J.J. Mccarthy Entering Nfl Draft, Skipping Senior Season After Leading Michigan To National Title

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates after their win in the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game against Washington Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates after their win in the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game against Washington Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — J.J. McCarthy, Michigan's national-championship winning quarterback, is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

McCarthy made the announcement Sunday, a day after being begged to stay.

“The decision was not easy and how could it be — I love my teammates, I love my coaches and I love it here in Ann Arbor," he wrote on his social media accounts.

Jim Harbaugh might be the next to go.

Harbaugh will meet with the Los Angeles Chargers about their head coach vacancy this week, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Sunday because the person wasn’t at liberty to publicly discuss personnel moves.

Besides the Chargers, Atlanta, Carolina, Las Vegas, Seattle, Tennessee and Washington have openings and at least some of those teams may have an interest in bringing Harbaugh back to the NFL.

Many Michigan players have announced they're going pro, including senior running back Blake Corum, who potentially could have returned for a fifth season, and junior linebacker Junior Colson.

The Wolverines had a parade through town Saturday, winding their way to their basketball arena. When it was McCarthy's turn to talk to the sold-out crowd, a chant broke out as he stood and smiled.

“One more year! One more year!" the maize-and-blue clad fans shouted in unison.

McCarthy reminded the audience of his social media post on Nov. 15, 2020 — amid the team's 2-4 pandemic-shortened season — when he asked Michigan fans to take three deep breaths and gave thanks for the faith they had in the coaches and players.

Then, he addressed his future.

“I know lots of us got some big-time life decision to make," McCarthy said on a stage at Crisler Center. “But I just want to let you guys know, whatever decisions come, Michigan will forever be in my heart and will always be in my heart. And, I will be proud to be known as a Michigan man.”

The AP All-Big Ten quarterback completed 72.3% of his passes, ranking sixth, just ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels of LSU. He was ninth in the nation in passing efficiency.

McCarthy threw for 2,991 pass yards, ranking fourth in a single season at Michigan, and 22 touchdowns for the second straight season. He threw four interceptions, none over the last four games and was picked off only once after Week 3.

He has a 27-1 record as a starter over two years, winning 96.4% of his games for the best mark by a quarterback with at least 20 starts since Toledo’s Chuck Ealey closed his career 35-0 in 1971.

He grew up 15 miles west of Chicago in La Grange Park, Illinois. After winning two state titles in three years at Nazareth Academy in his hometown, he spent his senior season of high school at IMG Academy in Florida to play during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Away from his family and confined mostly to his room by himself, McCarthy said he became depressed. He researched ways to improve his mental health and began to meditate, which led to a daily practice.

Even on game days, McCarthy would take a seat at the base of a goalpost a couple of hours before kickoff and meditated to help prepare him for the pressure that comes with playing his pivotal position. He has become a public advocate for mental health and has a foundation, JJ For The Kids, to help children in Chicago and Ann Arbor.

As a freshman at Michigan, McCarthy backed up Cade McNamara as the team ended an eight-game losing streak to rival Ohio State and won its first of three straight Big Ten titles. McCarthy beat out McNamara for the job in 2022, leading to him transferring to Iowa, and helped the Wolverines reach the College Football Playoff for the second of three consecutive years.

He guided Michigan to a win last Monday night over Washington, helping Michigan win its first national title since 1997 and a school-record 15-0 record. The convincing win capped a season marked by a sign-stealing scheme that led to Harbaugh being suspended by the Big Ten for the final three games of the regular season.

NCAA President Charlie Baker told reporters recently that Michigan won the national championship “fair and square.”

Harbaugh also may have a big decision to make soon.

Athletic director Warde Manuel told fans at the championship celebration Saturday night that he was working on a new contract with Harbaugh, who has three seasons left on his deal, in hopes of keeping him away from NFL teams.

Harbaugh returned to Michigan, where he was a star quarterback, in 2015 after going 44-19 over four years with the San Francisco 49ers and leaving amid tension with the front office. He went to three straight NFC championship games and lost the Super Bowl to Baltimore, and his brother, John, nearly 11 years ago.

While Harbaugh is exploring his NFL options, he also is considering staying at Michigan, a person familiar with his thinking told the AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.


AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi and AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy contributed.


Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/LarryLage


AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll