A calm, cool and collected quarterback.
Three words to describe former Alabama standout Greg McElroy, prior to obtaining a short career in the National Football League and being a college football analyst for SEC Network.
A former Mike Shula recruit, McElroy enrolled at Alabama as a freshman in 2007. He saw limited action in his freshman and sophomore seasons, but McElroy and Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban achieved greatness together in year three with the Crimson Tide.
McElroy became Alabama’s starting quarterback as a junior in 2009. The Crimson Tide’s offense relied heavy on running back Mark Ingram, but McElroy kept the team in position to win. He totaled 2,508 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions in 14 games.
Alabama entered Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 27, 2009 as the No.2-ranked team nationally.
Auburn started the year strong at 5-0, but lost four of its next six games heading into the Iron Bowl. The Tigers stood at 8-5, needing one victory to salvage its season under Gene Chizik.
A crowd of 87,451 fans were elated when Auburn’s offense jumped on Alabama early.
The Tigers scored two touchdowns in the first quarter to take a 14-0 lead, but McElroy and the Crimson Tide didn’t panic. Alabama dominated the second quarter, scoring 14 unanswered points to tie the game at halftime. Tigers’ quarterback Chris Todd torched Alabama’s secondary in the third quarter with a 72-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darvin Adams.
Auburn’s defense held Mark Ingram to 30 rushing yards. Alabama’s offense couldn’t find the end zone in the third quarter, however, placekicker Leigh Tiffin nailed two field goals.
Linebacker Rolando McClain captained a fierce Alabama defense in the fourth quarter.
The Crimson Tide forced two three-and-outs, setting its offense up with a chance to pull out a win. Alabama had the ball on its 21-yard line with 7:03 left in regulation when McElroy engineered a sequence known as “The Drive.” It was comprised of 15 plays, totaling 79 yards.
Alabama’s offensive coordinator Jim McElwain got everyone involved, including Julio Jones, Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram. The Crimson Tide found itself on Auburn’s 4-yard line with 1:29 remaining. McElroy wanted to center the ball in the middle of the field and kick a field goal, yet Saban had other plans. He dialed up a play action pass to the corner on third down.
McElroy rolled to his right, set his feet, and fired a strike to running back Roy Upchurch for a touchdown. Jordan-Hare went silent, and McElroy came through in a critical moment.
Alabama captured its first lead of the game, 26-21, despite failing on its two-point conversion attempt. Auburn’s offense got to Alabama’s 37-yard line on a 17-yard reception by Darvin Adams, but the Crimson Tide halted the rest of its progress.
Two incomplete passes witnessed the air leave Jordan-Hare Stadium, as the Tigers fell 26-21. McElroy’s final statistics in the 2009 Iron Bowl were solid. He completed 21 of 31 pass attempts for 215 yards with two touchdowns. Alabama would go on to win a Southeastern Conference championship and its 13th national title.
Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.