Greg McElroy might be a new name to you. You probably know that he came into the game in the second half against the Cardinals a couple of weeks back and helped engineer the only Jets scoring drive of the game. You might remember hearing about his controversial comments after last season about the Jets locker room. Maybe you think back and remember that quarterback from Alabama the Jets took at the end of the 2011 NFL Draft. You might not know much about Greg aside from those things. I followed McElroy before he was in the pros so I'd like to take you back in his career a bit and tell you about the player he was before he arrived with the Jets and how frequently he has crossed paths with a more decorated teammate.
Most NFL players dominate high school football for years. That was not the case for Greg McElroy. He only started his senior year at Carroll Senior High School. Greg had to wait his turn because the starting quarterback was Chase Daniel. Daniel went on to have an extremely decorated college career at the University of Missouri. He now backs up Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints. Sitting behind Daniel was no indictment of his ability.
When Greg's turn finally came in his senior year, McElroy led Carroll to an undefeated 16-0 record, throwing 56 touchdowns. He originally was going to go to college at Texas Tech. Late in the game Alabama came calling. They had an extra scholarship. McElroy chose Alabama. The reason they had that extra scholarship is Tim Tebow turned them down. Alabama heavily recruited the more decorated and more hyped Tebow. They saved a spot for him, but Tebow chose Florida. McElroy was the guy Alabama didn't want.
Greg waited three years to become a starter at Alabama. He redshirted his first year and spent two more as John Parker Wilson's backup. In 2009, he was the opening day starter for a team ranked in the top ten and widely expected to compete for the SEC Championship and the National Championship. He was by every definition a game manager for the Crimson Tide. His season started out with a ugly passing effort against Virginia Tech in a big Alabama win. His season was very uneven. On an offense with a dominant run game bolstered by Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, two linemen who went in the top three rounds of the NFL Draft, and a third who might this year, Greg's job was to not lose the game.
Just as in high school, McElroy went undefeated in his first season starting. Alabama won the National Championship. On that offense with a dominant rushing attack and Julio Jones at wide receiver, McElroy did not have to carry the load for the most part. He did not ride piggy back to a championship, though. Late in the year, he had to deliver twice for Alabama.
In Alabama's bitter rivalry game against Auburn, the Crimson Tide fell behind 14-0 early. In a game where Richardson and Ingram were bottled up, McElroy provided the heroics as Alabama pulled out a come from behind 26-21 win to keep their unbeaten season in tact. Greg led a 79 yard touchdown drive, hitting his last seven passes in the fourth quarter to win the game for the Crimson Tide.
The next week, Alabama faced undefeated Florida in the SEC Championship Game. The winner got a ticket to the National Championship Game. It was billed The Game of the Century, as big college football games are every few years. It was a rematch of the classic game those teams had played the year before, which Florida had won in the fourth quarter, propelling them to the National Championship. The teams looked even on paper, except one position, quarterback.
The Gators had, you guessed it, Tim Tebow. He was the guy Alabama wanted. He was the Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion. These teams had great coaches, dominating defenses, blazing speed at skill positions, and punishing run games. Florida had one of the greatest college players ever at quarterback. Alabama had a game manager.
The Crimson Tide defied conventional wisdom in that game, going with an aggressive offensive game plan that forced McElroy to make plays to open things up for the run game. McElroy hit 12 of 18 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown. Alabama won in a 32-13 rout.
McElroy finally lost the next year three times. He took on a bigger role, however, and thrived, completing just under 71% of his passes, averaging 9 yards per throw, and registering a 20-5 touchdown to interception rate.
The Greg McElroy story is a good one. It's easy to root for the underdog. All his life, McElroy has played second fiddle to more decorated players. He's always delivered. The NFL is a different game. Once again people doubt McElroy. The doubts are legitimate. It is unclear whether he has the physical tools to be able to make NFL throws consistently. In addition, he was succeeding against college players in an offense that hands down had more talent than the one the Jets are putting on the field Sunday. I'll be rooting like crazy for him to prove the skeptics wrong again, though. Everybody thought it would be Tim Tebow who would take over. Once again, McElroy has shocked the world by sneaking ahead of Tebow. Now we will find out whether he can prove everybody wrong again and stick in the league.