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Why Did Quarterback AJ McCarron Happily Take a Pay Cut From $4 Million to $60,000? Former college star and NFL quarterback AJ McCarron is now chucking the ball in the XFL.

By Dan Bova

Ronald Cortes | Getty Images

Former star college quarterback AJ McCarron led Alabama Crimson Tide to win two national championships in 2012 and 2013. Not too shabby. Then he spent six years as a backup in the NFL. In his mind, shabby. Very shabby.

After recovering from a knee injury in 2021, the quarterback is back in the game — but a slightly different game.

Related: Former Eagles Quarterback Donovan McNabb Explains Life After Football

Rather than returning to the NFL with a $4 million salary (which he earned during his last full season with the Houston Texans), McCarron entered the XFL as the starting quarterback for the St. Louis Battlehawks — with an expected salary of $60,000, according to ESPN.

He did this on purpose. Why? Two big reasons.

Reason 1: Fun. McCarron told ESPN, "It's just fun to come out here and play, I missed playing. Not always just being a backup — and that's a great living, it really is, and I absolutely love it — but I love playing. This is special, and I can't thank the XFL enough."

Reason two: His kids. "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."

Related: NFL MVP Drew Brees's 4 Simple Lessons on Living a Powerful and Effective Life

Many are applauding McCarron's gutty and heartfelt thinking, including XFL co-owner Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who may be clapping the loudest for financial reasons (not to mention he has very large hands and strong arms).

"Takes less money signing with us over the @NFL because he wanted his little boys to see him play," Johnson tweeted. "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"

Have you ever taken a pay cut to take a more pleasant job? I have. It wasn't a difference of a couple of million, but it was enough that when bills rolled around, I sometimes thought to myself, "Why the hell did I do that?" But then I realized that my stomach wasn't in a knot and I didn't wake up with an immediate sense of dread that morning. So while perhaps not the best financial decision, it definitely resulted in an overall happier version of myself.

So I will second The Rock's enthusiasm for McCarron's decision — partly because I'm afraid he'd body slam me if I didn't, but mostly because we have limited time on this earth and we should be pursuing what brings us genuine joy. Go Battlehawks!

Dan Bova

Entrepreneur Staff

VP of Special Projects

Dan Bova is the VP of Special Projects at He previously worked at Jimmy Kimmel Live, Maxim, and Spy magazine. His latest books for kids include This Day in History, Car and Driver's Trivia ZoneRoad & Track Crew's Big & Fast Cars, The Big Little Book of Awesome Stuff, and Wendell the Werewolf

Read his humor column This Should Be Fun if you want to feel better about yourself.

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