McCarron A Commanding Media Days Presence
By Mark Mayfield
HOOVER, Ala. — A.J. McCarron emerged into the media frenzy here Thursday looking dapper with a pink ribbon-patterned bow tie that he wore in honor of a cousin who is fighting breast cancer.
The veteran Alabama quarterback wasn’t sporting a white hat, but he might as well have been when he addressed reporters on the last morning of SEC Media Days. After all, there were no off-the-field issues following McCarron to the big SEC show, unlike his friend Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner who packed the halls of the Wynfrey Hotel a day earlier amid relentless questions about his behavior.
Manziel’s early departure from the Manning Passing Academy was the latest in a series of off-the-field incidents plaguing the Texas A&M quarterback. No such embarrassments for McCarron, who was Manziel’s roommate at the Manning camp. While Manziel slept through his camp commitments, McCarron had no such trouble waking up.
But McCarron was in no mood Thursday to answer for Manziel. “He’s his own man,” McCarron said. “I’m not going to speak on another man’s business. That’s how I was raised.”
McCarron, who has three national championship rings, including two earned as a starting quarterback, spent almost as much time answering questions about off-the-field behavior as he did discussing the upcoming football season.
“I know when I step out of the door, especially in the state of Alabama, I’m always going to be watched,” McCarron said. “I feel like I’ve always handled myself in a first-class way. That’s the way my second dad, coach Saban … has taught me. I never want to bring any bad attention on anybody that’s close to me. Especially my teammates.
“You can’t be a normal 22-year-old kid,” he added. “Every 22-year-old is not doing what I’m doing. And I’m not able to do what they can do. I can’t go out and act a fool in public, can’t go out and drink excessively, and end up getting wild and stuff. I can’t do that. I’m not saying that I want to in any type of way, but I want to be the type of kid the guy that younger kids can look up to me.”
Judging by the swarm of Alabama fans in the hotel lobby angling for autographs, there is no shortage of kids — or adults — who view McCarron as a role model.
“It truly is a blessing,” he said. “ It’s been an honor. The man above has kept his hand over me the whole time.”
When reporters’ questions finally turned to football, it was clear that McCarron’s confidence in the offense never has been higher. Alabama is expected to have one of the best groups of receivers in the nation, led by sophomore Amari Cooper, in addition to another stellar set of running backs, with T.J. Yeldon leading the way.
Although Alabama must replace three NFL draft picks on its offensive line, most analysts agree this could be Nick Saban’s best offense ever.
“The offensive line is going to be great,” McCarron said. “They’re a great group of guys not only on the field, but off. We’ve got great receivers out wide all the way around, we’ve got a lot of running backs. We’re going to be fine. All I can say is sit back and watch us, and hopefully we’ll be fun to watch this year.”
McCarron threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns a year ago. Asked if the Tide will pass even more this year, he smiled and said simply: “I can’t give away secrets.”
Describing himself as a team player, McCarron admitted that he has dreamed since childhood of winning the Heisman Trophy. His confidence in his team and his own abilities were obvious here.
“I’m always confident, especially when we get in the white lines,” he said. “Me personally, I think I’m the best player in the country on that field. I know our offense thinks the exact same way.”