There have been many great moments in Alabama football history, and many of them have been made within the past six years of Nick Saban’s tenure.
There was the comeback against Auburn on the road in 2009: a drive orchestrated by Greg McElroy and Julio Jones, and capped off by a Roy Upchurch goal line touchdown catch. The win capped off a perfect 12-0 regular season.
There was the blocked kick against Tennessee at home: On the last play of the game, fan favorite Terrance Cody blocked his second field goal of the game — a 44-yard field goal attempt. It secured the win, and saved Alabama’s season.
There was the interception against Texas in the 2009 BCS National Championship game: Marcell Dareus snagged an attempted shovel pass deep in Longhorn territory before halftime, and found his way into the end zone.
Alabama has a pregame video in Bryant-Denny showing all of these clips, and many others, featuring past and present Alabama players. Along with the clips, several virtues of greatness are displayed.
They are powerful words: Pride, Tenacity, Excellence, Intensity, and Courage, just to name a few. There is one word that is my favorite in the entire montage; one virtue among many, on which our tradition is built.
That word is Poise.
I could offer you the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word, but one need only watch AJ McCarron in the last drive of the Alabama-LSU game Saturday night to grasp the meaning.
There was no panic in McCarron; no trace of anxiety in his body language, no hint of trepidation in his approach. I am seldom more impressed than when an athlete in any sport is able to keep his wits when all about him are losing theirs, and execute the plan in place. Poise is an invaluable asset, and AJ McCarron has it in spades.
McCarron etched his name into Crimson Tide lore on Saturday night. The last two minutes of the 21-17 victory against LSU will be deservedly placed among the greatest moments in Alabama football history. He engineered a game-winning drive against a formidable opponent in the most difficult environment in football, college or professional. Death Valley in Baton Rouge is, if you believe Les Miles, “The Place Where Opponents Dreams Go to Die.” Most would have failed in the same circumstance.
Instead, it took only 43 seconds for the Crimson Tide to drive the field and score. AJ went 4-5 for 78 yards, completed three straight passes to Kevin Norwood, before completing a screen pass to T.J. Yeldon for the 28-yard game-winning touchdown.
This win means a tremendous amount to the Alabama fanbase, the coaching staff, and the players; but I believe it meant the most to AJ McCarron. When the game ended McCarron couldn’t deny his emotions, and with tears in his eyes ran over to embrace his family. It was an honest and wonderful scene.
In 43 seconds, he realized greatness most can only dream of, and kept his team’s championship season alive. Perhaps in 43 years, AJ McCarron will look back on that night and fondly remember Death Valley: The place where dreams come true.
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