Being Alabama QB Includes Pressure
The most notable thing about A.J. McCarron is that he has quarterbacked Alabama to back-to-back national championships and is back for a final season to have a chance at making history, becoming the first to quarterback a college team to three consecutive national championships.
Last year he became the all-time Crimson Tide leader in career passing touchdowns with 49 and also became the single season record-holder at Alabama as he threw for 30 touchdowns. Against that, he was intercepted only three times in 2012. That's a primary reason he was the national leader in passing efficiency. He has thrown a Bama record 291 consecutive passes without an interception.
Here is the third in a series in which we see how other special people see the position of Bama quarterback and, more important, how they see Alabama quarterback A J McCarron:
Terry Davis was Alabama's first wishbone quarterback, and his first game was leading Alabama to victory over number one ranked USC in Los Angeles to start the 1971 season. He was a back-up in 1970, then started in 1971 and 1972 on Southeastern Conference championship teams.
Davis said, "Having not grown up an Alabama fan that was not my goal. I wanted to play for LSU. After Coach Bryant started recruiting me then I started learning about Alabama and Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, and Bart Starr. You suddenly realize that position carries a lot of weight and responsibility with it. It was an honor and a privilege to play quarterback at Alabama and under Coach Bryant. There was a lot of pressure but it goes with the leadership on any team. You are in control with what goes on out there but especially so at Alabama.
"AJ is a tremendous quarterback and leader. I think what makes him especially good for the position is he has such great instincts. When he sees something he reacts to it without having to react to it. It seems like it just happens. A lot of quarterbacks are in situations where they are reading a defense but their reaction to it doesn't come immediately so it may take something away from them in terms of executing the play like they should. I think a good example of that is the LSU game last year during the final drive. Two or three of those passes he threw at the end were put in a place with the right amount of velocity on them. Only his receivers could get to them and not the defenders. That drive indicated how good a competitor and talented the guy really is. If he is not the greatest, he will certainly go down as one of the top three or four in the history of Alabama football.
"He has that ability to see what is happening and make the play. There is no hesitation when he is back there. If he's in the pocket throwing, he just knows what's happening on the field. When he sees it, he can react to it on the spot very quickly. I think it is the preparation and natural instincts he has to play the position. You can see it in a lot of plays - one being the long touchdown pass to Amari Cooper against Georgia. It was a beautiful play he set up in the pocket by looking off to the right and then throwing back to the left hitting him on the spot. He just has tremendous athletic ability and instincts to control that position. Being the leader he is you can see everybody respects him and works hard for him. I think he is one heck of a quarterback."
Gary Rutledge didn't have to learn about Alabama football coming from Birmingham. He was a Tide quarterback 1972-74.
"It was a dream come true for me because I always dreamed of going to Alabama and playing quarterback," he said. "My father took me there as a kid so I watched Steve Sloan, Kenny Stabler and those kind of guys. To be able to fulfill that dream was a gift from God.
"AJ is a very wise and smart quarterback. He is a good leader. He seems to be humble and is a team player not an individual. He leads by example and seems to be everything Coach Saban wants a quarterback to be. He's proven he's a winner and plays well in the big and important games – LSU, Auburn and the bowl games. He is a championship quarterback without a doubt.
"He has leadership qualities. His offense responds to him. The offense revolves around him and he likes that responsibility. A quarterback nowadays, especially at Alabama calls the blocking schemes, which is a major part of the offense. He has command of the offense and his players look up to him. They respond to his leadership."
Richard Todd had to be convinced to come to Alabama because he had been recruited by teams telling him a wishbone quarterback wouldn't have a chance to play in the NFL. He was a Bama quarterback 1973-75...before going to the NFL.
"It was a lot of fun," Todd said. "When you're an Alabama quarterback you are following legends – Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler. You've got quite a group of people who are pretty well known throughout the state – those three more than anybody.
"AJ McCarron with his wins and national championships is by far the greatest quarterback ever to play for Alabama. I enjoy watching him play. I remember going to the spring game before AJ became a starter. The quarterback with best arm strength I've ever seen at Alabama was probably Brodie Croyle. Then I saw AJ play and he had all the throws. He had touch on the deep ones and could accurately throw short, medium and long. He's been one of the better passers that has been there in a long, long time.
"AJ is definitely a playmaker because he has a great arm and is very accurate. You have to look at his touchdowns to interceptions ratio and wins. That is what everyone judges quarterbacks on. He is incredible."
It was natural for Jeff Rutledge to follow his brother Gary – and his dream – to Alabama to play quarterback, which he did, 1975-78, finishing his career with a national championship.
He said, "As a kid growing up watching Alabama football, it's what you always talked and dreamed about. Then I had an opportunity to do that and play for Coach Bryant at The University of Alabama and play for the great teams I was fortunate to be a part of with terrific athletes, I just look back at it as a great experience.
"I think that anyone who can throw 291 passes without an interception has the ability to make great decisions. He doesn't make big mistakes to get you beat and plays within himself. He is willing to throw it away or run and do what he has to do to win. He doesn't force the football. That is the one good thing about playing quarterback. He doesn't make the big mistake. He is really smart with the football. He is very impressive when I've watched him play. He knows when to throw it away or run and makes great decisions.
"I am impressed with his decision making process more than anything and leadership qualities. Everything I have heard about him is he takes control on the field."
Steadman Shealy became the second consecutive Alabama quarterback to finish his career with a national championship as he backed up Rutledge in 1977 and 1978 and then led Bama to an undefeated season in 1979. From there he went to law school and now practices in the state.
"What an honor and a privilege it was first of all to play at a university with a long tradition of great quarterbacks," Shealy said. "When you think about how many great quarterbacks that have come through Alabama. Just to be part of The University of Alabama and be part of a winning program and be with Coach Bryant. A little boy from Dothan, Alabama raised in the state of Alabama, you couldn't ask for any more.
"I think AJ knows how to win, how to play within himself and do what Saban wants him to do. It's kind of like when I was playing. If you have great defenses control the football. If you do that, most times you win. AJ does a great job and is a good leader. He wins. It's really simple. Don't do more than you should and just play within the system. AJ has done that and made great reads. He's done a tremendous job and I've been real proud of him for doing that.
"I think AJ is willing to make it about the whole and not about the one. The toughest thing not to do is make it about yourself. If you make it about the team and make it about the whole then all the accolades will come with it. Winning brings it on."
Walter Lewis was Coach Bryant's last quarterback in 1982 and Coach Ray Perkins' first quarterback in 1983 as Bama made the transition from wishbone to pro-style in Lewis' final season, 1983. He was a Tide quarterback 1980-83.
Lewis said, "Quarterback is an honored position in the state of Alabama, revered by many people. You are probably third in line in terms of the totem pole. The governor is first, the head coach of Alabama is second and then the quarterback of Alabama is third. Me, having the opportunity to play the position and have a chance to be a part of the legacy, I feel so grateful. It is a position that you take seriously and it is a position that has garnered a lot of attention and pride to know you represent a legacy of quarterbacks that have gone before you. You uphold the legacy of those who are coming after you. I am grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to play at Alabama.
"I think AJ in my opinion will probably be the greatest quarterback to go through Alabama at the college level. What I learned is you can do really well in college but you're performance as a professional determines how you are viewed by the Alabama fans. He's had a great supporting cast but to be as consistent as he's been is monumental in his career and legacy at Alabama.
"One of the things that impresses me about him is his demeanor. I think the showdown between he and Barrett (Jones) exemplifies what type of person he is and leader he is and what type of quarterback he will be. I think the exchange that night in that big game (2013 BCS NC) even though the game was sewed up solidified the qualities professional teams seek."
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