The entire fall was a grind, a daily routine filled with myriad responsibilities and intense pressure.
It has not been a job for the faint of heart, yet it is one T.C. McCartney would not have any other way. After all, as McCartney readily admits, this sort of routine is in his blood. It already has been a remarkable football life for McCartney, and yet it remains a journey that truly is just beginning.
McCartney, a Fairview High School graduate and a living legacy from the University of Colorado's football glory days, has spent this season as a graduate assistant with Louisiana State and is busy helping to prepare the Tigers for the BCS championship game in what is being billed as an epic rematch against Southeastern Conference rival Alabama on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.
Like his grandfather, former CU head coach Bill McCartney, T.C. McCartney already has a national championship on his resume, having been a walk-on freshman when the Tigers defeated Ohio State in the title game in January of 2008.
"This is my second time around for this, and this is much better," McCartney said. "The first time, it was my first year of college and I was just kind of along for the ride. This will be even more special, knowing how hard it is to get to this point and being a bigger part of it. If we beat the other best team in the nation twice, no one can ever take that away from us."
McCartney spent three years as a scout team quarterback for the Tigers, finally getting awarded with a scholarship last year while filling a role that included signaling in the plays from the sidelines. After completing his playing career, McCartney remained with the program to pursue his master's degree in education while launching his coaching career with one of the marquee programs in the nation.
While taking his master's courses through independent study options, McCartney spent his days this past fall focused solely on doing his part to steer the Tigers toward the BCS title game. A typical day began with a coaches meeting at 7:30 a.m. From there, the staff would break to dissect game film. McCartney was charged with analyzing the following week's opponent, breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the various powers in the SEC.
After helping to organize and run the scout teams at practice, McCartney usually tried to get a workout in before breaking down the film of that day's practice. McCartney admits there were a few occasions over the years when he wondered what might have happened had he gone to a smaller school where he might have received more playing time, yet he remains adamant he would not have traded his experience in Baton Rouge for all the playing time in the world.
"Sometimes I wish I would have played more, but it didn't happen that way," McCartney said. "But I don't think I could have been in a better place. I've been to every SEC stadium except Kentucky. The football experience has just been amazing."
McCartney's diligence in his demanding job has impressed his grandfather. While Bill McCartney obviously has a personal bias, he also speaks about his grandson in a refreshingly frank and detached manner. What the elder McCartney has observed is a young man destined to be a fine coach.
"We talk all the time. Every week at least," Bill McCartney said. "There is no question in my mind he is going to be a great coach. There are just some guys who, conceptually, they get it--the X's and O's, the strategy. There are a lot of guys who play football that don't always get that big picture. (T.C.) gets it. He has a great football mind, and now that he is a graduate assistant, that has only enhanced his perspective."
T.C. McCartney has been part of college football history since his birth. The son of Bill McCartney's daughter, Kristy, and late CU quarterback Sal Aunese, T.C. McCartney opted to walk-on at LSU, in part, because Tigers head coach Les Miles helped recruit Aunese while Miles was an assistant under Bill McCartney at CU. An LSU win in the title game would only enrich the family lore.
"I'm personally glad T.C. gets to be a part of this," said Bill McCartney, who hopes to attend the title game. "I tell him all the time to drink it in, to pay attention to all the little details, because you never know if you will have the opportunity again."
T.C. McCartney still is unsure what his next move will be after LSU. The master's degree in education will allow McCartney to pursue high school options -- like his uncle, longtime Fairview coach Tom McCartney. But he said he would prefer to remain in the college game.
Whatever the destination, McCartney clearly will continue to follow in the footsteps of his family members.
"Being a GA may not be the most fun job in the world, but I'm really enjoying it," said T.C. McCartney, who earned his degree in sports administration in August. "I guess it's in my blood and it's what I've always wanted to do. Any time I need something, I can call someone in my family who's been through it. I definitely want to be in coaching."