AJ McCarron once said about Nick Saban, “He's like my second dad. I trust him with my life, and he's never lied to me. He's always led me in the right direction.”
Well, dad might be in trouble with this one, or maybe it's the son who is about to get another valuable lesson. Regardless, it's a high-profile second-round showdown between the coach and the quarterback in the Alabama SI Cover Tournament.
BamaCentral is holding a 48-field single-elimination tournament to determine the best Alabama Sports Illustrated cover.
Bear Bryant Regional
Game 26: 2009 SEC Preview (Nick Saban) vs. AJ McCarron
2009 SEC Preview (Nick Saban)
Story headline: Alabama Rising
Subhead: Nick Saban has the Tide in the title hunt
(There's no excerpt since it's a season preview edition)
King Crimson (AJ McCarron)
Story headline: Underrated
Subhead: Alabama royalty with a celebrity sweetheart, AJ McCarron arrived in Tuscaloosa as a gunslinger with a hard-scrabble past and an unknown future. Now he's a master of passing efficiency guiding the Tide toward an unprecedented third straight BCS title — and trying to get his due while closing out a career for the ages.
Excerpt (by L. Jon Wetheim): In Birmingham, it's been said, they love the governor. But throughout Alabama an even deeper level of affection is reserved for the quarterback of the Crimson Tide football team.
He is the keeper of a statewide public trust. He is the BMOC of a campus that spans 67 counties. He is the latest in a lineage as indelible as the Tudors or Habsburgs. "You're the quarterback of Alabama and, boy, you know what you're representing," says Joe from the House of Namath, emitting that familiar cackle. "Every day and everywhere you go, you feel the weight of the history and the tradition."
Even so, there are varying levels of endearment. It helps, for instance, when the quarterback is a native of the state—the kind of kid who pronounces Birmingham as Bumminghum, knows the best terrain for four-wheeling and eats at out-of-the-way barbecue joints. "You grow up in Alabama, and the fans feel this extra connection to you," says Jay Barker, earl of Trussville and QB of the 1992 national championship team, now a Bumminghum sports radio host. "For the player, you feel like the ball is in your hands—in every sense."
The fondness for the Bama quarterback grows still more intense when he displays a certain personality—a leader who's also a rebel, the good guy with an edge. Yet love can turn to scorn quicker than you can say Andrew Zow if the Tide doesn't roll. "We had a losing season my junior year, and there was all this talk of how we needed to be rebuilding in the spring," says Namath. "You see, we went 9--2."
All of which is to say, the current king might be more beloved than any of his forebears. Per the tattoo on his chest, senior Raymond Anthony McCarron—nicknamed Ya-Ya, later amended to AJ—is a BAMA BOY.
Saban SEC 2009 preview def. AJ McCarron, 52.7-47.3 percent