Alabama's AJ McCarron talks Notre Dame, Barrett Jones and shoe f - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Alabama's AJ McCarron talks Notre Dame, Barrett Jones and shoe fetish

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Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron spoke to the media Thursday in Miami during a 2013 BCS National Championship news conference. (abc3340.com) Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron spoke to the media Thursday in Miami during a 2013 BCS National Championship news conference. (abc3340.com)
McCarron at Alabama's first BCS practice in Miami on Thursday. (abc3340.com) McCarron at Alabama's first BCS practice in Miami on Thursday. (abc3340.com)

Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron addressed the media Thursday morning before his team's first BCS National Championship practice in Miami.

He was joined at the news conference by his offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

Read:  Nussmeier speaks to the media in Miami

McCarron discussed the Notre Dame defense, his relationship with Barrett Jones and his alleged shoe fetish.

What drew you to Alabama and what it's like being a quarterback in the fishbowl that is Alabama?

"You know, I grew up a big Miami Hurricanes fan. I love the U, but I just felt like at the end of the day, it was the best situation for me to stay in the state, play for Coach Saban. I felt like it was the best opportunity for my parents to come watch me every weekend close to home, only three hours away. I mean, that was my thinking behind the whole decision.

"But playing quarterback at the University of Alabama, everybody knows it can be tough, but I think when they expect so much out of you, I think it also brings the best out of you as a player because you never really want to let anybody down, especially your teammates, because you go out every Saturday expecting to win. I think in the end, it helps you as a player grow and actually become a winner and know how to win."

When you first met Coach Nussmeier this past off-season, what was that interaction like, where was it, and how much did you guys know about each other at that time?

"(Smiling) I was kind of let down I had to work with him. No, I'm just kidding.

"Coach has always been, like I said, he's been outstanding to me. He's helped me grow as a quarterback more than I ever thought I really could. Like I said, I never look at stats, but the other day I was talking to my dad about it, and he kind of blew me away just on how few pass attempts I've had and my numbers compared to last year. I think he's helped me grow in the aspect of learning when to throw the ball away a lot more than I did last year.

"Like I said, he's helped me. It's been an honor working with Coach Nuss. I can't say enough about him. He's always helped me."

What stands out about Notre Dame's defense when you see them on film?

"They do a really good job of making big plays on the defensive side. Most of the time your thinking going into the game is to win the offense from big plays, but their defense makes a lot of big plays, too.

"They do a really good job in the red area. I mean, they're first in the nation in almost every category on defense, so they're really good. We're just going to have to bring our "A" game."

You've got the opportunity to win two national championships. Is that something you've been made aware of by all the avid fans at Alabama? And talk about the historical significance of doing that.

"Yeah, growing up in the State of Alabama, you definitely hear about all of that, so I probably definitely heard that a little bit more than what I want. But you know, it's a great honor to be in that category of quarterbacks that have played here. But I think it's a tremendous honor to play with my teammates. I think it shows the will that they have to win. I mean, it's not about me. None of this would be possible without them. I definitely want to thank them for everything they've done, for us having this opportunity and for myself to have this opportunity."

Talk about your relationship with Barrett Jones a little bit. Were you concerned at all that he would be able to finish the Georgia game and how important is it to have him out there?

"As far as us bickering, Coach Nuss can tell you we go at it in practice, but I usually win that battle just because I tell him, listen, I'm the quarterback, you're in my huddle, so let's hush on this one.

"No, we go back and forth. Me and Barrett have been really good friends for a long time, ever since I came here in '09. He's kind of taken me under his wing and just taught me the ropes and everything. He's helped me tremendously. I can't say enough about him. I really do love him. He's a great friend to have.

"Protection wise, we go back and forth on it, and we'll both probably say that we've saved each other a couple times. But I think that's the relationship the quarterback and center need to have. Actually I did not get to answer the last part, I did not know that he was even hurt during the Georgia game, so that should let you know how he played. But I'm not concerned at all about him playing this weekend."

Talk about T.J. Yeldon and his emergence as a true freshman.

"I think first off, a lot of people don't realize T.J. is a good kid off the field, and I think that's big to have while you're playing every Saturday, to have him in the huddle. You don't want just a good athlete out there, you want a person that you can always count on and trust to do the right thing. And he's one of those freshmen that come in and already have the right head on their shoulders and knows what it takes to win, and he's great to have in the huddle. He's a freakish player. I know that."

Talk about Manti Te'o and the challenge you have in planning for him and in what way or ways is he the most dangerous.

"He's always around the ball. He's a great player, makes a lot of plays for his defense, and is the heart and soul for them. He's going to be a big key to the game, like always."

What attracted you as a youngster to Miami, and just where were they and how close was it in terms of where you chose to go?

"What probably attracted me the most is, just like whenever you're a little kid, the team that's winning the most is probably your favorite. No, they had one of my favorite players of all time, Ken Dorsey, and they had Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, Kellen Winslow, all those guys. I was always just a big fan growing up.

"They ended up being in my top three with Alabama and Oklahoma right before I decided."

How did you feel about some of your guys hijacking your Twitter account last night?

"(Laughing) Well, that's the one and only Kenny Bell. Me and him are always great friends, and we've always been ever since we came in together. But yeah, he likes to play jokes on me. We go back and forth, but yeah, he got me last night."

On freshman Amari Cooper, did you see this coming from him when he came in?

"Like I said, he's one of those freakish freshman that you get in every once in a while in a class. You can't say enough about Coop. He's been an outstanding player for us this year. He's helped our offense grow a lot in the passing game, and being able to, I guess, spread the ball out all the way across the field. He's helped us tremendously."

When you look at the tape of Notre Dame's defense, how does it compare to the top defenses in the SEC?

"I would say the same thing. They do a really good job of trying to confuse you as an offense, jumping from one thing to another. Like I said earlier, we're going to have to be on our "A" game."

Talk about the adversity that you faced after the serious WaveRunner accident you experienced as a young boy.

"I mean, it's all pretty crazy. I'm a big believer in the Man above, God has a plan for you, and everything happens for a reason. I felt like it was my second chance at life.

"I think me and my mom kind of promised each other since I got that second chance that I'd take full advantage of it, and try to make all my dreams come true that are possible. It's kind of just wake up every day and kind of think about that and let the day play out."

What's with the shoe fetish, and how many pairs did you bring to Miami?

"Well, I brought a whole bagful. I've got a lot of shoes. I've always been that way ever since I was little. I figure you can wear the same outfit and change the shoes and it looks like a totally different outfit. You know, I'm just big into shoes. Me and Kenny Bell kind of go back and forth and kind of compete and see how many each of us have. But yeah, I definitely brought a lot."

What do you do that gets under Barrett Jones' skin so badly? And does he ever get under your skin?

"You know, Barrett is such a smart guy. He talks so much sometimes, so that's probably what gets under my skin is I've got to tell him to be quiet sometimes in the huddle.

"But probably what gets under his skin so much is when I prove him wrong. He hates to be wrong, so I always love it when I do that."

Does it happen often?

"It does. Every practice."

Talk about your relationship with Starla Chapman, and how does she maybe help you keep things in perspective, and your own accident as a child, how much did that make you want to get more involved?

"I always loved giving back. I think my mom has done a tremendous job of raising me in that aspect of life. She's always taught me to kind of give back to people a little less fortunate. I've been blessed enough to be in a position to kind of touch people's lives, inspire them in certain ways, and she was a blessing to me. Just kind of met her on that Christmas Eve, that day at USA Women's and Children's Hospital, and our relationship has taken off from there.

"Her family named me her godfather a couple months after that, and I still wear her bracelet today. I never take it off. I'm always thinking about her. She's a special girl."

How do you fit the perception of the Alabama quarterback being a game manager?

"I think game manager can be so many different things, but I feel like my coaching staff and my teammates know what I do. That's all that matters to me."

What is the job description of the Alabama quarterback to you through the years?

"I mean, are you talking about like through the history of Alabama?"

The whole thing, being Alabama quarterback.

"I mean, it's a tremendous honor, first off, because you know, of all the legends that have played this position at this university. So to follow in their footsteps is definitely a great honor, and I'm just trying to keep it rolling."

Talk about what you've seen from the back end (secondary) of Notre Dame's defense.

"I think they do a really good job of disguising certain coverages and try to confuse you in the later part of the play before the snap. They deserve a lot of credit, too. I know their guys up front get talked about a lot, but trust me, they make plays back there. It's not just the guys up front that have them labeled the No. 1 defense in the nation."

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