NORMAN — AJ McCarron's made a life-changing decision shortly after he woke up on Feb. 4, 2009.
He'd gone to bed the night before planning on signing with Oklahoma, despite a long commitment to Alabama, the team that his family had cheered on for years.
“I just liked their football,” McCarron told Alabama reporters this week. “During recruiting as a 17-, 18-year-old, your mind changes about 20 times a day. At the moment, I guess they were just the hot school that I wanted to go to.”
Next month, he'll finish his Alabama career in the Sugar Bowl against the Sooners.
Things likely would've ended much different for McCarron had he indeed flipped from the Crimson Tide.
Instead of signing McCarron in that class, the Sooners inked Drew Allen from San Antonio Alamo Heights.
It's not hard to see McCarron's path for the Sooners being similar to Allen's.
When McCarron considered Oklahoma, he did it envisioning himself as the replacement for Sam Bradford after Bradford's likely early departure following his junior year in 2009.
Had Bradford stayed healthy, McCarron likely would've entered the quarterback competition in the spring of 2010 on at least equal footing with sophomore Landry Jones. Both would've been well ahead of incoming freshman Blake Bell.
But circumstances meant that whichever quarterback the Sooners signed in 2009 was going to be in a bad position.
Instead of Bradford staying healthy and making a run toward another Heisman Trophy, he suffered a shoulder injury in the season-opener against BYU and Jones was forced into action.
Bradford returned a few weeks later but in the OU-Texas game, the second game after his return, Bradford reinjured the shoulder and was lost for the season.
Instead of a wide-open quarterback battle like Bell and Trevor Knight went through before this season, Jones got a lengthy audition and it was clear that he was the Sooners' quarterback of the future.
Jones wound up throwing for nearly 3,200 yards and 26 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman while filling in for Bradford.
McCarron likely would've been the clear backup going into 2010, behind a sophomore who wasn't motivated to leave school early even though he likely would've been a high draft pick.
Allen tried to stick with OU, playing sparingly in 2010-12. Once he graduated, Allen took advantage of NCAA rules and transferred to Syracuse, where he was immediately eligible.
It's hard to imagine McCarron hanging around that long.
Instead of what could've been a turbulent start to his career, the four-star quarterback from Mobile, 200 miles down the road from Tuscaloosa, kept his commitment and signed with the Crimson Tide.
He eased into the starting role with Alabama, redshirting in 2009 and serving as the holder and the backup QB to Greg McElroy in 2010.
By 2011, McCarron seized the starting job and led the Crimson Tide to back-to-back national titles. He had Alabama on track for a third before the wild finish against Auburn last month.
He's thrown for more than 8,600 yards and has 75 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions.
This week, he's making the rounds around the country to several college football awards ceremonies, ending in New York on Saturday for the presentation of the Heisman Trophy. McCarron is one of six finalists.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said earlier this week that he pick McCarron if he had a vote, calling McCarron the best player in the country.
McCarron called it “crazy” that his final college game will come against the team that was nearly his.