A former minor-league pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves, Machen has joined the Alabama squad as a walk-on quarterback. "There's a lot of work that goes into playing football," he said. "But I'm excited about playing for the Alabama Crimson Tide."
Machen's pro baseball contract will pay his way through college. The Mobile native will be considered a non-recruited walk-on athlete at Alabama, meaning he will have no effect on the Tide's scholarship numbers.
After deciding to give up pro baseball, Machen committed to the previous staff. But he was frankly happy at the recent coaching change. "It was good news for me," he admitted. "Coach Price definitely fields a passing team, which is more my style. I ran some option in high school, but I'm more suited to a passing offense. So I'm excited about Coach Price--all the Coach Prices."
Machen's fast ball was what attracted the pro baseball scouts, so his arm is plenty strong for quarterback. And his size, 6-6, 235 pounds, is reminiscent of the two most recent passers Mike Price sent to the NFL.
"Ryan Leaf, Drew Bledsoe--they're mostly all big quarterbacks," Machen noted. "6-5, 6-6--they're big guys, and that's what I am. I'm going to try and follow in their footsteps, if I can."
As a senior in high school Machen took over a McGill-Toolen squad that had won just one game the previous year, leading them to a 7-5 mark and a spot in the state playoffs. "It was a hard decision for me, choosing baseball over football," Machen related.
He gave baseball his best shot, but once he decided he wasn't likely to make it to the major leagues, the decision to play football for the Tide was easy. "I was treading water in the minor leagues," Machen explained. "I didn't want to stay there forever and not make it to the big leagues.
"I love Alabama. This is where I wanted to play in the beginning, so I'm going to give it a try and see how it works."
Enrolled in school and attending classes, Machen's afternoons are spent lifting weights, working to get his body into football shape. "I've been away from football for about three years," he said. "The workouts are a lot different, but I'm excited. Coach (Ben) Pollard is a good coach. He'll steer us in the right direction.
"I think the workouts are going to help me a lot--turn me into a much better football player."
Weight training in baseball has other goals, especially for pitchers. Machen explained. "Baseball has a different focus. They really don't work out the upper body that much; it's really just legs. In baseball they try to keep you loose up top. Here we do a lot of cleans and squats and stuff. It'll take me a couple of months to get into football shape. I've just got to get accustomed to the routine."
With the new exercises Machen is sore in places he didn't know existed, but he's loving every minute. "It won't take long," he promised. "I used to do it in high school. Once I get back in the swing it'll be easy."
Despite being three years older than most true freshmen, Machen recognizes that Bama has several talented athletes ahead of him on the depth chart. He won't rush things. But after those first few months, watch out!
"I'll probably redshirt the first year and then see what comes after that," he said. "But I'm here to compete."