Journey Continues For McElroy

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has negotiated an interesting football journey, one that is far from complete. Most of his career has been spent on the sidelines, but when he's on the field he's perfect. And he's been nearly perfect in the classroom, too.

Greg McElroy will lead Alabama against Texas in the BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena January 7. There are many story lines for McElroy, and in this game there is particular interest on the Texan McElroy quarterbacking against the Longhorns.

Both McElroy and Texas Coach Mack Brown had addressed the issue of the Longhorns not being interested in McElroy after he was Mr. Football in the state of Texas as he led Carroll High of Southlake (suburban Dallas) to an undefeated season and the state championship. McElroy was Most Valuable Player in the state championship game and finished his career with numerous single season passing records.

Brown was polite, suggesting the Longhorns made a mistake in not offering McElroy, and pointing out that there are 300-plus college caliber football players in the state of Texas each year. McElroy was more specific. "They gave me a look," he said. "It was a good enough look that they decided I wasn't for them."

McElroy pointed out that Texas wants a quarterback more mobile than he is.

The Tide quarterback also noted that he was really a Texas Tech fan (he committed to the Red Raiders before Bama came with an offer) and that, in any event, things have gone well for Texas without him and they have gone well for McElroy at Alabama.

That issue is closed. It is not a factor in the upcoming national championship game.

As most know, McElroy started only one year of high school, his senior season, and went undefeated. In his fourth year at Alabama (though junior season of football eligibility) he has run his record to 29-0 – 16-0 in high school and 13-0 this season.

McElroy is also one of 22 Alabama players who have already earned degrees. Unlike the others, though, McElroy is not ending his college career in Pasadena. He intends to return next season for his fifth year of eligibility. And then, he said, he plans to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship, the prestigious post-graduate work by American student-athletes done at Oxford, England. McElroy is qualified. As a student in the College of Commerce and Business Administration, he has made all 'A' grades except for one 'B.'

McElroy answered questions this week regarding the Crimson Tide going against the Longhorns.

On his familiarity with Texas quarterback Colt McCoy:

"I've known Colt for a number of years, just meeting each other in camps and things. A lot of guys would say that being a quarterback is very similar to being a member of a fraternity, just because we all have a similar understanding, we've all gone through similar circumstances and we've all done a lot of similar things. I spent some time with Colt this summer at the Manning Passing Academy, and I wouldn't say Colt and I are real close or anything, but we definitely have a mutual respect for one another. I've followed his career and I've obviously followed his season this year. It's been a pleasure for me to watch him and learn from him and obviously it's going to be quite a joy to face him.

On waiting three years to start following Chase Daniel at Southlake Carroll HS and John Parker Wilson at Alabama:

"You don't get antsy, because anything worth doing, is worth waiting for in my opinion. That is something that my mom and my dad have always preached to me, that if you are really going to be successful, you can't expect success immediately. Being able to learn from those guys and observe those guys over the years when I backed them up, it allowed me to be a better player. I don't have any regrets. I don't have any negative feelings toward Chase (Daniels) or John Parker (Wilson). They were both obviously big mentors of mine and two people that I greatly respect. I definitely appreciated backing them up and coming to Alabama. I knew that I was going to be behind a good player in John Parker. I didn't expect to come in here and play right away. I expected to just go through the process, and I was asked to make the most of it and I was able to do that, obviously this spring and throughout the fall."

On how Coach Nick Saban deals with his quarterbacks:

"He's been really good to me. My coach in high school was really driven. He was an excellent offensive coach and coached the game in a very constructive and critical way and was very much a perfectionists. I developed that perfectionist style with him, and I learned to never do things halfway, never do things three-quarters of the way. I know how to work. I know how to prepare myself and give it 100 percent. Coach Saban, although he spends most of his time on the defensive side of the field, he does spend time with the quarterbacks. As everyone knows he is very in control of his team. Offense, defense and special teams have all taken on his identity and what he stands for. He is really good with quarterbacks and he allows Coach (Jim) McElwain to teach us the fundamentals and teach the offense and things like that, but he is also very hands on when it comes to the team drills and team situations like that, because he understands the importance of taking care of the ball and being efficient. Coach Saban really preaches that to us and I've learned a lot from him, more so about mentality as opposed to just quarterback play. I think a lot can be said about that, because if your quarterback is mentally tough, and your team is mentally tough, then you're going to be able to have success throughout the game and especially in the fourth quarter when it really counts."

On how Coach Saban deals with mistakes made during practice:

"He understands that practice is when you iron out the wrinkles and there are difficult times in practice and against our defense, mistakes are going to be made, whether it is by me or another member of the offense. It is just part of it. Coach Saban does a really good job of both praising the defense and trying to correct us, and that is obviously really helpful. He is very vocal when you've done something that disappoints him, which is good. I think as a player it is important when you are criticized to be told what you are doing wrong and when you are ineffective. When Coach Saban does that we all learn from it and gain a lot of experience from it, because Coach Saban has been at the highest level for an extremely long time and everyone has something to learn from it. When he comes down on you, it is only because he wants you to succeed, so it is definitely a great learning experience for everyone involved, including both the quarterbacks and the entire offense."

On Coach Saban's coaching style

"I've been called terrible things throughout the course of my career and Coach Saban is relatively nice, compared to some of the things I have heard. Coach Saban is a great coach. He wants to teach us the game. It is not so much about trying to make you feel bad or anything like that. That's why coach Saban is so impactful when he speaks to you, because he wants to teach you. He's in this business because he wants to affect kids in a positive light, both in their athletic lives and obviously off the field as well. Coach Saban is such a great teacher. I think we are all lucky to have Coach Saban, because as a result we've become mentally tougher and when you're mentally weak, you often get your feelings hurt, but coach Saban in no means is trying to criticize you, he is trying to help you improve."

On what he misses most of his home state of Texas:

"Texas has been such a great place for me growing up. I think probably the thing I miss most, besides my family, is probably my Dallas Cowboys. That was obviously kind of the staple of my childhood and the staple of my growing up was going to the Cowboys game on Sundays. I think obviously being so far away from that and being in the middle of Falcons and Saints territory down here in the south, it's a little more difficult to watch Cowboys games and when the Cowboys are on TV, you're bound to catch some heckling. I think I probably miss the Cowboys, being the diehard fan that I am. That's probably the biggest thing."

On Southlake Carroll HS quarterbacks leaving the state of Texas:

"I can't really answer that. I think it really depends on the certain quarterback situation. I know Chase had a great opportunity to go to Missouri and I had a great opportunity to go to Alabama. I enjoyed my time in Texas and I enjoyed learning and growing up there and playing football there, because Texas high school football, and Pee Wee football, and middle school football there is probably as competitive as anywhere. It was a great learning experience for me and I think everything worked out in the end with me coming to Alabama."

On overcoming the instability of coaching turnover at Alabama earlier in the decade:

"I think the fact that we have experienced the probation years and the coaching turnover and things like that, it's obviously been a difficult time period for the University of Alabama and our football program. But I think the fact that we've been able to overcome it and been able to learn from it and obviously now we are getting ready to play for a national championship, is just proof that Alabama is back to where it belongs, where we all deserve to be. In my years, I have had two head coaches and three offensive coordinators in four years, so it has been difficult. I understand as a player how hard it is to experience coaching changes. You feel unwanted at times. You feel upset at times, but the main thing is, this university belongs on top of the college football world and we're fortunate to have Coach Saban now and the coaches that come before obviously led us to Coach Saban and things have worked out."

On his memories of former Southlake Carroll teammate and current Texas running back Tre' Newton:

"Tre' was obviously an incredible talent. He was a sophomore when I was a senior. I've gotten an opportunity to kind of watch Tre' grow up so to speak, having watched him through middle school, playing on JV as a freshman and then obviously with me as my starting running back as a senior. He's an incredible talent. None of us are surprised with what he has accomplished at Texas and being the running back there at such an early age is just really remarkable considering the talent they have on their roster. My greatest memories of Tre' just watching him break six or seven tackles in the state championship game to spring a long run. He is the epitome of a great Texas running back. Obviously there has been a long line of them, and I'm proud to say that I played with a great running back that now carries the ball for the Longhorns on a regular basis."

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