When Alan McElroy jogged onto the soggy grass at Tiger Stadium, facing the most important kick of his career, something in his mind clicked.
One moment he was engulfed by the deafening noise of a raucous, hostile crowd.
The next he was insulated from the madness—like someone had suddenly pressed the mute button.
“You have to get to a point of blocking out everything,” McElroy explained. “Once you get out there, you just get into the zone. You don’t hear the crowd. You don’t hear anything except your teammates. You have to forget about those 300-pound guys coming at you. That’s the way it was that night.”
On the rainy, cold, miserable night of Nov. 10, 1979, with No. 1-ranked, defending national champion Alabama locked in a scoreless game against LSU, every eye in the place focused on McElroy as he set up for a 27-yard field goal.
Woody Umphrey, his holder, who also happened to be one of the SEC’s leading punters, stepped into position, looked at the kicker and said, matter-of-factly, “Are you ready, Mac?”
He nodded, fulfilling one of the steps in their routine.
Four years after walking onto the Alabama team and earning a scholarship, the Tuscaloosa native had arrived at the moment that would forever seal his name in the history books.
But it almost never happened.
After an inconsistent McElroy lost the placekicking job to walkon Roger Chapman in 1977, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant summoned him for a private chat, stripping him of his scholarship.
“I completely understood because I was not performing my job like I needed to,” McElroy said. “That was the low point of my career. Very tough situation. I did some serious thinking after that.”
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