Former Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron has put on a show through the first six weeks of the 2023 XFL season.
A selection in the first round of the 2023 XFL draft, McCarron is one of few starting quarterbacks in the young league with real NFL experience. In his four starts across a six-year span in the NFL, McCarron compiled a 2-2 record with complete rate over 60% and nearly 800 passing yards.
As of March 26, the Battlehawks sit in third place behind the D.C. Defenders and Houston Roughnecks. Just four weeks remain in the regular season before the playoffs begin, and McCarron is looking to return to form as a championship-winning quarterback.
At one point during the Battlehawks’ win over the Vegas Vipers on March 25, McCarron completed 19 consecutive passes, according to AL.com.
McCarron’s Path to the XFL
Hailing from St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile, Alabama, McCarron was a four-star prospect in the 2009 recruiting class, per 247Sports. He was selected as an All-American in his final year at St. Paul’s and played in the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl alongside future Crimson Tide teammates D.J. Fluker, Dre Kirkpatrick, and Nico Johnson.
After redshirting in his first season with the Tide, McCarron sat behind Greg McElroy in 2010. Heading into his sophomore year, McCarron was named co-starter alongside Phillip Sims, but later secured the job for himself.
Alabama finished the regular season 12-1 and won its second national title under Nick Saban, beating the LSU Tigers 21-0 and avenging the Tide’s only regular-season loss.
In his second year as starter, McCarron once again led the Crimson Tide to a stellar season that culminated with a national title, this time over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, 42-14.
As a senior, the Mobile native reset Alabama’s record books, becoming the all-time leader in passing yards with over 9,000 and the all-time leader in passing touchdowns with 77. That mark has eventually eclipsed by both Bryce Young and Tua Tagovailoa.
Despite an incredible college career, the former four-star was not viewed as a top-tier prospect by NFL circles, and McCarron fell to the fifth round of the 2014 draft and was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals.
He spent three years with Cincinnati and played well in the limited opportunities given to him. In three starts for the Bengals, he completed over 60% of his passes and led the team to two victories.
After leaving Cincinnati in free agency, McCarron saw brief stints with the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and Houston Texans over the next three seasons before signing with the Atlanta Falcons in 2021. Though he looked to have a real chance at competing for a starting role in Atlanta, a preseason ACL tear ended his year before it even started.
After a lengthy recovery, the Mobile native was selected in the first round of the XFL draft by the St. Louis Battlehawks, where he quickly established himself as, not only the starter, but a fan favorite after leading two comeback victories in his first two games.
What’s Next for McCarron?
The former Tide star has clearly found his niche in the XFL and is playing extremely well, but could an NFL team look to give McCarron another shot next season?
And even if one does, would he take it?
In a February 19 story published by the story published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, McCarron outlined his reasoning for suiting up in the XFL over taking a backup role on an NFL roster.
“My 6-year-old loves watching tape of me on YouTube,” he said, “That’s a big reason I chose to return this way. I probably could’ve tried to come back with an NFL team and had a chance to probably made bigger money, but no one knows what the future holds. I’m enjoying this and it’s a great way to make some memories for me and my boys.”