The Process: John Parker Wilson and the rise of the secret Alabama quarterback lab
This is a work of fiction. Nothing contained herein is meant to resemble anything real whatsoever. It is merely a way to get through the offseason without going insane. But feel free to get super mad about it if you want.
Deep under the Academy Sports off Skyland Boulevard there is a secret no one talks about. It’s been long rumored that something sinister is going on there, but not a soul dares speak of it out of fear. If you ask anyone you’re liable to get the cold shoulder or a hurried walk.
It’s easily ignored because it doesn’t affect the residents in their day-to-day lives. Out of sight, out of mind and whatnot. But it’s getting hard to look away from the sinister plot brewing many feet beneath the Kayak Accessories. The silence must be broken.
For years, Alabama’s football team has been home to a certain type of quarterback. It’s in the water down there, they say. Boys spring up with full heads of hair, accurate if not overwhelmingly powerful arms and the ability to manage. Football is their passion, and when they speak of it, their eyes sparkle and their accents carry aplomb. They are the Crimson Tide. And under coach Nick Saban, this breed of quarterback has had success at every turn.
In 2008, Saban’s second year at Alabama, the team made it to the Sugar Bowl under then-quarterback John Parker Wilson. Wilson was everything an Alabama quarterback should be in look, play and name, and Saban couldn’t get his mind off it when the senior walked off the field for the last time. The Tide coach is a perfectionist, and he was fixated on replicating what he had in the Hoover High grad so he could spend the rest of his time focused on factors he couldn’t control. After a couple unsuccessful early attempts to find other JPWs out there, he called a meeting with his closest advisors at Dreamland.
“What can we do?” Saban asked. “I’ve searched far and wide for an answer and the fact it has eluded me so, I fear, will drive me mad.”
Passing an enormous bowl of banana pudding across the table, scientist Mikel Potiliapov raised a single finger.
“I may have a solution,” he said.
Saban looked up from the coffee cup he had so intently been staring into.
After previous unsuccessful tests using Samples A-J, the volatility of the next batch of tests has gone down considerably. We are seeing much more sound problem-solving skills and the ability to nod, clap and take three steps in succession. These positive tests lead us to believe this next strain holds the key to unlocking the secret.
For his stint in captivity, QB Zero has responded very positively. He seems to know this is for the greater good. We have given him plenty to keep him comfortable, including checkered shirts, nice grooming products and his very own vegetable garden.
We are confident tests will be concluded before the initial deadline. There is no room for failure on this. The Benefactor has made that perfectly clear.
After previous tests rejected the new experimentations, the Parker strain shows great promise. Accuracy on handoffs has increased ten fold. Sleepy drawl has improved. Overall morale increased. Vocabulary has progressed beyond “teammates” and “hard work” into more complicated diction. We may have finally cracked it. The Benefactor will be most pleased.
It is time. He is ready.
Alabama won the 2009 National Championship. To the surprise of many, junior quarterback Greg McElroy looked far different than he did during his sophomore season.
No one seemed to mind his drastic swings between stable and shaky as the Tide ran through the season, finishing 14-0. Subtle changes – like how he put on his eye black and how he executed high fives – were barely noticeable. Alabama had found its quarterback, or so everyone thought.
Days after the season, Saban received an inner office envelope during a meeting with his staff. Inside was a piece of paper with a single symbol: a weathervane. He excused himself and drove to the meeting spot – an office park just outside of town.
He opened the door to Office 12 and went inside. There was a desk with two chairs. He sat at one. Moments later there were two knocks, followed by another two knocks.
Saban calmly went to the door, opening it to find Potiliapov in a frenzied state.
“It’s all wrong. It’s all wrong. This isn’t how it is supposed to be. We can’t play God,” the scientist said.
“Calm down. You’re not making any sense. You’re hysterical,” Saban said. “Sit down.”
“You don’t understand. They’re instable. They’re still human beings. They don’t all want to fill a role. The first tests were carbon copies, but these offshoots – the deeper we go, the further we get into QB Zero’s psyche. We’re running the risk of it all falling apart. One test too many …”
“Do you hear yourself right now? They are quarterbacks. They aren’t people. It’s in their blood. That is what they are born to do. It’s what they will die doing. There is no psyche. No sense of identity. They will do what we tell them to do or they will go with the other failures. We’ve come too far to throw it away now. It worked. Didn’t you see? It worked.”
“But, sir, I –“
“You know what happens to those who don’t do what they’re told, don’t you, Potiliapov?”
The Russian slowly nodded.
“Continue the tests.”
Although Alabama went 10-3 in 2010, McElroy showed no ill effects of the dangers Potiliapov warned of. The next two seasons quarterback AJ McCarron emerged. There is no doubt a real AJ McCarron is out there somewhere. He may even be in Tuscaloosa.
But the McCarron who led the Crimson Tide to back-to-back BCS titles bears no resemblance. The backstory was bullet proof. How would you be able to tell one high school quarterback from another? Stats can be forged; memories implanted.
The process continued without a hitch.
The failures are mounting. At present time, the list of tests that cannot be rolled out is growing.
The Benefactor doesn’t have much time left. There is one remaining clone I feel confident has the stability to make it through unscathed. Subject Ricky Town should be ready soon. But the others are in stasis, and we are running out of the room, funds and resources to keep them hidden.
The list stands at:
I cannot stand idly by as they remain locked away. They may be clones, but they are genetically identical to you or I. They have a purpose. They have a will. They have a drive. They must be allowed to live. It is my belief quarterbacks are people too. This will be my final log.