AUSTIN - Colt McCoy knew about Chase Daniel before he ever got to meet him.
Each was a star high school quarterback as a sophomore. But the similarities ended there. McCoy was hoping to get noticed in the small west Texas town of Tuscola (population: 700). At Southlake Carroll, Daniel received more attention than some college quarterbacks.
"He was always in the papers or on TV, so I knew what he was doing," McCoy said. "I think he lost one game in high school."
They remain linked by circumstance and friendship after first meeting at high school football camps. McCoy signed with Texas. Daniel, who once imagined playing for the Longhorns, went to Missouri.
They'll meet for the first time as starters Saturday, when Texas hosts Missouri.
Recent events have dramatically altered the implications of this game.
Because of Texas' win over Oklahoma and Missouri's surprising home loss to Oklahoma State last week, the roles have reversed. For now, McCoy has supplanted Daniel as the Heisman Trophy front-runner. And Texas has claimed the No. 1 ranking that seemed ready for Missouri's taking.
Each quarterback appears to be a good fit at his school.
"Colt is at the place he should be, and I'm definitely at the place I should be, too," Daniel said.
Outside of maybe Florida's Tim Tebow, no college player has a bigger campus presence than Daniel.
Last season, he led Missouri within one win of the national championship game.
As a Heisman finalist, Daniel hobnobbed in New York with college football royalty like Tebow and Darren McFadden. He became an unofficial school spokesman, making commercials with officials from the journalism and medical schools.
For the first five games this season, he seemed to get even better, emerging as the Heisman front-runner. Mistakes caused astonishment.
With Daniel at quarterback this season, the Tigers had not experienced a three-and-out series until Oklahoma State. At one point, Missouri scored on 15 consecutive possessions. In practice, Daniel and the Tigers try to avoid letting the ball hit the turf - even once.
"He is the genuine article, and he is special in their offense," said Nevada coach Chris Ault, whose Wolf Pack lost to Missouri, 69-17, earlier this season.
During the season, Daniel and McCoy talk once or twice a week. Daniel was one of about 120 people who text-messaged McCoy with congratulations after the Oklahoma game.
"Chase's biggest attribute is that he loves to win," McCoy said.
Even if Daniel did have some residual ill-will over Texas' 11th-hour inquiry, it has been supplanted by the aftermath of Oklahoma State.
But Texas coach Mack Brown is taking no chances.
He came to his weekly news conference with a statistical breakdown of Big 12 quarterbacks, especially the ones with Texas ties.
"If you're wondering about Chase getting mad at us, they're all mad at us," Brown said.
He recycled his talking points from Big 12 media days, when he said Texas high schools produce about 330 major college prospects a year and Texas is limited to 20 to 25. The Longhorns are forced into hard choices, like the one that occurred in 2004-05.
The Longhorns were in the market for quarterbacks, with a bumper high school crop: McCoy, Louisiana's Ryan Perrilloux and California's Mark Sanchez.
Daniel wasn't really in the mix for Texas and committed to Missouri because he loved the campus and the business school.
Sanchez chose Southern California, and Perrilloux switched commitments from Texas to LSU.
That left McCoy as the only quarterback in the Longhorns' class. Texas then contacted Todd Dodge, Daniel's coach at Southlake Carroll.
"We called to see if Chase was interested," Brown said. "To his credit, he was not. He wanted to stay at Missouri and loved his commitment. What a great experience it's been for him, so it always works out the way it's supposed to."
Bill Daniel, Chase's father, confirmed the account and emphasized that his son was never offered a scholarship.
"Mack Brown and [offensive coordinator] Greg Davis are really good guys," Bill Daniel said. "At this level, football is a business, and Chase didn't meet their criteria and that's fine."
He added: "Chase is a man of word."
Even if Daniel had gone to Texas, no one knows how that might have worked.
Brown believes either Daniel or McCoy would have transferred rather than watch. Jevan Snead, a top prospect from Stephenville, left Texas for Ole Miss after losing the starter battle to McCoy.
Daniel admits he's used all the doubts about his arm strength (good, not great), size (listed at 6-foot) and everything else for motivation.
"I think that during my life, no matter what sport I played, or how I tall I was or the strength of my arm, I always had a chip on my shoulder," Daniel said. "That's how I've always been.
"You can't measure me by the size of my body. Measure me by the size of my heart."