10 Days Away from Bama Kickoff: A. J. McCarron
Each day counting down to Alabama's Week 1 matchup with Utah State, I will highlight a former player whose jersey number coincides with the amount of days until the game. The Crimson Tide kicks off in just ten days, so let's take a look at one of the most decorated quarterbacks in program history, A. J. McCarron.
A. J. McCarron suited up for the Crimson Tide from 2009-13 and left school as one of the most accomplished players in program history. A member of three national title teams, McCarron also set numerous record in his time in Tuscaloosa, some of which still stand today.
He was rated as a four-star signal caller in the 2009 class and redshirted in his first season on campus. In his second year, McCarron served as the backup to then-senior Greg McElroy and Alabama finished the season 10-3, dropping crucial matchups to South Carolina, LSU and Auburn.
He took over as the starter in his sophomore season and guided the team to a 12-1 record that culminated with a National Championship victory over LSU, who had handed the Tide its only loss of the regular season.
As a junior, the Mobile, AL native led the team back to the national title game, this time against an undefeated Notre Dame squad led by Heisman finalist linebacker Manti Teo.
McCarron, who was also named a finalist for the trophy, helped the Tide dominate the Irish in a rousing victory, 42-14. That season, he threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns and was named the winner of both the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Trophy and Maxwell Award. He was also named a First Team All-American and won the Kellen Moore Award, given to the quarterback of the year.
In his final season in Tuscaloosa, McCarron and the Tide looked poised to make a run at a third consecutive title, but came up short in the final game of the regular season against Auburn. Alabama missed out on the SEC Championship and another trip to the national title game, and faced off instead against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Despite entering as a near 20 point favorite over the Sooners, the dejected Crimson Tide team was defeated, 45-31.
McCarron entered the 2014 NFL Draft and was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round. He served as the backup to Andy Dalton from 2014-17, starting just three games across four seasons.
The former four-star was in talks to be traded to Cleveland during the 2017 season, presumably for a starting job, but the Browns failed to file the proper paperwork in time and the deal fell through. McCarron filed a grievance with the league, requesting to become an unrestricted free agent following the season and won, giving him the option to sign with any team.
He signed a two-year deal with the Buffalo Bills in March of 2018, but was traded during the season to the Oakland Raiders. McCarron spent just a season in Oakland before being released ahead of the 2019 season.
He spent the next two seasons with the Houston Texans, again serving as a backup, and then signed a one-year deal with the Falcons in 2021, but an injury cut his year short.
Now, McCarron is a free agent looking for an NFL home. He hosts an annual football camp in his hometown of Mobile, and continues to give back to his community frequently.