McCarron, Alabama take to air in victoryBy Tony Tsoukalas | 01/11/2012 11:26am
Heroes are born from great opportunities; they rise to the occasion when called upon and lead despite odds that may seem insurmountable.
On Monday night, Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron was Alabama’s hero.
“We knew coming into the game somebody else had to step up,” McCarron said. “And Coach just gave me an opportunity. Like I said, when you have a group of receivers like I have, makes your job easy as a quarterback. And you just have to put it in their area. They go up and make the plays for you, and they make you look like the hero.”
The Mobile native stood strong under pressure from the LSU defensive line, leading the Tide with poise down the field.
“I said the whole year, he’s so fearless,” offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. “He handled this situation just like I expected him to, with no fear.”
McCarron, who finished the day going 23-34 for 234 yards, earned Offensive MVP honors for the game. The young quarterback’s big-game presence was noted by many, including the Tide’s last championship-winning quarterback, Greg McElroy.
“I would be proud for them to consider me in that same type of shoes,” McElroy said after the game. “He played outstanding. He took what the defense gave him and played outstanding.”
McCarron’s play might have been surprising to many fans. His teammates, however, never doubted for one second that he would deliver in the big game.
“I really wasn’t surprised at all,” wide receiver Brandon Gibson said. “I’ve known AJ all my life, growing up with him in Mobile. I knew he was a great leader, and he is going to be even better next year.”
Perhaps no one had as much faith in McCarron as former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who before his last game as a Tide assistant coach sat down and discussed the game with McCarron.
“On the bus ride the other day, I sat with [McElwain],” McCarron said. “He just talked, and he said, ‘Listen. You don't have to win the game, just go play your game.’ And I felt like I did that tonight.”
McElwain strayed from the Tide’s usual heavy ground attack early on in the game, choosing instead to let McCarron take control of the game with a mixture of play-action passes. The Tide quarterback said he appreciated the trust his coaches had in him and that he wanted to play well for McElwain in the coach’s final game before becoming the head coach at Colorado State.
“We have the best coaching staff in the country,” McCarron said. “And, I mean, I felt like it was in my hands to kind of send Coach Mack off on a win – a big win – off to his new coaching journey.”
McCarron delivered for the Tide and will join the elite fraternity of national championship-winning quarterbacks at Alabama. His performance not only ended the Tide’s season on top, but also gave Alabama fans a reason to be excited about the future.
“I am so proud of him and the way he competed,” Jones said. “It should give him a lot of confidence coming into next year. He’s gained so much confidence throughout the year, and we are so proud of him.”