FORT LAUDERDALE | AJ McCarron may have delved into non-football topics more than he ever has before on Thursday when the Alabama offense was represented at the BCS hotel media sessions, but the University of Alabama quarterback seemed at ease no matter how personal or tricky the questions might have been.
From a life-threatening boating accident he sustained as a child, to his borderline fetish for footwear, McCarron's candidness helped to remind that Alabama's BCS National Championship Game agianst Notre Dame Monday is still, well, just a game.
At age 5, McCarron was hurled from a WaveRunner speedboat onto a dock, causing severe facial injuries, among other problems. Doctors were initially unsure if he would survive, but successful surgery left him with little if any noticeable scarring.
"I'm a big believer in the man above," McCarron said. "God has a plan for you, and everything happens for a reason. I felt like it was my second chance at life."
As for the shoe fascination, McCarron said he can't get enough of them.
"I figure you can wear the same outfit and change the shoes and it looks like a totally different outfit," he said. "You know, I'm just big into shoes."
McCarron's father, Tony, estimates AJ owns about 75 pairs, and McCarron said he brought "a bagful" to South Florida.
Bell ready to play, Norwood says
While there has been no official confirmation from Alabama about the playing status of wide receiver Kenny Bell, who has been working to recover in just six weeks from a broken leg to play against the Fighting Irish, unofficial word came Thursday from fellow wide receiver Kevin Norwood, volunteered the Bell update in response to a question about another injured player, center Barrett Jones.
"No doubt in my mind (Jones) is going to be ready," Norwood said. "Him and Kenny Bell, I don't know who wants it the most but they're going to be ready, both of them."
Bell averaged 25.4 yards per catch, by far the Crimson Tide's leader in that category, as a junior this season. He was injured against Auburn, and was unable to practice with the team before and after the team's Christmas break.
On Thursday, Bell remained withheld from contact, but participated in individual drills at the team's practice held at Barry University. It was the first time Bell has done so since UA bowl prep began at a practice not closed to media.
Lacy unsure of draft status
Junior running back Eddie Lacy said he had "no idea" about what NFL teams think of him or where they might select him should he choose to forego his senior season and declare for April's draft.
"I have no idea about that," Lacy said. "The decision will be based on after me and my parents talk about it and we talk to coach."
Lacy has rushed for 1,182, averaging 90.9 yards a game. With a history of nagging injuries throughout his career, Lacy might make the jump, especially if he receives positive feedback from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which provides information to underclassmen about where they might be selected.
Other Alabama underclassmen considering an early NFL jump include right tackle D.J. Fluker and cornerback Dee Milliner, both of whom have been projected as potential first-round choices.
Notre Dame defenders Zeke Motta, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Mathias Farley and Danny Spond all showed up at Thursday's news conference with thick beards. They are part of a group of Fighting Irish players who made a pact not to shave until the team loses or the season ends.
"As far the beard gang itself, we're strong," said Motta, a senior safety. "It's just one of those things that's almost like superstitious. I didn't cut it, you don't want to just because we're winning.
"I know after the game I'm going to cut it regardless. It's just one of those things. I'm part of the beard gang."
The Alabama football team attended the Dallas Mavericks-Miami Heat game Wednesday night after flying to Miami. UA center Barrett Jones apparently has an eye for talent.
"It was pretty neat getting to see that caliber of players," Jones said. "Lebron (James) is just a freak of nature. If we had have caught him right in high school we might could have talked him into playing D-end or possibly tight end. He's just a big guy."
UA freshman linebacker Denzel Devall (knee injury) has been cleared for contact and practiced Thursday. Devall sustained a minor injury a couple of weeks ago. ... Jones, in his third practice since being cleared for contact, worked with the first unit during individual drills. ... UA will wear special Nike Pro Combat uniforms in the BCS title game, but the traditional colors and design of the Crimson Tide uniform will remain the same. The uniforms are designed to help keep players from getting overheated.
Tommy Deas and Aaron Suttles contributed to this report. Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.