Greg McElroy’s journey to NY Jets filled with ups and downs, and history indicates that losing starting job to Mark Sanchez won’t discourage backup quarterback
McElroy’s ambitions are not limited to the NFL. He’s spoken about possibly attending law school in the offseason, and regularly tracks politics, which his father refers to as a “huge passion.”
BY KEVIN ARMSTRONG / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
PUBLISHED: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2012, 3:51 PM
UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2012, 4:02 PM
COREY SIPKIN/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Greg McElroy’s journey to the NFL includes stops in Los Angeles, where he plays hockey with Wayne Gretzky’s kids, Texas, where he battles to be the starting quarterback in high school, and Alabama, where he helps Nick Saban win his first BCS title with the Crimson Tide.
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IRVING, Texas — Deep inside the bowels of the Dallas Cowboys headquarters, past the framed photographs of square-jawed coaches like Tom Landry and broad-shouldered quarterbacks like Troy Aikman, Greg McElroy Sr., the senior vice president for sales, monitored a personnel decision from afar. When he learned that Jets coach Rex Ryan would keep Mark Sanchez as starter, just before 8 a.m. central, while checking e-mails, he typed a text message to his son, Greg, the reserve who replaced Sanchez on Sunday.
"Hang in there," the father wrote.
An hour later a response pulsed through the black iPhone.
"No worries, Dad," the son wrote.
The father pauses.
"He's fine," he said. "I know he's fine."
Little fazes junior. Allowed into pro locker rooms since his father's previous stop in Los Angeles as the marketing head of the Kings' organization during Wayne Gretzky's Stanley Cup run, McElroy Jr. maintained a studied approach, awaiting his turn each rung of the depth chart. The latest move, being inserted into Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals, in front of fans dressed in paper bags, failed to unsettle him as he stepped in to complete five of his seven pass attempts, including the Jets' lone, go-ahead touchdown.
"We're football players, so nothing is guaranteed," McElroy said. "There's no use stressing over the unknown."
McElroy's managed to ascend above doubt the majority of his career.
Born in West Hills, on the west end of the San Fernando Valley, his unique talents were recognizable from the jump. In kindergarten, his teacher recommended to his mother that he be put in the gifted program. Both parents insisted on balance. His mother introduced him to classical music, teaching him how to play the piano and embrace the arts. His father, a former lineman at the University of Hawaii, handled athletics. When the couple attended a meet-the-teachers event for the second grade, his father raised his hand.
"Can we get an extension on minutes of recess?" he asked.
Fathers laughed; his wife worried.
"I just wanted to roll my eyes to the back of my head," she says.
Sports proved no problem. He skated with Gretzky's sons in Los Angeles, absorbed discipline lessons in karate and accepted all roles in football. In the sixth grade, he played tight end, fullback and outside linebacker as an 11-year-old in Southlake, Texas, after his father accepted the Cowboys' position. He added another role during his first entrée into Texas football: reserve quarterback.
"The starting quarterback is always the coach's son," Greg Sr. says.
The son negotiated competition on the field with aplomb. At Southlake Carroll, a powerhouse in Class 5A, the Lone Star State's largest grouping, he battled to break through a bottleneck at quarterback with players from middle schools in the same district. He sat behind two Texas Players of the Year — Chase Wasson and Chase Daniel (now with the New Orleans Saints) and absorbed knowledge all the while. To get bigger, he drank protein shakes; to gain speed and strength he signed up to run with the pole vault.
To be Daniel's backup as a junior was big; leading the Dragons, who play in front of 11,000 emerald-clad fans each Friday, as a senior played out on an unimaginable scale. For one pre-game speech, his father's old friend, Tommy Lasorda, the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager, addressed the Dragons. They won, finished the season 16-0 and took the state title.
Recruiting brought an array of coaches to town. McElroy, looking to throw as frequently as possible, committed to pass-happy Texas Tech as a junior, but he also attended Alabama's camp and connected with the staff. He gauged the process regularly. Alabama was considering Jets teammate Tim Tebow as its top option, but when Tebow chose to sign with Florida, McElroy made his way to Tuscaloosa. New coach Nick Saban declined to afford McElroy the opportunity to wear No. 12, the digits of legends in crimson and white, and assigned him No. 17. McElroy earned 12, then won a national title back in California at the Rose Bowl as a senior. Gretzky watched from the stands.
Progress slowed with the Jets. He was selected in the seventh round of the draft two years ago, and never suited up for a game until last week. His parents were as surprised as anyone, but he's kept busy throughout, grading footwork and releases in assisting Sanchez. At home, he continued to throw with Hal Wasson, the coach at Southake Carroll, on a community park off the coach's cul-de-sac by Hidden Lakes.
"You throw the best ball I've seen in a high school quarterback," Wasson once told him. "It about falls from the sky. I'm going to need some of those NFL gloves to keep going with you though."
McElroy's ambitions are not limited to the league. He reached the finalist stage for the Rhodes Scholarship while at Alabama, graduated magna cum laude with a 3.85 gpa and has spoken about possibly attending law school in the offseason, and regularly tracks politics, which his father refers to as a "huge passion." A conservative Republican, the son suffered through an uncommon losing streak of his realms when Mitt Romney lost to President Barack Obama in early November and Alabama was upended by Texas A&M four days later. The Jets lost to the Seahawks that Sunday.
"That was an ugly weekend for him, wasn't it?" his mother says.
Last week was a thing of beauty for the family. Their son, the one they refer to as "an information geek" strapped the helmet on and energized a team one more time. In the days after, it was his parents left fiending for intelligence in any form.
"I'm really anxious to see what he does next," his mother says.
Great article. G-Mac is a lucky man. Even if the Jets get their head out of their ass and if he gets a shot and does well..... He has a potentially lucrative future as an NFL QB. If he does not do well.. he is bright, motivated and probably set to be successful in another profession. Also SEEMS to have his head on straight with perspective. Cant ask for more in a young man.