Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy is not your typical quarterback, not your typical person. A spirited person, a purveyor of thought, a deep thinker — someone who is wise beyond his years when you speak with him.
With that in mind, we caught up with J.J. at Michigan’s Fiesta Bowl Media Day to discuss things that shape his worldview and how the type of person he tries to be on a daily basis. The conversation includes banter about philosophers and more. Read the transcript below.
Trevor: You say you want to be a beacon of light and you’re always posting (on Instagram), it could be Albert Camus like this one. “Maybe it’s not about a happy ending, maybe it’s about the story”. Him, it could be Ralph Waldo Emerson, it could be Plato. How long have you loved philosophy or spiritual type philosophy?
McCarthy: I just was always naturally gravitated towards it because you turn on the TV nowadays and one of the first things I pop on is the news and it’s always talking about all the killings and all the horrible things that are happening in this world. And just being able to use my influence in a positive way and spread positive news and maybe someone picks up on that and inspires them to go down the same route and find better ways to better themselves. It’s just all about promoting personal growth and personal change in a positive direction.
Trevor: Do you have any favorite philosophers? Because you’re posting ‘em every day?
McCarthy: I love Lazo Tzu. Lao Tzu’s always a great one. The way I look at it, there are so many philosophers out there that just don’t have the label as well.
Trevor: Sure, sure, yeah! They could even be scientists or astrophysicists.
McCarthy: Exactly. Even artists.
Trevor: Musicians, Football players!
McCarthy: Yes, yes.
Trevor: Have you taken any philosophy courses so far in college?
McCarthy: I did, but I had to drop out because Michigan made it way too hard and it was not fun.
Trevor: You know what Transcendentalism is?
Trevor: Being at one with nature.
Trevor: Do you consider yourself a bit of a Transcendentalist in your travels?
McCarthy: For sure, yes.
Trevor: Do you think that impacts you in practice, as a leader, and everything else?
Trevor: How so?
McCarthy: I try to make sure that I’m only giving off that positive energy and only giving off a positive aura, and I feel like that just kind of roots me and keeps me grounded in that every single day. Making sure I’m making a commitment to that lifestyle. It’s benefited my life in so many ways more than football.
Trevor: You’re 19 years old and certainly you’ve learned a lot from coach Harbaugh, you say that it’s a father-son relationship but the “happy warrior” thing this year and everything that goes along with it, could you say it’s fair that coach Harbaugh has learned some things from you, too?
McCarthy: Yeah, I mean we’re all learning from everyone and every situation. I’m learning from you, I’m learning from all the beautiful people in here but that’s one of the things that I really value about him is that he doesn’t have that closed mindset. He’s always open-minded to everything and always just a sponge of new information. And the best thing about it too is he doesn’t have a huge ego involved — which he calls it his burnt wood. It’s all just no emotions involved, what’s the truth and that’s something that’s really powerful.
Trevor: Thank you.
McCarthy: Yes sir, nice talking to you.
Listen to the conversation below in podcast form.