By Brad Locke
HOOVER, Ala. – A.J. McCarron goes about his business the best he can, dealing with the attention he gets but not craving it. He’s the quarterback of two-time defending national champion Alabama, but he wasn’t even the most talked about QB at SEC Media Days this week.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M’s Heisman Trophy winner, easily garnered the most media attention, and that was due to some off-field issues. But Manziel was also voted first team preseason All-SEC by the media, while McCarron was picked second team.
“Being under the radar for me is great,” McCarron said Thursday. “I’ve never been the type of guy to ask for spotlight or wanted to be in any kind of spotlight. I’m a team player, and I don’t care about my personal goals or my personal stats.”
Despite putting up gaudy numbers last season, the senior was not a Heisman finalist. McCarron completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,933 yards, 30 touchdowns and three interceptions, with a nation’s best pass efficiency rating of 175.28.
Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley said facing McCarron in practice keeps him on his toes, with the quarterback checking to different plays and trying to keep the defense off-balance.
“So it’s kind of like a chess game in practice,” Mosley said. “When it comes to game time, we’ve already been through the situation.”
McCarron figures to be in the Heisman conversation this season, and he admitted that the thought occasionally crosses his mind.
He related a story from his childhood in Mobile, Ala., when he put on Alabama gear for Christmas or Halloween – he forgets which – and struck a Heisman pose. His mom took a picture that she still has.
“It’s always been a dream of mine, but at the same time I’m not going to let my personal goals come in the way of our team goals,” he said.
‘I came from nothing’
McCarron is living what looks like a dream life. Alabama has won three of the last four national championships, and he’s got a ring for each one of them. Doesn’t wear them, though.
He also has a girlfriend, Katherine Webb, who’s received more buzz this offseason than McCarron has gotten. After ABC play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger gushed for several minutes on air about Webb’s attractiveness during the BCS title game versus Notre Dame, the former Miss Alabama became a pop culture sensation.
It’s all been a lot to take in for McCarron, who said he never imagined himself being in this situation. But he has good reason to keep going.
“I grew up a poor kid in Mobile on (Dauphin Island Parkway), so I came from nothing. I want to be able to watch my family enjoy things that they’ve never had, so that’s my biggest thing that pushes me.”
Given the high standard he set last year, it will be difficult for McCarron to have even better numbers this season. But he’s not into stats; he’s more concerned with continuing to be a good leader and modeling himself after former NFL quarterback Brett Favre.
“He always seemed like he got the best out of the rest of his teammates, everybody around him,” McCarron said. “That’s what I’m trying to do, is bring the best out of my teammates.”
Offensive lineman Anthony Steen cited McCarron’s focus, energy and sense of humor as strengths. That’s how he defines his quarterback, not by personal accolades or stats.
“He doesn’t really have to prove anything,” Steen said. “I know the type of player he is, and I know his goal is the same as mine. We both want to go all the way next year.”