Series Rewind

The Boot

A native of Tuscaloosa, McElroy led the Crimson Tide in scoring in the national championship season of 1979, hitting a school-record 15 field goals.
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After spending several months considering whether he should give up football to concentrate on his engineering studies, McElroy instead rededicated himself to his ambition of becoming a winning kicker. “I got no pressure from anybody,” he said. “It was just something I had to do for myself.”

In 1978, an improved McElroy won the Alabama placekicking job, playing a steady role in the Crimson Tide’s march to the national championship.

Then came the dreary night in Baton Rouge, with an undefeated season and the national championship on the line.

Even as the nation’s leading defense pounded LSU, quarterback Steadman Shealy struggled to maneuver Alabama’s powerful wishbone offense on the sloppy field. Twice in the first half, Shealy drove Bama close enough for field goal attempts. Twice McElroy missed.

“At halftime I wasn’t the most popular person in the world,” said McElroy, who had also missed twice in the 1979 Sugar Bowl against Penn State.

When another Alabama drive stalled midway through the third quarter, McElroy and his square-toed shoe set up shop at the LSU 17 yard-line.

An instant after Barry Smith’s perfect snap, Umphrey placed the ball on the tee and McElroy stepped into the ball, which sailed through the uprights. Alabama 3, LSU 0.

No one knew it just yet, but the man who had once lost his scholarship for sub-par performance had now saved Alabama’s perfect season.

“It was not just my three points,” McElroy said. “It was Barry Smith snapping it back. It was Woody Umphrey holding. It was the offensive line blocking. And if any of that falls apart, it doesn’t matter what I do.”

Seven weeks after surviving the deluge in Baton Rouge, Alabama knocked off Arkansas, 24-9, in the 1980 Sugar Bowl to clinch a second consecutive national championship.



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