"We're going to make it work. It's going to be a fun run."
As every pundit from California to Florida has pointed out, Alabama is hardly the place you want to learn on the job. But Alabama's current starting quarterback isn't bothered by Mike Shula's relative youth. "Everybody has got to start somewhere," Croyle said. "You can look in his eyes and tell how hungry he is, how much he wanted this job and how much he wants to succeed. That's 3/4s of it right there. If you really want to succeed, then you've got a chance to do it.
"You can just look at him and tell that he wants it. He wants to be great. He wants to make the most of this job."
As the son of former Tide all-star John Croyle (‘71-'73), Brodie Croyle grew up steeped in Alabama football history. When he signed with the Tide Croyle was assigned jersey No. 12, prompting immediate questions about former Bama quarterbacks that wore the number. At the time Croyle had to patiently explain that while he had heard of Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler and Steve Sloan, their careers played out years before he was born.
The situation with Mike Shula is different. Born in 1983, Croyle would have been too young to remember his head coach's quarterbacking career, which ended with the 1986 season. But Brodie's had some help. "I actually hunt with some guys that played with Coach Shula (Preston Gothard, ‘83-'84 and Billy Pierce, ‘83-‘84), and they told me about him," Croyle explained. "Plus, I pretty much grew up around Alabama football, so I knew who he was. I remember the type quarterback he was when he was here and the legacy he left.
"Coach Shula is an example of what makes Alabama football. Those guys that played here and made the type plays he made--that's the reason you come to play here. It's going to be an honor to play for him."
From Mike DuBose to Dennis Franchione to Mike Price, all three of Bama's most recent head coaches were adversely affected by the white-hot glare of the media spotlight. It's been suggested that playing quarterback for the Crimson Tide is the only job that approximates the same level of scrutiny, and Croyle doesn't disagree.
"As quarterback at Alabama you have pressure on you to perform week in and week out," Croyle said. "And if you don't perform, then everybody wants you out of the game and to put somebody else in there. That's how it is at The University of Alabama. Quarterbacks get way too much credit and way too much blame. But that's why you come to Alabama. You come expecting to win and know that when you lose you should take the blame.
"Coach Shula knows what that's like. He'll be behind us."
Does having a former Tide quarterback--an All-SEC one at that--help Croyle's peace of mind in facing his own challenges? "It does make me feel more at ease," Croyle acknowledged. "Coach Shula knows how things work around here. He knows what's involved with being the starting quarterback at Alabama."
Just days ago Croyle and his fellow players were frankly devastated by the news that their head coach had been fired. But after an emotional week, the team is ready to move on. Croyle explained, "It's definitely been a big emotional swing. (The previous Saturday) we were defending our coach, and this week we've got a new one.
"As a team we couldn't have asked for a better hire. We're all very excited about Coach Shula coming in. We're impressed by how fast Coach (Athletics Director Mal) Moore and (university president) Dr. (Robert) Witt moved."
For a day or so team morale was about as low as it could get--to the point where some players considered transferring. But Croyle believes that's behind them now. "I think that's falling aside," he said. "For a time some people were a little shaky, but Coach Moore and President Witt worked very quickly and got us a good coach.
"I never really considered transferring myself. I came here with the assumption that we would go on probation. I came here with Coach Fran running the option... So for me to say now that I'm going to leave would be kind of ridiculous.
"There's only one Alabama."