TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- AJ McCarron knows he's a blessed man.
Sure the Alabama quarterback has the national championship rings, a model girlfriend and fame throughout the college football world. But none of those things would have been possible without a decision made nearly five years ago.
The Crimson Tide's coaching staff made the decision redshirt McCarron his first year on campus with Greg McElroy as its starter for the 2009 season. A move the former four-star recruit wasn't pleased with at the time.
"It's definitely hard because when you come in here as a competitor you feel like you can help the team in some sort of way," McCarron said Tuesday. "But definitely, it was the best thing that ever happened to me in the end because I got to learn for another year.
"It would have been tough to have to sit there knowing that I blew my redshirt, having to sit one more year behind Greg. It's definitely a blessing."
The Crimson Tide came awful close to burning that redshirt on a few occassions.
"(There) were a couple of times during the season I warmed up," he said. "But, you know, God's got a plan for you."
Now, two national championships later, the roles are reversed. McCarron is the veteran player leading a group young quarterbacks eager to touch the field in their first season with the Tide.
"They ain't getting on the field while I'm here," McCarron said.
"Nah, I help them, and they know that," he continued. "I help them in any way. I watch film with them, try to share my knowledge, to better themselves. Right now is the biggest time for them, while they're not having to focus on other team's defenses, they're focused on how to master our offense and what we do. Yeah, I mean I definitely help them whenever I can."
While McCarron was making light of the situation, there is a point worth noting: If one of the young quarterbacks is on the field during his time here, something has gone wrong.
A lot is made of other areas the Tide needs to improve before the season starts, whether it be the offensive line or secondary, but keeping McCarron healthy is arguably the biggest key to Alabama's success.
No quarterback behind McCarron has any meaningful game experience and none get a significant amount of reps with the first team offense.
Fans received their first scare of what could be following Alabama's first preseason scrimmage. While minor, a teammate stepped on McCarron's foot and bruised it.
"It's great," he said. McCarron confirmed his foot was stepped on, but said he didn't know who did it.
McCarron finished the scrimmage with 267 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception. While Alabama's defense gives the offense looks to prepare for the season, McCarron continues to put pressure on the defense with his precision passing.
"It's very tough, he's one of the top quarterbacks in this league as far as college ball and whatnot," safety HaHa Clinton-Dix said of defending McCarron. "So he's a great quarterback. He knows how to look you off in the middle of the field. So I mean, it's great competition."
McCarron's signature has become selling the playaction in Alabama's run heavy offensive attack.
"He sells them very well whether it's run or pass," Clinton-Dix said. "If it's run, he's still going to sell the play action. So he does a very great job in that area."
One thing fans can count on from McCarron is a drive to improve daily. Tide coach Nick Saban's message has trickled down to each and every player with his fifth-year quarterback leading the charge.
"I'm pushing everyday," McCarron said. "Any of the coaches will tell you I'm the hardest person on myself. I always push for perfection."