Long before he was an ESPN college football analyst, Greg McElroy helped kickstart the Alabama dynasty as the starting quarterback of the Crimson Tide’s 2009 national championship team. After a brief NFL stint with the New York Jets, McElroy jumped into broadcasting.
Now, you can find him calling games on Saturday afternoons for the Worldwide Leader, as well as contributing to SEC Network’s studio show, SEC Now. Additionally, he and Marcus Spears have put aside the LSU-Alabama rivalry to co-host Thinking Out Loud since 2017.
This weekend, McElroy will begin a new venture with ESPN, serving as part of the network’s lead broadcasting crew for the XFL. He and play-by-play man Steve Levy will be in the booth, with Tom Luginbill working as a field analyst and Dianna Russini as a sideline reporter.
We caught up with McElroy for our “21 Questions” feature and discussed his new XFL assignment, who might be the 2020 version of LSU, BBQ in Alabama, Nick Saban’s future and much, much more.
Here we go…
1.) What are you most looking forward to about your new assignment broadcasting the XFL?
GM: I’m most excited about being part of something at its inception. In our world, it’s extremely rare to be a part of something from the beginning so these opportunities are few and far between. If this league existed 5 years ago, I would’ve definitely played. Therefore, I’m also excited about seeing the development of these QBs in “real” game situations and seeing if they blossom into a potential NFL Star. It’s going to be a unique broadcast. We’re going to take the viewer into the huddle and try to make it an immersive experience. Breaking that ground is also something that’s very enticing.
2.) Who is your favorite fictional movie quarterback and why?
GM: Love this question… I haven’t seen all the sports movies from back in the day (North Dallas Forty, Original Longest Yard, etc.) So, it’d have to be a tie between Jonathan Moxon (Varsity Blues) and Willie Beamen (Any Given Sunday). Both were afterthoughts until given their opportunity to play. You gotta love the guy that comes off the bench and saves the day, right?!
3.) Alabama’s 2020 starting quarterback will be…
GM: Mac Jones. It’s going to be difficult for the young QBs to show enough in practice to overtake Jones who played very well in the final few games of the ’19 season.
4.) You’re stranded on a deserted island. You can bring 3 people employed at ESPN with you to help you survive and eventually get off. Who are you bringing?
GM: Only 3?! There’s a bunch of people behind the camera that would make the experience rather painless. If I had to limit it to on-camera talent, I’d take Dave Pasch and Tom Luginbill for sure. Lugz thinks he’s Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec., so it’d be nice to see how resourceful he really is. Pasch is one of the best people in the world and we’d need his positivity if we were stranded on a deserted island. The 3rd spot would probably still go to Marcus Spears even though he’s been more difficult to be around since LSU beat Alabama and won the National Championship.
5.) Do you think Dabo Swinney will ever be the head coach at Alabama?
GM: No. He’s built his own program in his own image. Going to Alabama, he’d be forced to adopt the mentality that comes with coaching and playing at Alabama. Alabama Football is all-business, coupled with a sense of superiority. That’s not really Dabo. He’s a former walk-on that considers himself an underdog with a chip on his shoulder. However, if I were him, I’d always leave the possibility of me leaving open for leverage purposes. Cha-Ching!!
6.) Your broadcasting career began shortly after your playing one ended. How long did you know you wanted to get into broadcasting?
GM: I didn’t. I kind of fell into it. Long story short… After I finished my college career, I was at the National Football Foundation Awards dinner in December of 2010. After the dinner, I was at the hospitality gathering and having a conversation with Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Fitting and Michael Fountain. We had just played an epic game against Auburn and they were getting set to play for the National Championship against Oregon. So they asked, “Would you like to come to Phoenix and talk about what it was like to play against Auburn in the days leading up to the game?” I said, “Sure!” So I went and did a pretty good job without really knowing anything about Broadcasting. I then followed it up with a “Car Wash” in Bristol on the day of the National Championship. After that, they approached me and asked, “If you don’t want to pursue the NFL, you can come work with us.” At that point, I felt like I needed to scratch that NFL itch. Once I played 3 years and got my pension, I didn’t feel like fighting and scrapping to try to make another roster. So I approached ESPN and with their launch of SEC Network the same year, the stars aligned. I retired and the rest is history. Best decision I ever made.
7.) This question might get you in trouble, but besides Tuscaloosa, what is your favorite SEC town to visit/work in?
GM: I’ll subtract Nashville because that’s really not fair. So among the college towns, my favorite is Oxford, MS. I think it’s beautiful there and the food/bar scene is 10/10. Outside the SEC, two that I love are Lawrence, KS and Ann Arbor, MI.
8.) What’s the weirdest thing Nick Saban ever said to you on the sideline?
GM: Hmm… Nothing too strange on the sideline, but he did have me checked for a concussion after I played poorly in one game.
— Tom Stipe (@TomStipe_RTR) September 30, 2016
9.) Describe your perfect “last meal.”
GM: Don’t judge me for this mix, but it’d be a “one of a kind” blend of flavors. If you’re gonna make me have a last meal, I’m going out with a bang.
– Chargrilled Oysters from Drago’s in New Orleans
– Orange Chicken from Panda Express
– Rock Shrimp Tempura with Creamy Spicy Sauce from Nobu
– Big D Breakfast Burrito from Tacos Y Mas in Dallas, TX
– Fries from Pommes Frites in NYC
10.) You were a Rhodes Scholar finalist in college and graduated with a 4.0. If you did not have a career in football, playing or broadcasting, what would you be doing right now?
GM: I would’ve gone to law school and likely pursued a career in public service.
11.) Which college football program do you think is most likely to make an LSU-like leap in 2020?
GM: Probably not a huge surprise here, but I think Florida has a chance to make some serious noise next year. They return a lot of quality pieces from last season and Dan Mullen is as good as you’ll find in CFB in maximizing the potential of his teams. If they can stay healthy and get a boost in production from the their QB Kyle Trask, they could be poised to make a playoff push.
24-hour rule is in affect. Gonna enjoy what the Super Bowl provided us for one day, then you know what time it is.
— Greg McElroy (@GregMcElroy) February 3, 2020
12.) What quarterback in college football history would you most want starting for your team in a national title game?
GM: After what I saw this year in the Playoffs, it’d be hard not to pick Joe Burrow. That being said, I always thought Andrew Luck and Cam Newton did more with less than anyone I’ve seen in College Football. Both guys literally carried their teams without a ridiculously strong supporting cast. If you put either one of them in Joe Burrow’s or Trevor Lawrence’s shoes with those weapons around them, it’d be insane. So if I had to rank them, I’d go:
- Cam Newton
- Andrew Luck
- Joe Burrow
13.) Rank these fast food restaurants from best to worst: Chick-fil-A, Popeyes, Zaxby’s, Raising Cane’s.
GM: I’d go:
- Raising Canes
14.) Was this year’s LSU team better than all of the Alabama teams that won the national title in the modern era?
GM: I think this LSU team was arguably the best CFB Team of All-Time. I think in order to be in that conversation, you have to be undefeated. Losing a game automatically eliminates you from the GOAT discussion with me. There has only been one undefeated team from Alabama in the Modern Era (2009). I was on that team and we had an incredible will to win. Even when we weren’t collectively at our best, we found a way to get it done. But on paper, what LSU did this year was more impressive. If I were sitting in the analyst chair and being asked to pick a winner between 2009 Alabama and 2019 LSU, I’d take 2019 LSU.
15.) Archibald’s or Dreamland?
GM: Archibald’s. Not even close.
16.) Do you think Nick Saban’s reign in college football is over?
GM: Until he retires, he’s not going anywhere. They lost 2 games by a combined 8 points. They lost both inside LBs in preseason, had 5 true freshmen starting on defense at times, and their QB was lost for the year in early November. They still won 11 games. They’ll be back, but the SEC is deeper now than it’s been in awhile. It’ll be tougher to consistently win 12-13 games/year.
17.) Who are your most and least favorite Star Wars movie characters?
GM: Favorite – Luke Skywalker (in episodes 4-6) and Rey (in episodes 7-9)
Least Favorite – Jar Jar Binks (in episodes 1-3) and Maz Kanata (in episodes 7-9)
18.) Who do you think will be the next head coach to win his first national title?
GM: Tough to decide between Dan Mullen and Kirby Smart. Smart has been closer, but Mullen seems to have the momentum… I’ll still take Kirby Smart.
— Greg McElroy (@GregMcElroy) October 14, 2019
19.) What is the hardest hit you ever took on a football field?
GM: Eric Weddle in 2012. Jets vs. Chargers. Strong safety Blitz off the right edge. My running back was supposed to protect middle linebacker to strong safety. He forgot about the strong safety. Weddle hit me at full speed right in the back. The contact wasn’t vicious, but it hurt like hell.
20.) The loudest you’ve ever heard Bryant-Denny Stadium was…
GM: 2009 vs. LSU when Julio was running down the sideline for the game-winning TD.
21.) What active college football head coach not named Nick Saban would make the best ESPN analyst?
GM: NFL would be easier than College. I think Jason Garrett would crush it in TV if he ever decided to jump into our world. But in College, I’d want a good mix of personality and knowledge. Some names off the top of my head would include Pat Narduzzi (Pitt), Brian Kelly (Notre Dame), and Derek Mason (Vanderbilt). But the best option is pretty clear considering the amount of time he spent working at ESPN. That’s Herm Edwards at Arizona St!
You can read more of our interviews with sports media stars here.