RAYMOND ANTHONY "A.J." McCARRON
University of Alabama Crimson Tide
Saint Paul's Episcopal School
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School
A.J. McCarron has been the Tide's "lucky charm" ever since he joined the football program in 2009. While their vast wealth of talent has been largely responsible for Alabama's success under head coach Nick Saban, McCarron witnessed the team capturing the national title while he red-shirted during the 2009 campaign.
The quarterback would late guide ‘Bama to back-to-back championships as a sophomore and junior, but losses in each of his final two games left the three year-starter with a 36-4 record (90.0 winning percentage) before he embarks on a professional career. His 36 victories topped the previous school record of 35 wins by quarterback Jay Barker (35-2-1 record; 1991-94). That victory total was also the seventh-best by a quarterback in the history of NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision competition. Regarded as a "big game" player, he compiled a 12-3 record vs. top-25 teams, including a 7-2 mark vs. top-ten squads.
McCarron grew both on and off the football field as a member of the Alabama program. He arrived on campus as a lanky 185-pound freshman, only to leave with an impressive and solid 214-pound frame. He showed a keen grasp for the playbook and in each of his three seasons as a starter, he etched his name firmly into the school record books.
The senior leaves the program holding the school's career-records for lowest interception percentage (1.46%; 15 interceptions on 1,026 pass attempts), pass completion percentage (.6686), pass completions (686), touchdown passes (77) and total offense yardage (8,969). Facing the "cream of the crop" in college football, he threw for 3,233 yards (215.53 ypg), 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions in fifteen contests vs. top-25 competition.
Still, with all of that success on the football field, McCarron shies away from national attention and is the first to praise other teammates for all of the victories. But the media finally recognized this vastly underrated talent. Despite the powerhouse that Alabama has been throughout their football life, no Tide player has received the coveted Maxwell Award until McCarron beat out the heavy competition as a senior.
The Maxwell Award has been presented annually, since its inception in 1937, to the collegiate American football player judged by a panel of sportscasters, sportswriters, and National Collegiate Athletic Association head coaches and the membership of the Maxwell Football Club to be the best football player in the United States. The award is named after Robert W. Maxwell, a Swarthmore College football player, coach and sportswriter. John Lattner (1952-53) and Tim Tebow (2007-08) are the only two players to have won the award twice.
With such schools like Columbia, Indiana, Princeton, Purdue, Southern Methodist, Temple and Yale all having at least one recipient of the Maxwell Award, none of those schools will ever be confused for being the elite in college football. After completing 226-of-336 passes (ranking second on the school record chart at 67.26%) for a Tide annual record 3,063 yards and a career-best 28 touchdowns (also second on the school annual list) and setting another ‘Bama mark with 3,041 yards in total offense, he ended the school's drought by winning that award as a senior.
McCarron also joined Jay Barker (1994) as the only Tide player to receive the prestigious
Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award during his final campaign. He finished second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy and was a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, the Davey O'Brien Award and the SENIOR Class Award. He would also earn first-team All-Southeastern Conference and All-American honors.
Raymond Anthony "AJ" McCarron, Jr. was born and raised in nearby Mobile, Alabama. He attended Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School from kindergarten to fourth grade before transferring to St. Paul's Episcopal School. At the age of five, McCarron was severely injured in a jet-ski accident and almost died. Having survived that horrific accident, he began playing youth football at Trimmier Park and then Langan Park in Mobile. He played on the same park team as Mark Barron, who was later his teammate at Alabama before being selected in the first round of the 2012 draft by Tampa Bay.
At St. Paul's School, McCarron stepped into the starting lineup during his sophomore season, passing for over 1,900 yards, 25 touchdowns and four interceptions. The next season, he led the team to a 14-1 record and they captured the state championship against Briarwood Christian School off a missed PAT. He closed out that campaign with 145 completions from 232 attempts for 2,540 yards and 26 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He was named Alabama Sports Writers Association All-State first-team and named to the ASWA Super XII (All Classes), Orlando-Sentinel All-Southern Team.
As a senior, McCarron threw for 1,560 yards, 15 touchdowns and two interceptions. With his strong and accurate arm, he was named an Elite 11 quarterback. The Press Register's Super Southeast 120 (#26) and Alabama Mississippi All-Star Classic MVP, he added Super Prep and U.S. Army All-American honors. He was listed as Super Prep's ninth-best quarterback and fifth-best overall prospect in the state of Alabama. ESPNU rated him fourth among the prep passers and 37th overall in the country.
McCarron was also a member of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super Southern 100, as the two-time Class 5A All-State choice would conclude his career by accepting an invitation to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Classic, where he was named the MVP. In three seasons as the St. Paul's starting quarterback, he threw for 6,066 yards, 66 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.
In his first season at Alabama, McCarron accepted a red-shirt and did not play during the season as the team went 14–0 to capture the 2009 National Championship. During his red-shirt freshman year, he did see some playing time, appearing in nine games as a reserve quarterback behind All-Southeastern Conference quarterback Greg McElroy, in addition to competing in all 13 contests as the team's holder for placements and field goals. His first collegiate touchdown pass came during the season opener when he connected with wide receiver Julio Jones on a 29-yard pass vs. San Jose State. For the season, he passed for a total of 389 yards and three touchdowns on 30-of-48 chances in 2010.
With McElroy having graduated, there was tight competition for the starting quarterback position during 2011 spring practices, McCarron was named as the co-starting quarterback alongside Phillip Sims for the season opener vs. Kent State, and later became the de facto starter by starting in every game. In his first start in college, he passed for 226 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions as Alabama won 48–7. His first road start for the Tide came the following week, as he traveled to State College, Pennsylvania, where his performance of 163 yards with no turnovers helped Alabama defeat Penn State 27–11. That would mark the last loss for legendary Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno. Another solid performance, alongside running back Trent Richardson, helped him get a victory in his first SEC start, a 38–14 win vs. Arkansas. During the course of his sophomore season, McCarron led an 11–1 overall record during the regular season, including 7–1 record in conference action.
Alabama's only loss of the season came during an overtime defeat at the hands of then top-ranked Louisiana State. During the game, he completed 16-of-28 passes for 199 yards with one interception. By remaining unbeaten during the rest of the regular season, the Tide again met LSU at the Superdome for the national championship. His performance of 234 yards passing earned him Offensive Player of the Game in a 21–0 rout of the Tigers.
During his first season as starting quarterback, McCarron passed for a total of 2,634 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions on the way to the BCS National Championship. His passing yardage figure and 2,612 yards in total offense were good for sixth on the school season-record chart. His 219 completions and pass completion percentage of .6677 both placed fourth on the Tide annual record chart.
McCarron had a strong start in his second year as starting quarterback for Alabama as the Tide began the season with a 9–0 record. In his first five games, he passed for 999 yards and twelve touchdowns with zero interceptions. That performance included a comeback victory over LSU that had several media members put him as a dark horse candidate for the year's Heisman Trophy. His first interception for 2012 came in Alabama's first loss (season's tenth game).
In their first year in the SEC, Texas A&M and eventual Heisman-winner Johnny Manziel came into Bryant–Denny Stadium and upset Alabama 29–24. His second interception of the game seemingly sealed Alabama's loss, as he threw the pass on a fourth-&-goal play with under two minutes remaining. Both he and Alabama rebounded to remain unbeaten during the rest of the regular season, which led them to the 2012 SEC Championship Game vs. Georgia. With the help of running back Eddie Lacy, Alabama battled with the Bulldogs to win 32–28 and earn a shot to play for the 2013 BCS National Championship vs. then top-ranked Notre Dame.
Prior to the title clash, the media was abuzz with stories that the Tide quarterback intended to leave school early and apply for the 2013 NFL Draft. However, in late December, he announced that he would be coming back to Alabama for his senior season. McCarron torched the Fighting Irish, completing 20-of-28 passes for 264 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 42-14 Tide victory.
McCarron would become the first quarterback to win back-to-back BCS titles. McCarron threw for a school-record 30 touchdown passes. His 2,933 aerial yards and pass completion percentage of .672 both rank third on the school's annual record chart. He was also named winner of the College Football Performance Awards Quarterback Trophy on January 22nd, 2013.
McCarron finally garnered the national attention that had eluded him during those two championship seasons, as he made the cover of Sports Illustrated's October 30th, 2013, edition, which asked whether he was one of the best college players ever. At that time, McCarron (whose team was 10-0) was a long shot for the Heisman Trophy, but he put together another solid campaign that would see him eventually finish second in the voting for the coveted award. Mysteriously, McCarron was again named only a second-team All-Southeastern Conference selection.
During his final season, he passed John Parker Wilson to become Alabama's all time passing yard leader. He also broke Greg McElroy's record for passing yards in a season with 3.063, along with setting other season marks with 3,041 yards in total offense and an average of 233.92 yards per game. His 28 touchdowns and pass completion percentage of .6726 both took second place on the Tide's annual chart.
McCarron enters the National Football League as one of only seven quarterbacks in history to win back-to-back titles in some form and is the first quarterback to win back-to-back consecutive titles since Nebraska's Tommie Frazier in 1994 and 1995. In addition, since his freshman/redshirt year, McCarron has been associated with three national title teams under head coach Nick Saban: 2009, 2011, and 2012. He finished as the school's all-time leader with 686 pass completions, a completion percentage of .6686, 9,019 yards passing, 77 touchdown tosses, 8,969 yards in total offense and an interception percentage of 1.46.
In his final college game, the senior set the Alabama single-season passing mark with 3,063 yards, becoming the first-ever Alabama quarterback to reach the 3,000-yard mile-stone in a season, and a new personal game career-high of 387 yards in a 19-of-30 night vs. Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. He is also the twelfth quarterback in the eighty years of Sugar Bowl history to break 300 yards passing in the game (threw for 301 yards in the first half alone), and his landmark season total broke Greg McElroy's record of 2,987 yards set in 2010.
McCarron appeared in 53 games at Alabama, starting the team's final 40 games, as he compiled a 36-4 record as a starter. His 36 victories are the most ever by a Tide starting quarterback, topping the previous mark of 35 wins recorded by Jay Barker (1991-94)…Is only the 11th major college quarterback to win at least 90 percent of his games as a starter…Only Barker (35-2-1; .934) and Danny Wuerffel of Florida (32-3-1; .903; 1993-96) had better winning percentages among Southeastern Conference signal-callers…The senior is the first quarterback to win back-to-back BCS titles and is just one of seven quarterbacks in college football history to win back-to-back titles in some form…Also is the first quarterback to win back-to-back consecutive titles since Nebraska's Tommie Frazier in 1994 and 1995….Since his freshman/redshirt year, he has been associated with three national title teams under head coach Nick Saban: 2009, 2011, and 2012…Finished with 686 completions of 1,026 passes (66.86%) for 9,019 yards, 77 touchdowns and only fifteen interceptions…Carried the ball 119 times for losses totaling 50 yards, but scored three times on the ground…Gained 8,969 yards in total offense on 1,145 plays, an average of 169.23 yards per game, as he was responsible for 80 touchdown…
NCAA Career-Record Charts…McCarron had only 15-of-1,026 passes intercepted during his career, as his interception percentage of 1.46 broke the NCAA record (minimum 1,000 attempts) of 1.692% by Graham Harrell of Texas Tech (34-of-2,010; 2005-08)…Southeastern Conference Career-Record Charts…Ranks 13th in league history with 8,989 yards in total offense…He averaged 7.83 yards per play, the second-best career total by an SEC player, topped by Ryan Mallett of Arkansas (8.04 ypp; 919 for 7,390 yards; 2009-10)…Placed eleventh on the league record list with 80 touchdowns responsible for…His 686 pass completions rank 15th in conference annals…Completed 66.86% of his passes, ranking behind Tim Couch of Kentucky (67.15%; 795-of-1,184; 1996-98) for second on the league all-time list…Ranks third in SEC history with a passing efficiency rating of 162.54, surpassed by only Tim Tebow of Florida (170.8; 2006-09) and Danny Wuerffel of Florida (163.8; 1993-96)…His 9,019 yards passing rank 14th and his 77 touchdown passes tied Rex Grossman of Florida (2000-02) for eighth on the SEC career-record chart…School Career-Record Charts…His 686 pass completions for 9,019 yards, pass completion percentage of .6686, 77 touchdown tosses and 8,969 yards in total offense all established new school career records…His 1,026 pass attempts are topped by only John Parker Wilson (1,175; 2005-08) on the Tide's all-time list…Only Wilson (1,413) was on the field for more plays that McCarron (1,145) in school annals…Ranks fourth in Alabama history with an average gain of 169.23 yards per game.
Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
The book on: QB AJ McCarron
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