Greg McElroy followed in the footsteps of Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath during his football career at the University of Alabama and now gets another chance to do so with the New York Jets.
McElroy was the last of 12 quarterbacks taken in the National Football League’s seven-round draft. He was drafted 208th overall by the Jets, two days and 207 players after the Carolina Panthers made quarterback Cam Newton from rival Auburn University the No. 1 pick.
McElroy wore No. 12 at Alabama in honor of Namath, who was his father’s favorite player. Like Namath, he led the Crimson Tide to a national championship before pursuing an NFL career. McElroy, who is seeking to land a backup job to starter Mark Sanchez, said he plans to wear No. 12 in New York, where Namath won a Super Bowl title.
“He’s someone I have always looked up to and had the utmost respect for,” McElroy, 22, told reporters two days ago. “I can’t believe I’m going able to follow in the same footsteps that he did. Having the opportunity to play for the New York Jets is an absolute dream come true.”
McElroy said the Jets weren’t a “team on my radar,” as he had limited meetings with team officials leading up to the draft. The Jets have Mark Brunell, Kellen Clemens, Kevin O’Connell and Drew Willy as quarterbacks behind Sanchez, who helped them reach the American Football Conference championship game in each of his first two NFL seasons.
“He has every attribute conceivable for a guy to be successful at the quarterback position,” Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said of McElroy on a conference call. “He won in high school, won in college, he’s smart, competitive, can make all the throws. And he’s a natural leader.”
While McElroy helped Alabama to college football’s national title as a junior following the 2009 season, he didn’t post big passing statistics playing in a run-oriented offense that featured Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.
Ingram was the first of 31 running backs drafted, picked 28th overall by the New Orleans Saints. The Jets used a fourth- round pick on University of Louisville running back Bilal Powell, three rounds before taking McElroy.
“In the offense I was asked to run in the University of Alabama I was seldom asked to take over a game,” McElroy said. “I was asked to make plays and minimize mistakes. In high school I was a spread offense guy so I threw for a million yards and touchdowns. My role changed when I got to college.”
Four quarterbacks were among the draft’s first 12 picks, with Newton’s selection followed by Washington’s Jake Locker to the Tennessee Titans at No. 8, Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert to the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 10 and Florida State’s Christian Ponder to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 12.
Texas Christian University’s Andy Dalton (Cincinnati) and Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco) were the two quarterbacks taken in the second round, while Arkansas’s Ryan Mallett (New England) was drafted in the third.
Of the 254 NFL draftees, 123 were offensive players, 129 were defensive players and two were kickers.
The New York Giants used their first-round pick on University of Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, who was one of 53 defensive backs drafted -- the most of any position. The Jets were among three of the NFL’s 32 teams that didn’t take a defensive back, opting for McElroy after Buffalo and Cincinnati looked to bolster their pass coverage by taking cornerbacks in the final round.
Namath’s No. 12
McElroy said he received a congratulatory voice mail message from Namath when he first committed to go to Alabama and then met him several times while in school in Tuscaloosa. Namath played at Alabama from 1962-64 and was taken by the Jets with the first pick in the American Football League draft.
Now that he’s in New York and again wearing No. 12, McElroy may get another phone call from the quarterback who was nicknamed “Broadway Joe.”
“Meeting him face-to-face for the first time was an unbelievable moment and something I haven’t forgotten,” McElroy said. “I just can’t believe that not only am I going to wear the same college uniform as Joe Namath, but I’ll have the opportunity to wear the same NFL uniform.”
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