One college refused to let him stay that way.
McLeod committed to defending national champion Alabama earlier this week and announced it Friday, just days after attending a summer camp at the campus in Tuscaloosa.
“Alabama is an awesome program,” the rising senior said. “I wanted to go to a winning program, and they compete every year for a national championship.”
Hidalgo said he feels like the Crimson Tide will be a perfect fit for Walton’s signal-caller.
“I think he’s an Alabama quarterback,” Hidalgo said. “He can go in and manage a game. He’s a smart player, a tough player, and they like the fact he can hang in the pocket and deliver the ball.”
McLeod becomes the second member of the Raiders’ upcoming senior class to commit to Alabama. He joins backfield mate Tyren Jones, an all-state running back who committed to Alabama in February.
McLeod is also the second quarterback to commit to the Crimson Tide for the class of 2013, as they are also bringing in Utah native Cooper Bateman. Bateman is considered by many recruiting experts to be one of the top five high school quarterbacks in the country.
“There is going to be competition wherever I go,” McLeod said, “but they said they would give us both the chance to compete (for playing time).”
McLeod chose Alabama over other schools such as Boston College, Louisville, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Syracuse, East Carolina and Central Florida.
McLeod helped lead Walton to the best season in its history in 2011. The Raiders went 14-1 and advanced to the Class AAAAA state championship game, where they lost to Grayson.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander wasn’t asked to throw much last fall — completing 88 of 130 passes for 1,355 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions — because he was consistently handing the ball to a 2,000-yard back in Jones.
But when he was asked to throw in the playoffs, McLeod came up big.
In a quarterfinal-round game against Dacula, Walton was backed up to its own 5-yard line, facing third-and-7. Instead of playing it safe and handing the ball off or taking it himself, McLeod connected with Zack Blaylock in stride for a 95-yard touchdown pass that put the game out of reach.
In the following week’s semifinal against Lassiter, McLeod again connected on a long touchdown pass, this time to Dakota Richardson for 79 yards to put the Raiders up 21-3. He went 6-for-10 with 174 yards against the Trojans, in a game that sent Walton on to the Georgia Dome to play for the state championship.
“I kind of live for the big situation,” McLeod said. “I didn’t really feel any pressure, and I didn’t get rattled.”
Those are also the kind of situations he chose to play in the Southeastern Conference.
“I don’t think he’s fazed by (those situations),” Hidalgo said. “He’s a quiet kid, but he’s a competitor. He’s a guy that does everything right. He’s a winner.”
The Alabama coaching staff must have thought so, too.
Hidalgo said that, when Crimson Tide assistants Doug Nussmeier and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart came to see McLeod in the spring, they were extremely impressed.
“They said they felt like he was as good a player as there was in the country,” Hidalgo said. “They were blown away with the way he threw the ball. From that moment on, they were sold.”