A.J. McCarron's college success hasn't gone to his head. He's still got something to prove. (Damian Strohmeyer/SI)
INDIANPOLIS -- When Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron strode to the podium at the scouting combine, he wanted to make two things perfectly clear. First, no matter what story was out there, he would be participating fully in all combine drills this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. And he also wanted to set a few things straight about his game.
“I just felt that it was a good choice for me," McCarron said of his decision to throw. "I’m healthy, I’m better than I’ve ever been, and free agent week starts the same time as our pro day, so some teams might not be able to get down there. I wanted to take this opportunity to show some of the things I’ve been working on, and leading up to the pro day.”
After skipping the Senior Bowl, McCarron still has something to prove to a lot of people. And he's well aware of that. Several times during his media session, he referred to "experts" who have downgraded him because his arm isn't good enough, because he played behind a talented offensive line full of behemoths, and because he's seen in total as a mid-round guy. As it's been for a lot of SEC quarterbacks in recent years, the win-loss record isn't really relevant -- when you enter the draft process, you go as far as your actual talent takes you.
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"I don't try to worry about any of that," he said of the outside perceptions. "I'm worried about what I can control, and that's me going out there and performing to the best of my abilities. And I don't worry about money. I was raised without any money ... so being broke, I'm used to it."
And when I asked McCarron what his primary attributes were, the edge came out.
"Well, I would think being a winner. Everybody says that I played behind NFL talent, but usually, what's in the NFL is NFL talent. I don't know how that can be a knock. I'm a leader -- first one in, last one out. And I feel that I've always put myself in a good situation to win the ballgame."
He also addressed the arm strength issues by talking about what he's been working on lately.
"My release point. Everyone says ... all the 'experts' try to knock me on my deep ball, trying to say I can't throw the ball far enough. But I can throw the ball far enough -- I can throw it 65 yards. But I had a bad habit of releasing the ball out wide, and not staying vertical on it. If you look at my film, the film doesn't lie on that. The times I had to throw the ball deep, and I stayed with a vertical release, the ball went far. So, it's an easy thing for me -- finishing my throws on the deep ball."
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Finally, I asked him about the chip on his shoulder, because it was readily apparent.
"Sure," he said with a laugh. "I feel that I've been disrespected my whole college career, because I won, and that's usually the knock. Along with the deep ball, and that we won behind NFL talent. It's not like we didn't play anybody -- we played against the SEC, which is the best conference in college football. Somebody figured it out -- I've played against 47 guys who have been drafted in the NFL since I arrived in 2009, who are still in the league. That's a crazy amount of guys to go up against defensively.
"I definitely have a chip on my shoulder. I'm ready to go out there and prove people wrong."
He can start that process on Sunday. And maybe, it will be the first Sunday of many in which he finds himself a star.