TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Greg McElroy has already learned something about what it’s like to be Alabama’s starting quarterback.
There’s the responsibility: From taking care of the offensive linemen to taking care of business on the field. Then there’s the extra looks and attention around campus as people start to recognize him more frequently.
McElroy is savoring the experience after waiting three years for the chance.
“Obviously it’s been a blast for me so far to compete for the starting job,” the Texan said. “It’s what every guy in this state dreams of when they’re growing up. Obviously I didn’t grow up here so I’m a little behind the eight-ball just making an understanding for what it’s like here.”
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McElroy is still no stranger to football-crazy fans or having to wait his turn. He did, after all, succeed future Missouri star Chase Daniel as a senior and lead national high school power Southlake Carroll to the Class 5A Texas state title. McElroy threw for a state-record 56 touchdowns in his only season as a starter.
Then he came to Alabama and, after a redshirt year, spent two seasons backing up John Parker Wilson and not seeing action except when games were already decided.
McElroy is now the heir apparent to Wilson, though redshirt freshman Star Jackson is also competing for the job during spring practice. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound McElroy has only attempted 20 collegiate passes in two seasons, completing 16 of them.
He figures his biggest strength lies in brains and savvy.
“I’m a heady player,” McElroy said. “I play with my intelligence. I don’t have the physical attributes of a guy like John Elway or something like that, but I try to beat people upstairs. That’s been effective for me up to this point.”
The affable redhead is taking his role seriously in his first real chance to claim the starting job.
On the field, he is hoping for a repeat performance in Alabama’s second spring scrimmage today, especially with running backs Mark Ingram and Roy Upchurch sidelined with injuries. McElroy passed for 214 yards and four touchdowns in the first one.
He’s also taking care of his blockers. He has sprung for dinner for his offensive linemen, a practice he started in high school.
“Every quarterback knows your best friend is the offensive line, from left tackle to right tackle,” McElroy said. “All the way across the board, you’ve got to take care of those guys. One of the ways we try to do it is take the offensive line out, maybe once before the spring, once before the fall.
“Just set the record straight that I’m taking care of them so they better take care of me.”
He learned one lesson in high school: Be careful where you take the big men.
“In high school, I took the guys to an all-you-can eat Brazilian steak place and that was like a $700 tab,” McElroy said. “I don’t think I’m making that mistake again.”