ONE AT A TIME
Alabama has won nine Associated Press or United Press International national championships since World War II, with a different starting quarterback each time:
1961 Pat Trammell
1964 Joe Namath
1965 Steve Sloan
1973 Richard Todd
1978 Jeff Rutledge
1979 Steadman Shealy
1992 Jay Barker
2009 Greg McElroy
2011 AJ McCarron
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Bart Starr and Kenny Stabler never quarterbacked Alabama to a national championship. Joe Namath, Richard Todd and Jeff Rutledge are among the several who have guided the Crimson Tide to one.
With a win Monday night over Notre Dame in the BCS championship game, AJ McCarron could become the first Tide starting signal-caller in the modern era to deliver a second ring.
"Growing up in the state of Alabama, you definitely hear about that, and I've probably heard that a little bit more than I want," McCarron said Thursday, "but you know, it's a great honor to be in that category of quarterbacks who have played here. It's also a tremendous honor to play with my teammates, and I think it shows the will that they have to win.
"It's not about me. None of this would be possible without them, and I thank them for everything they've done and for us having this opportunity and for myself to have this opportunity."
In a titanic matchup filled with historical punch, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound redshirt junior from Mobile could add to an already impressive career that includes 24 wins in 26 starts. McCarron, who announced last month that he is returning for his senior season, tends to downplay legacy talk, but his teammates are well aware of the potential accomplishment at hand.
"I think it's special, and I think AJ is a special guy," All-America senior center Barrett Jones said. "He's certainly one of the best quarterbacks ever to play here, and I think it's special for me to be able to play with a guy like that. The thing about AJ is that he has so much passion and so much poise, and I just really love the way he plays the game."
McCarron was the MVP of last season's BCS championship game, when he completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards in a 21-0 blanking of LSU. Moments after that matchup in New Orleans, McCarron bid farewell to offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who had accepted the head-coaching position at Colorado State.
McElwain was replaced by Doug Nussmeier, who had spent three seasons in the same role at Washington.
"He's helped me tremendously," McCarron said. "I have less pass attempts than I did last year, but I have better numbers all the way around. I think that shows a big part of his coaching ability and the way he's helped me grow as a quarterback and as a leader this year."
McCarron has completed 191 of 286 passes (66.8 percent) for 2,669 yards with 26 touchdowns and three interceptions. He ranks No. 1 nationally in efficiency after finishing 25th a year ago, and one of the biggest reasons Alabama is defending last year's title is due to the last-minute touchdown drive he orchestrated at LSU.
Nussmeier knew there were plenty of good things he inherited offensively, with McCarron ranking right up there with a talented and experienced line.
"You get the exterior of a fun-loving guy," Nussmeier said. "AJ has that outward, outgoing personality, and he can mesh in any type of environment with any type of people, but behind all that is a very competitive and driven young man."
There have been quarterbacks at Alabama who have been on two title teams. Steadman Shealy played as a backup to Rutledge on the 1978 national champions before starting for the '79 champs.
McCarron redshirted in 2009 when Greg McElroy started, so Monday could provide a third overall ring, which also would set him apart in Crimson Tide lore with another year of eligibility remaining.
"A lot of legends have played this position at this university," McCarron said. "I'm just trying to keep it rolling."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...