(MOBILE, Ala.) Chances are by now, you've heard the stories of AJ McCarron, the Mobile product who not only led Alabama to a National Championship, but has established himself as one of the most generous, philanthropic young men in our area.
He's helped raise tens of thousands of dollars by lending his name and his time to some very sick kids. His athletic abilities are well documented, but we're going to show you why he's living his life as a champion.
It was an MVP performance, on college football's biggest stage. But AJ McCarron has been winning championships from the time he first waddled around football's smallest stage, at Tremmier Park off DIP in Mobile.
He told us what he remembers about his first year in football.
"I was 4 years old, and played up with the 5 year olds," he said. "It was amazing.
"We used to throw it a bunch, I think that's why we beat so many teams because usually run the ball at that age, so it was pretty fun."
From day one, he was the quarterback.
Sports were a big part of the McCarron household, but AJ's parents didn't have to do a lot of prodding.
"He lives it, eats it, breaths it," Mom Dee Dee Bonner said. "He's the kid that would be out in the yard throwing the ball against the house for hours."
"Being brought up on DIP, sports is everything," he said. "If you don't take sports seriously, then you don't belong down here."
McCarron's skills became legendary. Winning championships at every level. From a 4 year old peanut, all the way to high school, leading St. Paul's to a state championship his junior year. But it all came tragically close to never happening.
"I remember coming around the turn and right before I hit the pier," McCarron said.
"When we got to the hospital, they told us pretty much, be prepared to bury him," Bonner said.
AJ and his father, on the first day on a brand new jet ski, lost control. Both were seriously injuried. AJ almost didn't make it.
"It was a rocky road for a good 36 hours there with him, and finally that was on a Sunday the accident, and they finally on Wednesday cleared him with no vision loss, and no brain damage," Bonner said.
They litterally put this little guy back together again. He was given a second chance at life. Even at 5 years old, AJ says he knew just how lucky he had been.
"That wreck taught me there's a lot more to life, and others aren't as blessed and fortunate to live a long life," he said. "God has a plan for everybody."
So to go on and win championships, simply seemed part of that plan. With the guideance of his parents, and a new course in life, AJ has taken these gifts. and has passed them down to those who may not have been dealt such a winning hand.
"You have to serve others, it's not just about you," he said.
Eli is battling Leukemia. Eli's mom says that a bakesale raised over $10,000 because AJ lent his name and his time.
Little Starla Chapman is also battling a rare form of leukemia. AJ brought her a present on Christmas Eve, in the very wing of USA Childrens and Womens Hospital where his life had been saved some 16 years earlier.
AJ wore that Team Starla bracelett and after winning a national championship, and an MVP award he wanted to do even more.
"When they said it was over 5,000 people there, it was just awesome," he said. "Not only to get autographs signed, but people who came out to help little Starla."
McCarron signed autographs for four and a half hours. The stores were closing, the mall was closing. They had to leave, and there were still hundreds of people in line, so he said, "We're gonna do it again this summer. We'll be back out at the mall, and I guess we'll plan on four hours this time instead of two."
It's pretty cool to see how this hometown hero has taken the next step. Taken his newfound celebrity and used it to improve the lives of others.
"You get to see these kids who aren't as blessed, and their lives get taken away at such a young age," he said. "It's hard just to watch, but it puts everything in perspective. It lets you know there is more to life than just football on Saturday."
But it is that football, on Saturdays that has made it all possible.
"Man I never thought, I'd be playing in a national championship game one day. Better yet win it, and win the MVP and all that. It's just a blessing."
AJ McCarron has even touched the lives of folks here at LOCAL 15 News. You may remember, our Vice President and General Manager here suddenly passed away.
Bob Dunn was a huge Crimson Tide fan and that passion was passed down to his two kids Bobby and Kelly. At Bob's funeral, Kelly held up a football that AJ McCarron had just signed for her and said, "I'm doing better now."