By NFL standards, New York Jets quarterback
But if you ask McElroy directly, he’ll be the first to admit he still feels like one.
The Jets’ seventh-round selection from the 2011 draft performed well in two preseason games a season ago before suffering a setback, dislocating his right thumb in the team’s final tuneup to the regular season against Philadelphia. The injury, which required surgery, landed him on injured reserve and ended his first NFL season before it began.
“I feel like I’m a rookie again,” McElroy said at the Jets' SUNY Cortland training camp Monday. “I kind of missed all last year. It was like a redshirt year for me, so it’s really my first go-round. Last year I was fortunate enough to get a lot of reps in camp, so that was really beneficial.
“It’s just unfortunate that I couldn’t build off that momentum and improve throughout last year. But it’s OK, injuries are a part of the game.”
McElroy described the injury as the worst of his football career. After going through a grueling rehab process, the 2009 Alabama national champion is back at full strength and enjoying his time as third-string quarterback on the team’s depth chart.
“I feel like the first three days were pretty good,” McElroy said Monday, evaluating his training camp from an individual standpoint. “I thought today was not very good. But sometimes, you’re going to have those ups and downs throughout training camp. It’s about rebounding and trying to stay as consistent as possible. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back Wednesday and have a better practice.”
This past offseason, McElroy focused heavily on improving his footwork.
“It’s some great depth,” McElroy said. “It’s really, really helpful because we can all work together so well. We really enjoy each other, and I think it’s obviously great to have a lot of guys in the room and a lot of guys willing to work and a lot of guys trying to improve throughout camp and throughout the season.”
Interestingly, three of the four quarterbacks on the squad heralded from major Southeastern Conference programs and faced off against each other in college. Tebow and Florida got the upper hand on McElroy and Alabama in the 2008 SEC Championship Game, while the following year McElroy and his Crimson Tide earned revenge by defeating the Gators for the conference crown.
“It’s great to have some SEC representation here,” McElroy said. “Obviously, the conference is extremely powerful and very strong in the college ranks. It’s great to see some guys getting opportunities in the professional ranks as well.”
For McElroy, he considers it a privilege to have been instructed by some of the best football coaches in the business. In college he played under one of the top college coaches in Nick Saban. Today Rex Ryan is leading him.
“They’re obviously both fantastic coaches,” McElroy said of Saban and Ryan. “They’ve both had a lot of success. But they are different. They’re different personalities and different in the way they handle things. I think both have had success, and I think there’s a lot to be said for that. It just proves that there are so many different styles you can approach as far as a coaching standpoint. Rex has been fantastic and obviously Coach Saban has been great at Alabama as well.”
The 6’2’, 225-pound McElroy said he’s benefited the most from quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh during his short time as a Jet, but he added that he’s learned several things from the two QBs in front of him, Sanchez and Tebow.
“I just want to try and improve and learn more about the game, just help Mark and Tim in any way I possibly can," he said. "That’s really my main focus. That’s really what I want to do.“Obviously, I have other goals as well, long term, but at this point and in this stage of my career I just want to try and be the best third-string quarterback I can be.”