A.J. McCarron never got the chance to show what he could do for the Buffalo Bills on the field, and years later saw his spotty NFL career cut short by injury.
But the former Alabama quarterback has now found a home in the XFL, where he leads the league in touchdowns and has pushed the St. Louis Battlehawks to a 5-2 record. McCarron had previously opened up about his decision to choose an XFL job over the chance to compete for a backup spot in the NFL, and so far the move has more than paid off.
A.J. McCarron Adds to XFL Lead After Monster Game
McCarron was already leading the league in touchdowns with 14 going into Sunday’s game against the Houston Roughnecks, and added another three in his team’s 24-15 win. One of those touchdowns, a 10-yard strike to Darrius Shepherd to ice the game late in the fourth quarter, was originally called as a run play before McCarron audible to a pass, Al.com reported.
After the game, the play call earned McCarron some praise from St. Louis head coach Anthony Becht.
“We trust AJ to do a lot of stuff at the line of scrimmage,” Becht said. “Get us into good plays. Get us out of trouble when the blitzes are coming. (Offensive coordinator) Bruce (Gradkowski) does a good job of preparing him for that. It’s really a collaborative effort between those two – two smart guys. All week long, they’re thinking about every scenario and how we can execute and get our best players the football.”
McCarron has been one of the most notable names in the return of the XFL, which was suspended play during the start of the pandemic.
A.J. McCarron’s Past in Buffalo
McCarron had a brief but important tenure with the Bills, joining the team in the 2018 offseason to compete with Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman for the starting job. The Bills ended up picking Peterman as the starter and traded McCarron to the then-Oakland Raiders before ever playing a regular-season game.
McCarron was never able to hold down a starting job in the NFL, appearing in 17 games over six seasons until an ACL tear suffered in the 2021 preseason brought an end to his career. The 32-year-old quarterback told Al.com that he knew he wanted to keep playing football once he got healthy and saw the XFL as his best opportunity to be a starter again.
“I haven’t had that thought of hanging them up,” McCarron said. “Guys are playing for so many years now, and my body feels great. In ‘21 was a freak deal – non-contact ACL. I started football at the age of 3, and that was the first injury that knocked me out a whole season. I really never had that thought.”
McCarron added that he wanted to give his three sons the chance to watch him actually play, which seemed a better fit than competing to stay on the fringes of an NFL roster.
“I’ve been getting (NFL) calls,” McCarron told The Athletic. “I had opportunities to sign with teams. But it wasn’t a role that I wanted at this point in my career, whether it was location or something else, it wasn’t something I needed to do. So I waited until something fit me the best.”