MIAMI GARDENS, Fla.—A.J. McCarron loves the big stage. It's where he shines the brightest.
He's pulled off miraculous plays during the regular season, like the two-minute drill against LSU that resulted in a game-winning touchdown, and another victory-clinching drive against Georgia in the SEC Championship game.
But what might even be more stunning is how he's shown up in the past two national championships. In last year's title game against LSU and in this year's against Notre Dame, McCarron completed 43 of 62 passes, threw four touchdowns and didn't have a single interception. Both opponents had top-ranked defenses, too.
"I love big games and that's just the way I've always been," a happily exhausted McCarron said after Alabama beat Notre Dame 42-14 in the BCS National Championship Monday night. "The best game I ever had was in the Little Flower Basketball Tournament when I was in fifth grade and I broke the scoring record. I was playing against my cousin and I had 33 of 35 points. That was probably my best win."
McCarron's four touchdown passes against the Fighting Irish moved him into sole possession of the school's career record with 49 (he passed John Parker Wilson who had 47). McCarron also holds the single-season touchdown record with 30 and has only thrown three interceptions this year.
The night started out fast for the Crimson Tide. On the second play of the game, McCarron found Kevin Norwood deep for a 29-yard gain. Alabama would go on to score its first touchdown of the night three plays later.
"We needed to come out and start fast and that's always key for us, starting fast," he said. "We got to set the tone and it really set the tone for the rest of the game."
Alabama scored on its first three drives and had a 21-0 lead at the start of the second quarter, but McCarron didn't feel like Notre Dame really broke down until his final touchdown pass to Eddie Lacy right before halftime.
No matter how solid and impressive a performance McCarron has, he's always quick to give praise to his teammates, especially to his receivers that had to adjust when Notre Dame's defense came out in different looks.
"From watching film, against Blue personnel, [Notre Dame] was 94 percent zone on the season and they started playing us man after the first three drives," he said.
McCarron's final stat line reads 20-of-28 for 264 yards and four touchdowns. The Tide racked up 529 yards of total offense and had zero turnovers. Facing the nation's second-ranked red zone defense, Alabama was able to score five touchdowns when inside the 20.
The only scuffle McCarron got into all game was when his best friend and center Barrett Jones shoved him at the line of scrimmage with just minutes left on the clock, causing Twitter to erupt. Turns out the two were fighting about clock management and when asked about it, Jones just smiled and said, "We love each other. We kissed and made up."
Another news item involving McCarron was how many Twitter followers his girlfriend Katherine Webb, who was named this year's Miss Alabama, was getting by the second after ESPN showed her several times on TV.
So what does a second BCS title do for McCarron's legacy? Does it put him in the same category as some former Alabama greats like Bart Starr, Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler? McCarron blushed at the thought.
"It's pretty crazy to come from the city of Mobile and the way I was brought up through hard times and all the sacrifices my parents made and how other people had helped my family out through the years, this is really special," he said. "I guess I don't really realize it right now, but I guess when I'm 50 I can look back and my kids and grandkids can be proud of their grandfather."
Alabama head coach Nick Saban is known for not celebrating after winning anything, not even national championships. And after Monday, he's won four. His Tide has now won three of the last four, but because of his dedication to "The Process," he has to keep the excitement at bay and get back to work on what's next.
McCarron is a mini Saban and when asked if he'll celebrate this win, he cited the coach's rules.
"We got a team meeting Thursday, so we'll probably go back to when the new team goes in there, he'll say, ‘This team hasn't done anything,'" McCarron said. "So I'm already mentally prepared for that."
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