TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For three seasons, John Parker Wilson shared a hotel room with Greg McElroy when the Alabama football team hit the road.
Now the two quarterbacks take turns calling the other as August approaches with both taking on new and expanded responsibilities. Wilson is preparing for his first NFL training camp with the Atlanta Falcons set to begin Saturday while McElroy is prepping to take his old bunkmate’s job as the Crimson Tide starting quarterback.
The three-year starter is confident in his former apprentice’s ability to lead the offense when the season begins Sept. 5 against Virginia Tech in Atlanta on the same Georgia Dome field Wilson hopes will be his long-term NFL home.
“I think (McElroy) learned enough when he was backing me up,” Wilson said Saturday after signing autographs and taking pictures at Martin’s department store in Decatur. “He knows what’s going on. He’s been there long enough.”
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In McElroy’s two seasons following a redshirt, he has appeared in eight games and completed 16-of-20 passes for 196 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He beat out heralded redshirt freshman Star Jackson in spring practice to take the top spot on the depth chart following April’s A-Day game.
But he has yet to take a snap as the starter for a team expected to rank among the top 10 when the season opens.
Wilson, the program’s all-time leading passer, took his lumps when first assuming the starter’s role as a sophomore. Even though McElroy will have had one more year in college when taking over, Wilson expects there to be an adjustment period with the pressure of being the starter.
“He’s not going to come in and be flawless in his first start,” Wilson said. “It’s different when bullets start flying. So he will work his way in there, and he’s going to be a damn good quarterback.”
Tide coach Nick Saban has praised McElroy’s heady approach to the game — an attribute not lost on Wilson, who noted his ability to block out the distractions that come with being the starting quarterback at Alabama.
After enjoying his three years playing quarterback in Tuscaloosa, Wilson is now primarily focused on success at the next level. As an undrafted free agent, he will compete with veterans Chris Redman and D.J. Shockley for a backup spot behind starter Matt Ryan.
Where he stands on the depth chart will not matter, he said, and he isn’t interested in talking about life after football.
“I plan on making this offense,” Wilson said. “That’s as far as I’ve got right now.”