Mac Engel

Cotton Bowl inductees express opposite views of career-defining plays

This high-flying hit by Oklahoma safety Roy Williams (38) on Texas quarterback Chris Simms led to a game clinching interception by Teddy Lehman. OU won 14-3 in 2001 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The play is still talked about today.
This high-flying hit by Oklahoma safety Roy Williams (38) on Texas quarterback Chris Simms led to a game clinching interception by Teddy Lehman. OU won 14-3 in 2001 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The play is still talked about today. University of Oklahoma

When you hear the name "Quentin Coryatt" there is but one play. One hit. A hit so violent, yet clean, those who saw it cannot forget it.

When you hear the name "Roy Williams," there are two plays. One of Superman flying. The other of a horse collar that became a rule.

While they both unintentionally changed the game, their responses to the plays that made them famous are polar opposites.

Given multiple options, Williams made the most out of a hit that made him a verb in the sport while Coryatt would prefer if you forgot the play that resonated the moment he flattened the TCU receiver.

Williams, the former Oklahoma/Dallas Cowboys safety, and Coryatt, the Texas A&M linebacker, were both inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

"I don't think my career is defined by one play. I don't think anybody's career is defined by one play," Coryatt said.

Defined? No. Forever linked? Absolutely.

On Nov. 7 1991, TCU hosted Texas A&M in a Thursday night game at Amon G. Carter Stadium. A cold front had blown through making the conditions bitter, contributing to a stadium that was roughly half-full before an ESPN audience. This was when having your game televised was a big deal.

TCU receiver Kyle McPherson caught a pass over the middle and was hit by Coryatt in such a way that anyone watching stopped. The hit was violent. The hit was scary. The hit was impressive. The hit was breathtaking. The hit was football.

To the Aggies, the play is known as "The Hit."

"It was the right place, and the right time so to speak," Coryatt said. "That's just the way we were taught to play the game."

McPherson's jaw was broken in two places. Coryatt was never entirely comfortable with the hit because it resulted in an injury. He said he has never spoken to McPherson about the hit.

Today, "The Hit" would have resulted in a targeting penalty, and likely an ejection.

For a long time, "The Hit" was played seemingly any time Coryatt's name was mentioned during a telecast.

"It's something that you do. I was not a person who was looking for that. I didn't create the fame," Coryatt said. "The fame was created by the media. I am a low-key person. They brought the fame to me. I just played."

Coryatt is 47 today and lives in Sugar Land. He remains as quiet today as he did when he played for the Aggies in the early '90s, and when he became the No. 2 overall pick by the Colts in the 1992 NFL Draft.

Although he appeared in 82 NFL games, injuries limited Coryatt throughout his career. In the NFL, he was never the player who scared the living (expletive deleted) out of the entire Southwest Conference.

"I don't even look at football because it was so long ago. It's not who I am today," he said. "I enjoy this phase of my life more so than being a football player."

Much like Coryatt, Roy Williams still lives with a pair of plays, including one that changed the rule book.

The first occurred at the Cotton Bowl in 2001 when Texas was backed up at its own 3-yard line against Oklahoma late in the game.

On a blitz, Williams jumped over fullback Brett Robin and hit UT quarterback Chris Simms as he was attempting to throw a pass. The ball deflected into the air and was intercepted by OU linebacker Teddy Lehman for the game-clinching touchdown in a 14-3 win.

Every highlight reel ever made of the Red River Rivalry has included The Play.

The next spring, Williams was the eighth overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft by the Cowboys. He was named the NFC's Defensive Rookie of Year.

Part of the reason he earned that honor was his special use of a tackle he developed and became his signature move. You know it as the horse collar.

"I did it because I was tired of guys stiff-arming me," Williams said.

And it was fine, until Dec. 19, 2004 when during the Cowboys' game at Philadelphia Williams grabbed Eagles' receiver Terrell Owens with his tackle and ripped him down. T.O. suffered a broken leg only weeks before the start of the playoffs.

He returned to play in the Super Bowl, a three-point loss to New England, but the attention Williams received because of the injury changed his career.

"If he had not gotten hurt, I don't think they would have changed the rules," Williams said.

The NFL implemented the Roy Williams Rule, thus preventing defenders from grabbing a player from inside the back of their jerseys to pull them down.

"I know he wasn't the only one who got hurt with that. There were other knees and legs," Williams said.

Williams said Tuesday that when the NFL implemented that rule in May of 2005, much of the fun of football was taken away. He played through 2008 with the Cowboys before finishing his NFL career with two additional seasons in Cincinnati.

Today he is 37, married with three children living in Oklahoma, and perfectly fine with The Roy Williams Rule.

"I look at it in a different way it. I look at it as I made an impact on the game," he said. "A young kid from Redwood City, California, who only dreamt about being in this position has forever changed football from Pop Warner to collegiate to professional. That's how I see it."

Both Coryatt or Roy Williams made an impact on the game. They just don't share the same attitude to their respective, eternally memorable, contributions.

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