Josh McCown never pressured his oldest son, Owen, to become a quarterback.
It happened anyway.
“I would come home from work. He and his little brother would have a ball waiting,” said Josh McCown, who played 18 seasons at quarterback in the NFL. “They wanted to cover each other with one as the receiver and one as the DB. We did that for hours on end.”
That backyard fun set a foundation for the inevitable.
“It’s all that my brother and I knew,” Owen McCown said. “Getting to watch my dad on TV and wanting to be just like him.”
Flash forward to present day. The next step on his football journey happens in Boulder as the lone high school quarterback signed to Colorado’s early 2022 recruiting class.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound McCown starred for Rusk in East Texas, putting up huge numbers as a senior: 262-of-388 passing for 3,362 yards with 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He also had 11 rushing touchdowns.
“He has a great perspective on the game and how to play the quarterback position,” Rusk head coach Tomas Sitton said. “His work ethic is second to none. He’s out throwing a ball around all the time and working on the little things that really make him a great quarterback. He loves studying video and his dad helps him with that.”
Josh McCown served as wide receivers coach at Rusk last season and the family’s youngest son, Aiden, caught varsity passes from his big brother. The elder McCown said it was “like we made up for lost time” after a busy NFL life created absences from many of their games growing up. It also gave Josh the opportunity to help mold his oldest son into a coveted college quarterback.
“Probably after Owen’s freshman year is when we really pushed the gas on working toward playing quarterback,” Josh McCown said. “I know in this day of specialization, that’s probably way too late. But our situation is unique. I didn’t want him to feel like he had to play quarterback. … To his credit, he’s always asked and wanted to put the work in. He’s always wanted more. In that regard, I’m very proud of him.”
Owen McCown is listed as a three-star prospect. He had scholarship offers from Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech, among others. He stuck with CU despite a last-minute change at offensive coordinator. McCown signed with the Buffs two days before Mike Sanford was brought in to replace Darrin Chiaverini.
McCown’s relationship with CU head coach Karl Dorrell eased concerns about joining a program in transition. The Buffs are in dire need of stable quarterback play. Freshman Brendon Lewis struggled over a 4-8 season this past fall while Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout was rehabbing from season-ending knee surgery.
What gives McCown the chance to star at CU?
His father — with NFL career passing totals of 17,731 yards and 98 touchdowns — explained what makes his son special.
“His ability to process and play fast,” Josh McCown said. “He’s extremely accurate and has a level of requisite arm skill that’s needed for college. What sets him apart is how fast he can play and how well he overcomes mistakes. … I think he is more physically gifted from a passing standpoint from either myself or my brothers were at his age. There are similarities but there are differences.
“He’s not quite my size. But he spins it better than I did.”
Owen McCown takes that praise with a grain of salt. “I don’t know a tougher football player than my dad,” he said.
But McCown is embracing his NFL lineage.
“He likes to say that I was better than him at this point. I don’t know,” Owen McCown said. “It’s something I think about and keep quiet confidence with me. You can do it and live up to the name.”