Wallace Gilberry is helping show A.J. McCarron the ropes
You remember that BCS title game a few years ago. Alabama had a 42-14 lead and there were just seven minutes left and there was quarterback A.J. McCarron screaming in the face of center Barrett Jones after a botched snap. Jones retaliated with a shove before McCarron hugged him later on the sidelines.
"We're both perfectionists," Jones said after the game. "We love each other and gave each other a big hug. That's just how we are, if you don't know us."
The Bengals who know McCarron said pretty much the same thing Wednesday about the fifth-round pick spending his first week in the playbook. But he's not just any fifth-round pick, or else he wouldn't have done interviews on the Paul Brown Stadium field. Last year's fifth-round pick, tackle Tanner Hawkinson, did his interviews next to his steel gray temporary locker.
But this fifth-round pick who brings some national intensity and his in-your-face personality when he was playing matches what offensive coordinator Hue Jackson wants to bring to this offense.
"Two national championships. Can't do much better than that,' said right tackle Andre Smith, one of three Bama products who welcomed McCarron. "He's some big competitor. He competes every day and pushes everybody to be better."
McCarron has the microphones because of those two national titles and his perceived slide down the draft board that was accompanied but what he calls "bad information." He'll stand by his rep as a leader and so will cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, a guy that played with McCarron.
"Man, he's a competitor. I've seen him get fiery. I've seen him get mad," Kirkpatrick said. "Maybe his receivers aren't getting the ball because we're picking the balls off. He gets mad – he gets onto them. He lets them know like, 'Let's pick it up.' He doesn't like slacking players because he's not going to go out there and be a slacking player. "
What is apparent is that brings a lot of passion to his game and isn't afraid to spread it around.
One day in December you can be the cool, confident field general courting a third national championship that even gets on his teammates in a blowout. Then in May you can be cocky and arrogant.
The guy who has known McCarron the longest is fellow Gulf Shores native Wallace Gilberry. Gilberry, heading into his third year on the Bengals defensive line, is six years older than McCarron but had a close-up view from Bay Minette, Ala., of McCarron growing up in Mobile.
"I know the kid. I've known him since he was a sophomore in high school," Gilberry said. "A lot of people confuse confidence with cocky. I know where he's from and how he grew up. Then when somebody makes remarks like that…It's like I told him. Not everybody is going to like you. The ones that respect you, respect them. The ones that don't, show them why they should."
McCarron is grateful for the familiar faces. Gilberry has taken him out to lunch each of the three days the rookies have been here.
"One of the good things that I really like about here is I have a couple of guys I grew up with in Wallace Gilberry and Andre and Dre Kirk," McCarron said. "So I've got some friends already to help bring me along, which helps the process."
It has helped in a tough week he has heard some surprising, like about being a bad teammate and not being a leader.
"I was surprised that somebody leaked some bad information about me. It hurt me. But like I said, if people were going to believe some bad information, that's not a team that wanted me. I'm thankful for my opportunity here from Mr. (Mike) Brown and coach Marvin (Lewis) and everybody on the offensive staff. I'm going to make the most of it.
"Somebody throws something on the wall and it sticks and catches, and it's like everybody runs with it. It sucks that it hurt me like that, but at the same time, I feel like God had a plan. He always has a plan for everybody. Everything's going to work itself out. I'm happy, and hopefully at the end of the day I'll get the last laugh."
Smith saw the Saturday slide, but on Wednesday he shrugged.
"I hate it happened but I'm glad he's here," Smith said. "He'll help push and motivate everyone else."