will be an awesome feeling and a great atmosphere.”
Hopefully, McCoy will know better than to wear orange that week.
Titus McCoy begins his college football career at Indiana State this fall. A look back at the numbers he put up at Center Grove: