- This is the third in a series of articles about nominees for the second annual Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).  Also nominated were Kelly Davison of UCF and Michael Kelley of UTEP.

Brandon McCoy, a senior defensive end at North Texas, is the second player from Conference USA to be nominated for the 2013 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

UTEP defensive lineman Michael Kelley was also been nominated for the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA.  Interestingly, the two players are scheduled to be on the field when North Texas hosts UTEP in a Conference USA game two days (November 9) before Veteran's Day 2013 when the second recipient of the award will be announced.

Coordinated by the staff at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group within the realm of the sport of football.”  Bronze Star winning Green Beret solider Nate Boyer, a member of the University of Texas football team, was the first recipient last November of the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA.

Nicknamed "The Sarge", the 28-year old McCoy walked-on to the North Texas squad after serving five years (2004-2008) in the U. S. Army where he was discharged on August 19, 2008 after receiving numerous medals for his service time in Iraq.

Since starting his North Texas career in 2010, McCoy has played in 37 games (through October 12 with 23 starts) with 108 total tackles, including 54 unassisted.  He has been credit with 8.5 tackles for losses.  After missing North Texas’ 2013 season opener against Idaho with a sprained ankle, McCoy has played in the next five games with 11 total tackles.

In his nomination letter for McCoy, North Texas coach Dan McCarney said that "Brandon is one of the great examples of what the term 'student-athlete' means to all of us.  He is a highly motivated young man of character, principle and integrity.  His humility and sense of responsibility provide him with the qualities necessary in responding positively to his coaches, teachers, teammates, opponents and to the countless challenges that face him.  Brandon has constantly brought honor, prestige and positive exposure to the University of North Texas and college football."

On McCoy's military service, McCarney said his player has shown "the same courage, heart and class as a leader on our football team as he did overseas protecting the freedom of our country.  He is a true patriot.  We are all defined by our own moments in time.  The obstacles we overcome, dreams we achieve, handling success and failures, and the legacy we leave behind.  Brandon's legacy will live on for generations."

McCoy's journey into the Army began after he was kicked out of high school his senior year in 2003 for cheating, forcing him to go to summer school to complete his high school diploma.  After being kicked out of his home for using drugs, McCoy lived in a drug house for a year before his father convinced him to speak with the Army about a possible career.

Once signed up, McCoy was assigned to the 116th infantry division at Fort Riley, Kansas.  He spent 18 months in training in the Army before being assigned to the 134th armored unit, the same unit he would be with while in Iraq.

McCoy's division was sent to Campo Anaconda in Iraq before being transferred to Taji, just 20 miles north of Baghdad.  McCoy's assignment for 13 months was one of the most dangerous at the time as he drove Humvees in supply runs and combat missions.  Later, the unit's mission was to provide convoy security for supplies facing countless IED attacks and roadside bombings.  His security unit did not suffer a single fatality in their entire 13 months of deployment in Iraq.

From Carrollton, Texas, where he attended Creekview High School, McCoy joined UNT's program in the spring of 2009 after being a full-time student for one year.  Prior to entering North Texas, McCoy had no SAT score or completed high school grade-point average or transcript when he tried to enroll at UNT.  He took the SAT, and his military service helped him gain part-time admission despite his academic record.  After a semester, he had to enroll full-time in the spring of 2009 and show satisfactory progress for one year to receive football clearance by the NCAA.

"I needed the right path to go," McCoy said in an interview several years ago with Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl correspondent Troy Phillips.  "I had no discipline.  In the military, you either get it or you don't.  I needed that structure.  It was a huge outlook change, and it let me know what I really wanted to do.”

In a web article this past May, Jarah Wright wrote with "senior season approaching, McCoy is focusing on his family, which includes 7-month-old son Tyson, and hopefully playing professional football.  Due to his age (he’s be 28 when the next season starts), it will be hard for McCoy to make it to the NFL but he said he’s going to give it all he has.

“My dad always told me when you’re doing something don’t have any `I wish’ or `coulda wouldas’ because they can eat you up,” McCoy said.  “That’s why I train as hard as I train and do extra on the side because I don’t want any doubts.”  McCoy’s sister (April), was a straight-A student and a nationally ranked junior golfer at Creekview and currently starting her third season on the TCU golf team.