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December 10, 2013

Insider Report: McCarron talks Heisman candidacy, interest in OU

AJ McCarron hoped his first-ever trip to New York City would be fueled one of two ways: Become a finalist for the Heisman Trophy or be invited to the NFL draft.

He has his wish.

One of six finalists for college football's most prestigious individual honor, McCarron, the quarterback with the most wins Alabama history, will make his first trek to the Big Apple for the Heisman ceremony on Saturday night.

"So one of those dreams came true. It's just a cool moment to be a part of," said McCarron, who learned he was a finalist just before the public announcement on Monday night.

"We're pretty ecstatic. Mom and dad were both crying. Just happy. It's a dream come true for them. That's the best part for me, that's the most fulfilling part is watching my little brother and everybody live their dreams through me. That's what I like most."

McCarron is joined by Florida State's Jameis Winston, Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch, Boston College's Andre Williams, Auburn's Tre Mason and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel as finalists.

Winston, FSU's redshirt freshman quarterback and a former standout at Hueytown High, is the heavy favorite to win. But that doesn't mean McCarron lacks any confidence in his resume.

Asked to make his pitch for the Heisman on Tuesday, McCarron responded: "I don't think I need to state my own case. I think if you look at my play over three years, I feel like no quarterback in the SEC or the country has played as consistent as I have. I think the numbers do the talking. When you look at my stats against top-10 ranked teams, I don't think anybody's stats compare to mine.

"I just let my stats and play do the talking and sit by the side I guess."

McCarron is 36-3 as a starter at Alabama. While he lacks the gaudy passing numbers of Winston, McCarron built momentum as a serious threat to win the Heisman entering the Iron Bowl. He performed well, completing 17 of 29 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns including a 99-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper that gave the Crimson Tide a 28-21 fourth-quarter lead. But the eventual 34-28 loss - knocking McCarron out of another big stage in the SEC Championship Game - thwarted some of McCarron's buildup.

McCarron finished the season 207-of-306 (67.6 percent) passing for 2,676 yards and 26 touchdowns against five interceptions.

McCarron was championed by Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops during a conference call on Sunday night. Alabama takes on Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.

"I think AJ McCarron's the best player in the country, I really do," Stoops said. "If I had a vote, that's who I'd vote for."

The Heisman Trophy presentation is at 7 p.m. on Saturday night and will be televised on ESPN. On Friday night, McCarron will be in Baltimore to accept the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, an honor given to the nation's top senior or redshirt junior who has graduated or is on track to graduate.

Almost a Sooner
The opponent for McCarron's final game with Alabama brings tradition and a dose of irony.

McCarron will end his collegiate career playing against a program that he almost picked over the Crimson Tide.

The night before McCarron signed with Alabama in 2009, he said he had made the decision that he would go to Oklahoma.

"I was going to sign with Oklahoma, so it's just crazy that I'm playing them," he said.

McCarron, who played his high school football at St. Paul's in Mobile, was rated as the No. 7 pro style quarterback and No. 128 overall player in the Class of 2009 by Rivals.com. He said part of his interest in Oklahoma was envisioning himself following in the footsteps of Sam Bradford, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner who would eventually become the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

"I just liked their football," McCarron said. And then you had Sam Bradford there, so during recruiting as a 17-, 18-year-old, your mind changes about 20 times a day.

"At the moment, I guess they were just the hot school that I wanted to go to."

Playing through pain
McCarron said Tuesday that he played through the final four games of the season with a sprained shoulder. He suffered the injury in Alabama's win over Tennessee when he "fell on it wrong."

"It was sore. Playing in the SEC, you're going to be sore. Just had to play through it," McCarron said.

The injury will not require any offseason surgery, just rest.

The break between games has allowed just that so far; McCarron has not been throwing, just running with his teammates.

"I'm going to let my arm catch a rest and everything," he said.

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