BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alex McGough is just like any other 26-year-old making their way in Birmingham.

He plays video games, prefers dogs over cats and listens to plenty of music from country singer Morgan Wallen, whom he shares an uncanny resemblance with. However, where McGough might be different from many his age is how he’s been tasked with leading a brand new team in a brand new football league starting this Saturday.

Back in February, McGough was one of eight players invited to the inaugural USFL Draft. The league said they would only allow the top selections to attend in person.

“I assumed everyone was going to be there,” he said. “And then I got there and there were eight of us and I was like, ‘Oh, this is, this is pretty cool.’”

While McGough knew he was going in the first round of the draft, he didn’t know which team was going to pick him up. Then a familiar face appeared.

Skip Holtz has been a football coach for the better part of three decades. The son of legendary college coach Lou Holtz, the younger Holtz took the head coaching job for the revival of the Birmingham Stallions in late January. Entrusted with putting together a competitive team ready to take the field less than a month after being drafted, Holtz decided to go with a guy he had plenty of experience with.

While the head man for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Holtz had two separate battles trying to contain McGough while he was behind center at Florida International University. Specifically, McGough gave the Bulldogs fits in the 2017 matchup.

“I think he threw for about 430 yards against us that day. It was a high-scoring event, I do know that, but we had to score 45 points just to win that game,” Holtz said.

His numbers are slightly off; McGough threw for over 280 yards and three touchdowns that night in Miami. It was just the third time the Bulldogs gave up that kind of passing in the season, and one of them was to future NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes.

But Holtz couldn’t deny McGough’s impact or skill during those games and he drooled over what the QB could do in his offense. So, with the sixth overall pick, McGough’s name was called, followed by congratulatory videos from Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney and former Auburn legend Bo Jackson, as well as a bearhug from Holtz.

“It’s a real honor. There’s really not a lot of other words,” McGough said. “I’m grateful to be a part of this organization. I’m looking forward to a great season. It’s also an honor to be playing at the home site.”

And while there were nothing but smiles inside the draft room, many people were left wondering who this tall, long-haired kid from Florida was.

The draft was not televised, however, every pick was announced on the teams’ Twitter pages in real-time. At 6:17 p.m., the Stallions tweeted a photo of McGough saying, “We got our man under center.” The comment section was filled with bewildered gifs, befuddled pictures and plenty of question marks.

While there were scatterings of people singing his high praises, the majority of fans were still looking for answers to who the real Alex McGough is?

Simply put, in a world where quarterbacks are considered larger than life, McGough feels a bit more real, more like a friend or neighbor as opposed to someone who’s gone the moment the TV is turned off.

Like countless kids, McGough started playing football as soon as he could walk, but his father wouldn’t allow him to play contact ball. By the time he hit fourth grade, the football itch was too much for McGough, and he was finally allowed to put on pads and play the game.

From then on, he was hooked and started making big plans for the game he loved.

“I kind of just always had that dream,” McGough said. “In the back of my mind and I didn’t really ever not think it. I think if you stop thinking or you don’t think that you’re going to make it or be at the highest level or be the best, I don’t think you’ll ever achieve it. So, I always have that in my head like I could be the best and I want to be the best.”

With that goal in mind, McGough worked his way up to the Division I level at FIU, then making it to the coveted 1.2% of players drafted into the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks took him in the seventh round and planned him to back up Russell Wilson, one of the best and wealthiest quarterbacks in the league.

“I learned a lot, you know, as far as on the field and off the field,” he said. “Russ kind of was a prime example of how to be a pro, how to be a pro quarterback, you know, of living life off the field as well as on the field. And he, you know, took care of his body really well. And he always tried to get me, you know, to do the things he was doing. And I kept telling Russell…’I don’t get enough money like you. I can’t do that.”

But it wasn’t just Wilson he got to shadow. McGough made stops in Jacksonville where he was tutored by Nick Foles, a former Super Bowl MVP, and Houston where Pro Bowl regular Deshaun Watson was in charge.

Although his dream of making it to the NFL came true, it was anything but sweet. In October 2020, McGough was released by the Texans. He did get one more brief stretch with the Seahawks but on Aug. 23, 2021, he was cut. Like many others, McGough began looking for a life after football.

“I honestly didn’t know if I was going to play again,” he said. “I didn’t know if I wanted to, to be honest.”

McGough continued to stay in shape. Although he stayed away from football training, he was committed to avoiding packing on any weight. Not knowing what was next, he sat down with his agent, his family and his girlfriend, where they all reached the conclusion that above everything, McGough was a football player.

And that may be the most relatable part about McGough. The love his family gives him and the love he gives back. In his own words, McGough does it all on the field for them.

“I know a lot of people ask, like, what’s your why? Why do you play? That’s mine, my family,” he said. “Really all the people who love me and other people that I love, I want to make them proud. I want to make them excited. And I just want to play my hardest for them. And they just support me. It doesn’t matter how I do, how I perform. As long as I try my best and gave it my all, they’re going to be behind me and that’s really all you need.”

McGough placed his name in the USFL Draft pool, looking for that second chance amongst 500 other athletes, and he got it. Right after that moment with Holtz at the draft, the two immediately started getting to work on the season. In his short time here in Birmingham, McGough has been impressive leading up to the inaugural game against the New Jersey Generals.

“I think he’s done a really nice job picking it all up,” Holtz said. “As soon as we drafted him, he and I got a chance to meet together and sit down and start putting in the offense. He built flashcards, he’s learned it, he knows it really well, he’s executing really well. I think he’s doing a really nice job for us.”

But what fans may also want to know, is how will he and the team perform this season? Sportsbooks have them picked dead last going into the year. While he is stunned by this revelation, McGough always welcomes a challenge.

“Those Las Vegas people think they know everything,” McGough said. “I always play with a chip on my shoulder. I don’t put my mind into that. I played games in college where we were 24-point underdogs and won…I’m not too worried about it.”

In the end, McGough wants to make his family proud, prove his doubters wrong, and live his dream of playing football, all while helping put a new team together in the Magic City.