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Of all the familiar names in the new XFL, former Alabama and NFL quarterback AJ McCarron is one of the best-known players. The 32-year-old signal-caller won three national championships with the Crimson Tide before playing in the NFL for eight seasons. Now, he is the starting QB for the St. Louis Battlehawks in the XFL, and his reason for taking that job is so heartwarming even the league’s owner, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, loves it.

AJ McCarron is living out his dream by picking the XFL over the NFL

XFL, St. Louis Battlehawks, AJ McCarron, The Rock,
(L-R) XFL owner Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, St. Louis Battlehawks QB AJ McCarron | Scott Taetsch/Getty Images; Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

St. Louis Battlehawks QB AJ McCarron is proving that the NFL isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all of professional football.

The veteran signal-caller signed on with the Battlehawks in the third iteration of the XFL. As a quarterback in the league, McCarron is making approximately $59,000 for the season, with $20,000 in additional benefits and $1,000 per team win.

And he took this job despite having offers to be a backup in the NFL.

During his last NFL season in 2021, before an ACL injury ended his year, McCarron made $1.2 million as a backup for the Atlanta Falcons. If the QB took one of those backup jobs available to him last season, he would have made that same amount, as it is the veteran minimum for a player with eight seasons of service time.

So, why did AJ McCarron take a million-plus-dollar pay cut to join the XFL? So that his kids could watch him play.

McCarron has three children with his wife, model and television personality Katherine Webb. The couple didn’t have their first child until 2016, three years into his career as an NFL benchwarmer.

“My 6-year-old loves watching tape of me on YouTube. That’s a big reason I chose to return this way,” McCarron told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I probably could’ve tried to come back with an NFL team and had a chance to probably made bigger money, but no one knows what the future holds. I’m enjoying this and it’s a great way to create some memories for me and my boys.”

The QB took the job in the lesser league for way less money because he wanted his children to see him get to actually play quarterback in a professional football game.

And “The Rock” loves it.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson loves what McCarron is doing

After XFL founder Vince McMahon brought his spring football league back in 2020, which folded due to the global pandemic, one of McMahon’s former WWE employees bought the league for a mere $15 million.

Dwayne Johnson and his longtime business partner, Dany Garcia, bought the league, at least in part, to help football players hang onto their sporting dreams even if they’re not in the NFL. This is what Johnson did decades ago when he went to the Canadian Football League after his time as a defensive lineman for the Miami Hurricanes.

After the AJ McCarron story started making headlines after the first week of the 2023 XFL season, Johnson tweeted twice about how much he loved the story.

In the first tweet, Johnson talked about how personally meaningful McCarron’s story is to him.

“Takes less money signing with us over the @NFL because he wanted his little boys to see him play,” Johnson wrote. “Now he’s 2-0 and led his team to back to back exciting last minute wins. I’d say he’s creating some memories for his boys. AJ’s decision means a helluva lot to me, personally. #XFL.”

In the second tweet, over a video of McCarron taking about how much playing in the XFL means to him, “The Rock” wrote, “Man I love everything about this. Can’t ever count guys like AJ out. They play for something deeper. I root for and say ‘thank you’ to @10AJMcCarron and all our XFL players. #XFL #KawNation.”

The Battlehawks are rolling early in the 2023 XFL season

Aside from the touching story, there is another reason that AJ McCarron is getting so much publicity at the beginning of the new XFL season. That’s because his St. Louis Battlehawks are the first 2-0 team in the league in 2023.

In Week 1, the Battlehawks were down 15-3 to the San Antonio Brahmas with less than three minutes to go in the game. That’s when McCarron and company took advantage of the unique and exciting XFL rules.

The team scored a touchdown, went for a three-point conversion, then converted a 4th-and-15 in lieu of an onside kick, then McCarron hit former NFL seventh-round pick Austin Proehl for the game-winning score.

In Week 2, on the new XFL’s first Thursday night game, McCarron and the Battlehawks erased an early 12-point deficit to win 20-18 on a last-second field goal against the Seattle Sea Dragons.

Next Sunday, AJ McCarron’s team will try to go out and impress “The Rock” again as they take on the DC Defenders in Week 3.


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