J.J. McCarthy is the quarterback of the Michigan Wolverines, who are currently ranked number four in the Associated Press poll behind Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama.

Thus far McCarthy, a former five-star prospect from La Grange Park, Illinois, has lived up to the hype he came onto campus with, racking up 848 passing yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions on a completion percentage of 78.6%.

McCarthy’s exploits on the field are well known, but it’s his off-the-field work that is also inspiring countless people.

McCarthy’s ‘For the Kids Foundation’ is a non-profit that distributes sales and donations to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, as well as the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.

The Foundation’s logo is the simple smiley face shown below — a symbol Michigan fans may have recognized during McCarthy’s ascent to the top as Michigan’s new starting quarterback.

The J.J. For the Kids logo, seen on McCarthy’s hand on game days.

The Origins of J.J. McCarthy’s Smiley Face


McCarthy draws the smiley face on his hand on game days as a reference to an impactful message from a young fan he once met after one of his high school games, according to a report from SI.com.

McCarthy had been signing autographs after a tough loss during his high school career when he was approached by a young girl who asked him to sign a newspaper.

The girl asked McCarthy why he looked so upset, as if he wasn’t having any fun playing the game.

McCarthy responded by saying that he didn’t play well, and that he was unhappy his team lost.

As the old saying goes, sometimes you have to talk to (a kid) to understand life again.

In this case, the young girl offered her perspective to McCarthy, which was life-changing for the young quarterback.

The girl explained to J.J. that he should be having fun playing football.

After all, it’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun.

The girl then took a Sharpie that McCarthy was using to sign autographs and drew a smiley face on his hand as a reminder to always have fun.

McCarthy Keeps the Tradition Alive


Since that day, McCarthy has drawn the smiley face on his hand before each game, according to the SI report, including every game at the University of Michigan.

The photo below of McCarthy hugging Fox analyst Gus Johnson shows the smiley face, which has since taken on a life of its own.

mccarthy smiley face
Photo via The Winged Helmet/Facebook

McCarthy has continued his charitable efforts, while continuing to lead Michigan toward another potential Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance.

With every scramble, long-distance touchdown pass, high-five, and Michigan victory, McCarthy comes closer to fulfilling the vision the unnamed little girl had for his football life, and his playing career.

It’s just one part of what makes McCarthy one of the most exciting young players the Wolverines have seen in decades, and a potential first-round NFL draft pick with the talent to redefine the quarterback position in Ann Arbor and beyond for years to come.