With all the attention on agents, the players seemed to be a little in the background at the annual SEC event. But Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has put himself in the front as a leader and a winner for the Crimson Tide.
"Greg is a great leader, and a great game-manager," said Heisman Trophy winner/running back Mark Ingram. "He's a great teammate. I enjoy playing with him."
Ingram sees a better "G-Mac" than the one who piloted the Crimson Tide to a 14-0 record and the national championship last year.
"He's a lot more confident," Ingram said. "He knows the game. He's been a great leader out there (in summer drills)."
McElroy, who hasn't lost a game as a starting quarterback since middle school, threw for 2,508 yards and 17 touchdowns during his team's run to the 2009 national title. Despite fan hullaballoo about his back-ups, McElroy knows he is the man this year. And, as such, he feels he will be a better player.
"Last year, as a first-year starter, I was like, ‘Wow, this is a big stadium,' and things like that, especially when we played on the road," said McElroy. "Now, I've got a year under my belt, and I've been around the league. I feel more in a comfort zone. This year, I'm more focused on myself. I haven't been as concerned about external factors (also Saban-speak)."
One big reason for that comfort zone is All-SEC wide receiver Julio Jones. "He's amazing," said the red-headed Texas senior. "I love throwing those four-yard routes to Julio and watching him go 70 yards, or 73 yards, like he did against LSU."
McElroy pilots an offense with many weapons. "Our game is sort of a ‘Pick Your Poison,'" he said. "If the running game is going well, like in the South Carolina game, then we'll keep running the ball. If we're passing well, like in the Arkansas game, we'll keep doing that."
True to the form of his coach throughout the day, McElroy emphasized that this is 2010, and 2009 and all its glory is done. "We're proud of what we accomplished last year. It was a great run. If you look at us (today), none of us are wearing our rings. We understand that whatever happened last year isn't going to give us an advantage this year. We're going to have to give it our best effort, each week.
"A lot of people ask, ‘How do you stay motivated?' The way I look at it, if you've been to the mountain it'll be a tough task, but it's something we're ready for. We're going to have to make improvements over the next month and a half, but it's something we're looking forward to."
McElroy, a perfectionist, remembers the last time he lost as a starting quarterback. "It was a middle school game. The other team's quarterback was Steven Headley, who went on to a good career at Wyoming. The game was tied 6-6, and we had missed our extra point. Our center snapped the ball over my head for a safety, and we lost 8-6. I was sick."
Since then, McElroy has been helping his teams make their opponents feel sick. Losing will do that.
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