AJ McCarron will play his final game on Thursday for the Alabama Crimson Tide, and he will leave behind one of the most storied college football careers in NCAA history.
Although he gets slapped with the “game manager” label far too often, McCarron has ridiculously gaudy stats that any college quarterback would kill for. He holds about, oh, every passing record at Alabama, and by the way, he also has two national titles under his belt. But that game manager label still lingers, much as it did with the great Jay Barker.
People often say that game managers have “the intangibles.” Okay, so let’s veer from the hard stats that show he’s one of college football’s all-time great QBs. Let’s go to the intangibles. Here are seven great big intangibles we’ll miss about AJ:
1. The Fire
There’s a fine line between intensity and petulance. McCarron’s emotion was always there, but he never entered into the Philip Rivers’ world of being just a big crybaby. He inspired his team. He rallied the fans. Toward the end of the Notre Dame title game annihilation, he traded shoves with center Barrett Jones. And both guys came out looking like warriors, rather than spoiled sports. Whether it’s Blake Sims or someone else under center next year, there are big shoes to fill in the fire department.
2. The Bond
Who else can crack jokes about our beloved leader, Darth Saban? We all remember the tail swat Saban gave him during a rout of Miss. St. in 2010. That turned out to be a proud dad looking to get the most out of his gifted son. Now, Saban gushes when he gets on camera to talk about his boy. Saban never seems comfortable with on-field interviews, unless he gets to tell the world how much AJ McCarron rocks.
3. The Hold
McCarron has been the holder on placekicks for the last four years. When’s the last time you saw a Tony Romo moment on an extra point? Granted, it does also make you wonder why we didn’t see more fakes.
4. The Mom
How can you not love Dee Dee? She has an Auburn star calling her Mama, for crying out loud.
5. The Throwaway
The plays won’t make the highlight reel, but McCarron has become the master of the throwaway. One of the reasons for so few interceptions? He knew when to roll out of the pocket and pitch it to the sideline, rather than try and force it to a receiver draped by three defenders. Sure, he occasionally made some plays with his legs, but that repeated throwaway kept many a drive alive over the years.
6. The Non-Circus Circus
Many folks felt that McCarron was always on the brink of tabloid fodder, but he never took the bait. Manziel and Winston may have Heisman trophies, but they also have TMZ tracking their every move. After a while, it becomes pretty clear that waiting for AJ to stumble is going to be a long wait.
7. The Personality
He’s just a nice guy. Countless stories of on-the-street encounters paint the picture. A friend of mine ran into McCarron and Katherine Webb in a grocery store in Tuscaloosa, just behaving like, you know, normal people. And they took the gauntlet of autograph seekers and picture takers as just part of the grocery store experience. Hearing stories such as this make me pleased that my 10-year-old son wears his No. 10 jersey roughly 70 percent of the time.
Roll Tide, AJ. And thanks for the intangibles. (Although those tangibles aren’t too shabby.)