Some fans may not take the time to read the entire AJ McCarron Q and A article by Jon Wertheim in Sports Illustrated. If you don’t, you still need to read this. He has represented the University of Alabama with class, on and off the field.
If she was literally dying, imagine how A.J. Starr felt. Starr, 21, has profound cerebral palsy and is a hard-core Tide fan; he would often peer through a hole in the fence at the team’s practice facility to catch a glimpse of the players. After a rainy practice last year Starr tried to flag a bus to go home, but he couldn’t walk quickly enough and the bus pulled away. McCarron saw this unfold from his truck as he left the practice facility. He pulled up alongside Starr, rolled down the window and asked the kid if he needed a ride.
“I had this huge smile,” Starr recalls, “and was like, ‘I’ll take a ride.’ ”
“I’m AJ,” said McCarron. “Nice to meet you, man.”
“I know who you are. I’m a big Alabama fan. My name is A.J. too.”
The two talked about football and Tuscaloosa and cerebral palsy. “When I dropped him off, I started bawling,” says McCarron. “Here’s this kid who has this disorder, and all he wanted to do was watch us practice.” When he got back to his off-campus apartment, McCarron called Joe Pannunzio, Alabama’s director of football operations, and told him about the encounter. “Can we get him a job here?” McCarron asked. “Maybe he can help in the weight room or something? Equipment room? Doing laundry. Something?”
So it is that A.J. Starr — tremors be damned — has spent the last year on the sideline for each Crimson Tide practice and home game, a volunteer member of the equipment staff.