Alabama QB AJ McCarron has heard it plenty during this pre-draft process: He’s not as good as the Johnny Manziels, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewaters of the world, despite none of them possessing anything close to the winning record that McCarron put up in winning 36 of his 40 college starts and two national championships.
McCarron has been defensive about his achievements and has a strong belief that he’s as good as any other quarterback in this year’s class — and he spent a few minutes talking to Shutdown Corner about where he feels he could be taken and why some people just can’t seem to get on his side.
McCarron, who is promoting AXE Hair, also talked to us about Nick Saban’s famous on-camera rant, playing ping pong and dominoes in Uncle Rusty’s garage on draft weekend, why McCarron skipped a meeting with the Tennessee Titans and the guff his new buddy Jadeveon Clowney takes.
SDC: First off, congrats on getting engaged.
AM: Thank you, I appreciate it.
SDC: A bit overwhelming during such a busy time for you?
AM: Not really, because all I have to worry about is football. She’s planning the whole wedding part. She just tells me the date to show up and what time, and I’ll do that. (laughs)
SDC: Smart man. That’s how I did it. OK, so I am having major hair issues over here — tell me about the AXE product you’re promoting.
AM: Yeah, man, we’ve got to get you some product. I have teamed up with AXE Hair for a second time now, first time was at the Super Bowl. They have their new products that they are pushing out, the hair gels, and I love it. I use it every day. I don’t have to mess with my hair, I just put it on, fix it up and the thing I like most about it is that it doesn’t have that flaky, sticky, shiny look to it. It’s just a nice look, and it has a 24-hour hold. I use it all the time.
SDC: So it’s both wedding day and Draft Day approved then?
AM: Of course! Katherine likes it, too, so that’s key.
SDC: Of course, I am just assuming you’re going to be brandishing it on draft weekend. Where will you be watching the draft?
AM: I’ll be at my Uncle Rusty’s house. He cleaned out the garage so we’re going to have a ping pong tournament, we’ll be playing dominoes and we’ll be having a big party as a family.
SDC: Is there anything else you can do at this point to convince a team to take you?
AM: I feel like if you have to convince somebody to take you at this point, then they don’t really want you and that’s not a situation you want to be in coming into the NFL. I want everyone in the organization to be behind me and want me so that I can come in there to work and earn my stripes as a rookie. I want the respect of the older teammates and prove that I am ready to win and do whatever it takes to win.
SDC: What’s been the most unfair criticism of you through this whole process?
AM: I really don’t know. I really don’t have an opinion on anything like that. I feel like my opinion doesn’t matter. The only [opinions] that matter are [those of] the GMs and the owners and the head coaches of these organizations. So I try to tell them what type of player I am and not focus on what everyone else thinks. Because nobody can tell you what type of player you are going to be, and if they do then you’re a weak-minded person already. Nobody can predict what kind of NFL player I am going to be and how my career is going to go. I just try to control what I can control and go from there.
SDC: Many of us, including myself, were critical of you skipping the Senior Bowl. Any regret about that or anything else you’ve done to this point now?
AM: No, I think everything has gone really well. Not playing in the Senior Bowl, my whole thought process was to get my body healthy. I never had a break playing at Alabama and not only that I felt like, if I needed to play in an all-star game to tell what type of player I am then it’s ridiculous. To me, that’s my personal opinion. I played in the SEC for 40-something games; if you can’t see anything playing against SEC competition week in and week out, doing what I have done, then you’re not going to see it in one all-star game.
You really can’t get a rhythm in. You only play a quarter or something; you might get two drives. So I just felt like I didn’t need to go down there and prove anything to anyone. I didn’t owe anything to anyone down there. I love my home, I love Mobile. They’ve shown a lot of support for me. But I played at the University of Alabama, so all those people that were down there have seen me play before.
It was a personal decision, and I had to be a little selfish at that point. I just felt it was the best decision for me to be ready for the combine, and I had a really good combine.
SDC: Can you relate to Jadeveon Clowney, a guy you competed against, and how people are still trying to pick his game and effort apart?
AM: Yeah, it’s out there and you’re going to hear it, even if you’re trying not to. It’s interesting … [Clowney] and I have become really good friends now. We’ve gone on a couple of visits to teams now at the same time, so we ended up going to dinner and eating a bit. But I usually talk to him every once in a while anyway, and we talked about it one night at dinner with a team — that so many people criticize every move of his. It’s almost like you’re never going to be right, no matter what you choose to do. So do what makes you happy and what you want. Show the team that you’re supportive of your teammates and what type of teammate you’re going to be. That’s all you can really do.
They always say, everyone has an opinion. You just can’t worry about what everyone is saying about every little thing you do. Do what makes you happy as a person — that’s what matters the most. He’s criticized too much. He’s a hell of a player. He’ll get triple-teamed some games, and even if he takes out two or three blocks, and if someone else can’t get a sack then that’s just more on the other players he’s surrounded with really.
SDC: What does Nick Saban do to make Bama prospects better prepared for the NFL? And was there a time when he really let you have it?
AM: For the first part, I don’t know what he does that other coaches do not just because I have not been around another [head] coach in college. I know that [Saban] is a players’ coach. He’s always trying to help his players out. I feel like he’s very well respected around the league, that owners and head coaches listen to him and his opinion. If he’s behind you, he’s behind you for a reason.
Coach is a straight shooter. He doesn’t BS anybody. He’s like this with his own players. So I feel like he’s always trying to help you out. He’s always welcoming [players] back to Alabama.
As for the second part, they always talk about it on TV and he and I always joke about it, when we were playing on the ESPN Not Top 10 list my redshirt freshman year and me flapping a little.
I never really heard what he said, to be honest. I was kind of zoned out. But that was probably the worst one I ever got, really.
SDC: There was a report you canceled a meeting with the Titans. Is that true and if so, what happened?
AM: I did. I had like a 24-hour bug. I had a workout that morning with the Browns, and I probably shouldn’t have gone that honestly. I was feeling really bad. I had thrown up all night. I still went. I tried to push through the workout. After the workout I was still so dehydrated and so sick, I couldn’t keep anything down and I had no energy.
So I would have had to get on a flight, and I didn’t want to take a chance to get other people hurt or sick. I much rather would take a 45-minute flight to visit with the Titans than throw up all night, so I just couldn’t make it. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
SDC: What’s been the most eye-opening part of the pre-draft process for you?
AM: Just that you have no control and no clue where you’re going to go. Even the first pick this year, no one knows what’s going to happen. I might think I am going to be a first- or second-round pick, but no one player is sure on any spot. It all depends on what the Texans do on the first pick of the draft, and whatever they do could end up changing the whole draft.
It’s crazy how many people tell you they love you, but you don’t even know if they even like you at all because you hear about teams bringing guys in — even bringing guys in twice, or meeting with them twice — just to make it seem like they have interest in one guy. They’re doing it just to leak it out to the media so their opponents think they are into a guy so that they say, ‘Oh, let’s trade up for him.’ They’re trying to make other organizations make that move.
It’s a weird process, but I am enjoying it. It’s a blessing to be in it. You’re only in it once, so I am enjoying it.
SDC: Good. Well if teams tell you your hair looks great, you know for sure they are not lying to you.
AM: [laughs] Yeah, exactly!
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