Carroll alum Greg McElroy set on beating UT

SOUTHLAKE – at school, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy is a celebrity. at home, he’s Gregory.

Tonight, the Southlake Carroll alum will don Alabama’s sacred no. 12 and lead the Crimson Tide against Texas in the BCS national title football game in the hallowed Rose Bowl.

but at home, Gregory often gets upstaged by Texi the miniature Yorkie. at most, he shares billing with his sister Blair, a Carroll junior.

Blair says it’s been “surreal” to watch her brother, a first-year starter, steer Alabama to a 13-0 record.

“You know that’s him,” mother Jami chimes in. “But you almost can’t believe it.”

College football pundits say the title game’s McQuarterback matchup clearly favors Texas. yes, the Longhorns’ Colt McCoy has won an NCAA-record 45 games, but McElroy, a junior, hasn’t lost as a starter since the eighth grade.

Fittingly, the Rose Bowl represents center stage for freckle-faced, 21-year-old McElroy, the longtime understudy.

at Carroll he played behind Chase Daniel and didn’t start until his senior season, when he led the Dragons to a Class 5A state title.

at Alabama, McElroy redshirted his first season, then backed up John Parker Wilson in 2007 and 2008.

Quietly, while absorbing X’s and O’s, McElroy plowed out a marketing degree in three years. He’s on pace to earn a masters in sports management in December and is a Rhodes Scholarship candidate.

“Usually if I set my mind to something, I’ve done a pretty good job over the years of getting it taken care of,” McElroy says.

his girlfriend, Alabama junior chemistry major Meredith Gray, says many in Tuscaloosa are surprised to learn that the 6-3, 220-pound guy who has thrown 17 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season is much more than a jock.

“Everybody’s like, ‘Is he really that smart? Be honest,’ ” laughs Gray. “I say, ‘Yes, he is. You really need to meet him.’ He’s absolutely brilliant, on so many levels.”

get this. The only B McElroy made as an undergraduate was in leadership management. perhaps that prof should reconsider, with ‘Bama on the brink of its 13th national title and first since 1992.

“Unfortunately, I’ve graduated and my GPA is set in stone now,” McElroy says. so even if the Tide rolls against Texas and he becomes a legend for life, he’ll have to settle for his widely reported 3.85?

“3.86,” he corrects, smiling. “Makes a big difference.”

his book smarts, however, are not the reason his family started calling him Gregory. It’s because there already was a Greg in the house.

Greg McElroy Sr. is the Dallas Cowboys’ senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Father and son also go by big Mac and little Mac, big Greg and little Greg and Mac and Mackey. Gregory calls his dad “my very best friend in the world.”

Surreal probably only begins to describe how Greg will feel tonight when Gregory and his teammates emerge from the tunnel and into Pasadena’s 91,000-seat Rose Bowl.

Greg Sr. grew up 20 miles west of the Southern California stadium.

One of his most vivid childhood memories was his mother buying the family’s first color TV, a 19-incher, just in time for Super Bowl III.

Greg Sr. was mesmerized by that game’s winning quarterback, the new York Jets’ Joe Namath, who wore no. 12 for Alabama in the mid-1960s. Greg Jr. began his Alabama career wearing no. 17, but as a sophomore he requested and received no. 12.

“Jami will tell you, without fail, every time they run out on the field and I see those crimson helmets, I get tears in my eyes,” Greg Sr. says.

“Your mind goes back to when he was a peewee player and his pads didn’t fit right and his helmet was too big. to see that he’s playing for a school like the University of Alabama, it’s an incredible feeling.”

Greg Sr. wore no. 68 and played offensive guard at Hawaii, where he met Jami, a cheerleader and the 1978 homecoming queen.

“Actually,” laughs Jami, “we met on his recruiting trip. The fellow I was dating was in charge of recruiting him.”

This week also has been a homecoming for Greg Jr. and Blair, born in nearby Northridge.

Greg Jr. in particular grew up around sports while his father worked for hockey’s Los Angeles Kings and baseball’s Dodgers.

He has vivid memories of hanging around hockey great Wayne Gretzky at age 8 and estimates he’s attended 500 Dodgers games.

In 1998, Dallas voters approved the building of American Airlines Center. The Stars and Mavericks hired Greg Sr. to oversee sales and marketing. Greg Jr. was 10 when the McElroys moved to Southlake, a budding high school football mecca.

Greg Jr. was a standout baseball catcher, but admittedly not very athletic. In peewee football, he usually played fullback, tight end or lineman.

“The head coach of the peewee team, his son plays quarterback, that’s just the way it is,” Greg Jr. says. “I just loved football, being out there, the camaraderie. at that age, I didn’t understand anything. I liked to hit people and that’s just the way it was.”

The morning his son was to try out for seventh-grade football, Greg Sr. asked what position he planned to play. “I don’t care, line, whatever,” the son replied.

that evening, Greg Jr. revealed that he’d gone out for quarterback, to which his father replied, “OK, that’s cool.”

“He wasn’t raised to be a quarterback,” Greg Sr. says now. “I think he just put himself in that position.

“Here we are nine years later and he’s getting ready to play in the national championship game.”

Ask Gregory about the eighth-grade game he lost, and he shrugs.

Then he tells you his team was 6-0 at the time, the opponent was Cross Timbers Middle School, the final score was 8-6 and that the winning margin came on a safety when the ball was snapped over his head.

“It doesn’t bother me too much anymore,” he laughs. “I kind of got over it.”

when he finally became Southlake Carroll’s varsity starter in 2005, he unleashed a state-record 56 touchdown passes and led the Dragons to a 16-0 record and a mythical national championship. He was MVP of the state title win over Katy.

Football-crazed Southlake, McElroy says, is a mini-version of 90,000-citizen Tuscaloosa, where “Roll Tide” is Alabamian for “hello” and “goodbye.”

“I think Southlake prepared me somewhat for the pressures and expectations,” McElroy says. “But nothing can fully prepare you for Alabama. It’s nothing like you’ve ever imagined.”

Last March, through mutual friends, McElroy met Gray, a Decatur, Ala., native. She says she had never dated an athlete.

Sure, most of her family is ‘Bama crazy, but Gray mostly went to games to be part of the event.

when she met McElroy, his output in two seasons of backup duty was 16 completions for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

“The thing I like about her is, before me, she didn’t care about football,” McElroy says. “She cares more about the person I am than the position I play.”

these days, the couple can’t go have sushi at Bento, burgers at Mugshots or subs at Firehouse without attracting gawks and phone-camera clicks. at games, Gray hears “that’s Greg McElroy’s girlfriend,” followed by murmuring.

“It’s been quite an adventure, that’s for sure,” she says. “I just think it’s funny that people are so amazed. He’s a human being. He has relationships.”

but she says she had never been interviewed, until now, and “never been on TV as Greg McElroy’s girlfriend, thank goodness.”

when told that McCoy’s girlfriend Rachel Glandorf gets considerable air time during games and that her turn probably will come tonight, Gray sighs.

“Alrightee, I’ll be prepared, thank you. what am I supposed to do, look extra cute?”

Gray has become phone and text buddies with Blair and is a “precious” addition, if you ask Jami, who once worried that Gregory was charging through college too fast. but he wanted to graduate early because he knew this was his year, finally, again.

“It’s just kind of what he does, crazy character,” Jami says. “Gregory’s always been really, really driven.”

In the Rose Bowl tonight, Gregory’s cheering section will include Blair, the sister he describes as a “girly girl” and “my biggest fan.”

Blair, a Carroll dance team lieutenant, wore Gregory’s jersey to school after Alabama beat Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game.

while waving their pompoms, Blair and Jami have learned to pick their spots to interact with nervous-wreck Greg Sr.

“Unless we’ve just scored a touchdown, don’t talk to him,” Blair says.

as she does for every game, Jami baked chocolate chip cookies for Gregory’s offensive linemen. each gets exactly a dozen, naturally, for doing such a great job protecting her no. 12.

That’s also the Alabama number worn by Paul “Bear” Bryant in the ’30s and by “Broadway Joe” Namath and Kenny “The Snake” Stabler in the ’60s.

Gregory might not have the same ring, but he’ll be a household name if he quarterbacks the Tide past his home state Longhorns for national title no. 13.

“It’s definitely a dream come true for me,” he says. “And I’m definitely excited about my opportunity to make a splash.”

anyone want to bet against him?

Carroll alum Greg McElroy set on beating UT

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