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John Metchie III knows how to find open space on a football field. He knows even better what to do when he finds it with the ball in his hands.

Earlier this month against Miami, Metchie caught the ball in motion at the 18-yard-line, flourishing a high-step to throw off the opposing defender before diving for the endzone. Metchie got the party started in Alabama’s season-opening blowout. It was a preview of things to come this season for Alabama, where the Canadian Metchie will be a tone setter for college football’s top team.

The 21-year-old from Brampton picked up a ring as a major contributor for Alabama last season, a team that went undefeated en route to winning the 2021 College Football Playoff National Championship. He is the lone offensive star left from that championship-winning team. Metchie held a relative supporting role then, but it is his show in 2021, and he is projected to be an early NFL draft pick based on the opportunity he has to shine this season.

Metchie went from the GTA to football heaven, playing in the deep south for the sport’s most storied program. He couldn’t have made a better choice for his college football career, as Alabama’s championship dynasty is unmatched and remains ongoing.

2020 saw the Crimson Tide win their sixth national championship under head coach Nick Saban, which is tied for the most in history by any coach with one team. The trophy case in Tuscaloosa demonstrates the fact that the lineage of elite talent that passes through the Alabama program has yet to waver since Saban took over. Alabama is both a college football powerhouse and a factory that specializes in the production of NFL talent.

As is the case in college sports however, top athletes are rarely there for long and it is up to teams like Alabama to constantly recruit and develop new players. The top quarterback, running back and wide receiver from last year’s championship team all went pro after the season, leaving the offence in Metchie’s hands.

“I’m not really one to buy into external pressures and things like that. I’m internally motivated and I am my toughest critic.”

Metchie had 79 passes thrown his way in 2020, roughly half of the targets that leading receiver and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith had. That number should skyrocket this fall, with the Crimson Tide looking to find increasingly creative ways to get the ball to Metchie as the season goes along—like they did with Smith a year ago.

He will have to be a catalyst for a group that can seldom afford to stumble, given its sky-high expectations. On top of being the team’s top receiver, Metchie is also the veteran of the Alabama wide receiver room. He never had to necessarily be ‘the guy’ that younger players looked to before, but he is now. Still, Metchie says he doesn’t feel an increased level of pressure given the atmosphere he has learned and developed in.

“I don’t think it is [more pressure], because just being here for the amount of time, I’m kind of prepared for it… It’s something you’re definitely prepared for when the time comes,” Metchie said.

“It doesn’t feel any different because I always had the highest expectations for myself. So, I’m not really one to buy into external pressures and things like that. I’m internally motivated and I am my toughest critic.”

John Mechie III
Image via Alabama Athletics Photography

Alabama is ranked No. 1 in the nation once again this season and Metchie will likely be a true focal point of the offence for the first time. When he arrived at Alabama as a freshman, Metchie was behind four wide receivers on the depth chart that wound up going in the first round of the NFL draft. He caught just four passes that year amongst stiff competition, but unexpectedly became a major part of Alabama’s offence last season.

Metchie made the most of his opportunity and was the team’s second-leading receiver as a true sophomore in 2020. He accomplished that even though he was playing through an ankle injury the entire final half of the year. Metchie never missed a game.

“It limited me a lot. It was difficult to walk, let alone run, so it definitely limited my game. It was just something that I wanted to do. Knowing how much work we put into the season, nothing was going to stop me from being out there, and I think just how competitive we are here,” Metchie said.

He had surgery on that ankle after the national championship game in order to repair the damage done, as well as another surgery on his hip. Rehabbing those two lower-body injuries consumed his offseason, but Metchie says he is feeling right physically through the first few weeks of the new college football season.

John Metchie III
Image via

Metchie’s position as a leader on the team is validated by the confidence that his all-time great head coach places in him. “John Metchie is a very mature guy,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said during SEC media days in August. “He has also set a good example and been someone that other players can look to and emulate because of the example he sets.”

“I think if I just focus on being the best version of myself, everything will take care of itself.”

At Alabama, setting that example is about more than just being the best player on gamedays. It is also about being the best player in practice, in meetings, and in all facets of student-athlete life. The program helps develop the type of work ethic and mental fortitude that consistently carries its players to success in college and professional football. To be someone that can be relied upon by his coaches and his teammates, Metchie seeks to bring his best on a daily basis. In his mind, being great means being consistent.

“I think it’s just remaining present, like knowing we have a game but not looking to the game this weekend. [Instead], looking to everyday and being present in every day, every practice and not thinking about something down the road,” Metchie said.

Metchie is a leader now rather than a learner, as Saban spoke to this summer. New starting quarterback Bryce Young also said in August that he sees Metchie as the “cornerstone of Alabama’s offence”.

Metchie is versatile and explosive. At six feet tall and 190 pounds, he is a strong run blocker but is truly built for speed on the football field. Metchie possesses the kind of crisp route running that can only come from years of practice and pronounced body control. It his defining trait and what jumps off the screen anytime you watch him.

He is a technician down the field on deep passing plays in particular, which has become a tenet of the Alabama offence. It is that smoothness mixed with explosive potential that makes Metchie a special receiver, and what will likely draw the attention of NFL scouts next spring.

This will be Metchie’s junior season at Alabama, which means that he can declare for the next NFL Draft. He is already being projected right now by a few major outlets to go in the first round, including USA Today’s Draft Wire, Sporting News, and the Draft Network. Metchie would only be the sixth Canadian ever to go in the first round of the NFL Draft, but the first-round receiver tradition runs deep at Alabama.

Seven Alabama receivers have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in the past decade, including two each of the last two years. That group includes current NFL stars Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley, who helped blaze the trail for Crimson Tide receivers. Can the kid from Brampton join that unparalleled group next April?

“I don’t really see much of that,” Metchie said of the early mock drafts. “I think my thoughts on that all is I still have a lot that I want to show and hopefully this year I am able to do that. I think if I just focus on being the best version of myself, everything will take care of itself.”

Metchie has not been able to journey home to Canada since the start of the pandemic. He has stayed in Alabama, focused on maximizing his time with the Crimson Tide.

He will already bring one championship ring with him when he can safely travel back to Brampton. Perhaps he can bring a second home after this season, or a trophy for his parents’ bookshelf, or even better: the prospect of achieving his NFL dreams.

Anything less than a return trip to the national championship game will be viewed as a disappointment for Alabama, and John Metchie III is expected to help get them there.