A.J. McCarron grew up in Mobile, Ala. attending Senior Bowl practices and games, dreaming of his chance to one day be a professional football player. But the Alabama quarterback won't be on that field this year — he declined an invitation to play in the game where scouts flock to see some of the draft's top senior talent.
The big question is why.
McCarron shared his reasoning for skipping the event to al.com:
"I really appreciate being invited to play in the Senior Bowl," McCarron said. "It is quite an honor and something I've dreamed about while growing up in the Mobile area. However, at this time, I'm putting all of my focus and energy into preparing for the NFL Combine, pro day and the rest of the pre-draft evaluation process. Therefore, I won't be taking part in the Senior Bowl."
Translation: His agent, Todd France, told him to skip it. That's the best we can figure.
Here's one theory from former NFL scout turned media member John Middlekauff on why McCarron and France might be so confident about the decision:
My sources say AJ McCarron chose not to play in the Senior Bowl (not b/c of the inj) b/c he thinks he's a top 20 pick
— John Middlekauff (@JohnMiddlekauff) January 17, 2014
McCarron has quite the resumé — hard to argue with the qualifications of a 67-percent passer with a 5-1 TD-INT ratio, 36 wins in 40 college starts and two national titles to his name. But McCarron also has had the game-manager label tattooed on him for some time, and there is far more buzz heading into the 2014 NFL draft for Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridewater than there has been for McCarron.
Which makes his Senior Bowl absence all the more puzzling. Seldom does a prospect work out in Mobile and hurt his stock dramatically. The last big-name quarterback to struggle there — Russell Wilson — landed on his feet pretty well. Meanwhile, look at last year: E.J. Manuel has a big week at the Senior Bowl, answering scouts' critical questions of him, and he surpasses Geno Smith, who skipped the event, as the draft's top-selected quarterback last spring.
Now, to be fair to McCarron, he's not the only senior to refuse an invitation. UCLA's Anthony Barr, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Buffalo's Khalil Mack, among others, chose not to attend, and a handful more of players — Bama's C.J. Mosley, Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert, to name a few — backed out of the game after initially accepting an offer to play down there.
McCarron could have killed in Mobile. Instead, he will have to impress scouts at his pro day, the Indianapolis Combine and any private workouts teams have set up for him.
- - - - - - -