By Michael Casagrande
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For three years, Greg McElroy has waited.
The junior has signaled in plays from the sideline and practiced with the scout team.
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Now the native Texan ready to show everybody what he can do in his first game leading the Alabama offense.
The 7 p.m. showdown with Virginia Tech brings back memories of his first start as a high school quarterback after spending three years backing up future Missouri star Chase Daniels at powerhouse Southlake High.
Midland Lee, one of the schools from “Friday Night Lights,” was the opponent.
“I’m used to playing on the big stage,” McElroy said. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever known.”
Playing in a football-crazy town like Southlake was also a proper training ground for playing at a school like Alabama. Success is nothing new coming for a high school program that lost just once in his four years.
“Winning is a way of life,” McElroy said. “That’s the way I’ve been brought up. That’s what I expect to do. I’ve never lost a game as a starter dating back to ninth grade. I think I understand it’s incredibly important to win and not only win, but win big in Southlake.
“If you beat a team by 14 points, why didn’t I throw for five touchdowns? I had an off-game.”
Considering Southlake went 15-0 and McElroy threw for 4,687 yards and a state-record 56 touchdowns, there weren’t too many of those off-nights.
It hasn’t been particularly warm in Tuscaloosa this week and rain hasn’t been much of an issue.
Regardless, Alabama spent all week practicing in the Hank Crisp Indoor Facility preparing to play on the same artificial turf found in the Georgia Dome.
“It gives us an opportunity to do a little better job recovering and getting used to the surface and not getting drained by the heat as much,” coach Nick Saban said.
Alabama used the same strategy before opening the 2008 season with a 34-10 win over Clemson on the same Georgia Dome plastic grass.
Although not the topic of much discussion this week, a win over Virginia Tech would pass another milestone for the Crimson Tide program.
Last fall’s win over Auburn gave Alabama victory No. 799, good for seventh all-time one win behind No. 6 Penn State.
Michigan has a healthy lead at the top with 872 victories followed by Texas who has 831.
The 21 Alabama wins from 2005-07 vacated by the NCAA in June were including in the 799 pending the appeal filed by the university.