The Wolverine

March 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 21 of 91

22 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2021 BY JOHN BORTON J .J. McCarthy can become a CEO, run his own business or serve as an "insanely impactful teacher," if this whole football deal doesn't quite work out. So says Illinois-based quarterback guru Greg Holcomb, who labored for years with Michigan's golden-armed newcomer. Holcomb doesn't expect it to work out that way, at least not right now. Instead, he's got McCarthy becom- ing the starting quarterback at the University of Michigan. Soon. In fact, next fall. "Whatever he decides to do, there's no question he's going to be extremely successful at it," Holcomb opined. "That's the thing that jumps out. You see the physical ability on the field, but it's the other stuff that makes him. "That's why I think he's going to win the job there as a freshman. He's not wired as a freshman. He's wired as an adult. He's got this maturity level to him." He's got Michigan fans eagerly an- ticipating his entrance into the starting QB race — that's for certain. McCarthy tucked away a national championship, a state championship, a 36-2 career record as a starter and 7,905 passing yards with 94 touchdowns as a prep performer. Now he's seeking a bigger prize. Those who have watched him closely caution against dismissing the notion. "He's going to be given the oppor- tunity to run one of the most tradi- tionally high-profile programs in the country," Holcomb insisted. "I don't think that's going to be too big of a task for him, simply because of the way he's wired." SOMETHING ABOUT HIM Jim McCarthy certainly enjoyed direct input into his son's circuitry. But even the father of one of the most coveted prep quarterbacks in the land can't fully explain all the intangibles that have always made J.J. a star. There's no question the prodigy got an early start, taking up football in the first grade and hockey a year later, in his hometown of La Grange Park, Ill. The "It Factor" quickly proved unde- niable. "There's something about him," Jim McCarthy acknowledged. "He just made things happen, whether it was on the ice, with the ball in his hands. He could avoid people when he was running. The puck would always find him. "But he was always willing to give that puck up, as well as throw the touchdown or hand it off to the next guy. If someone came up and asked him, 'How many touchdowns did you have today?' it was always, 'Well, I didn't have any, but the team had four. I was just lucky enough to throw it or run it in.' "He's just an amazing kid that loved that leadership role. He's always will- ing to take that last shot. He always wants the ball in his hands, or the puck on his stick, when the game is on the line." Those chances flooded in when J.J. won the start- ing job at Nazareth Academy in only h i s s o p h o m o re year. A perennial state contender in Class 7A, Nazareth featured a lineup loaded with se- niors in 2018. And a relative child did lead them. "You saw the seniors work with him, and understand, and trust him enough to become their leader," Jim McCarthy recalled. "It was, statisti- cally, his best year. They went on and won the state championship." They did so with a 13-1 record, be- hind a sophomore signal-caller who completed a jaw-dropping 182 of 240 passes (76 percent) for 3,448 yards and 39 touchdowns. He threw only four interceptions and ran in a pair of TDs. He also demonstrated grit when his team most needed it. "He played the state championship with a broken thumb on his throwing hand," Jim McCarthy said. "He broke it two days prior to that, and had sur- gery on it the following Monday. "He played with toughness. It's go- ing to take a lot to keep that kid down, in any way, shape or form. Players realized that. Before every game, he pulls the offensive line together and talks with them in a huddle. He gets everybody on the same page, because he knows he's nothing without them." There's no doubt he's something. The recruiting offers flooding in at- tested to that. His first, from Iowa State, arrived when J.J. was an eighth grader. He just didn't act like it, his dad as- sured. "There's nothing fake about him," Jim McCarthy insisted. "He loves the game. He plays it with a passion. All he wants to do is win. "He doesn't care about a touchdown, h e d o e s n ' t c a re about statistics, he doesn't care about a ranking. Noth- ing. Just win. He did quite a lot of that in high school, and he's hoping that same mentality and same drive pushes into The Big House. "He's just J.J. He's not J.J., the anointed, five-star quarterback. He's just J.J., and that's how he wants ev- erybody to respect him. He is one of the guys, a teammate." The proud father doesn't echo Hol- comb's insistence that J.J. will come PREPPED FOR PRIMETIME J.J. McCarthy Eyes A Wide-Open QB Race 2021 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE J.J. MCCARTHY QUARTERBACK 6-3 • 195 IMG ACADEMY (FLA.) LA GRANGE PARK, ILL. RANKINGS STARS NAT. POS. STATE ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 44 4* 11# ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 37 3* 9# ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ 25 2^ 7# * Ranked at pro-style QB; ^ ranked at dual-threat QB; # ranked in Florida

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - March 2021