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|Latest Line:||Patriots by 5 1/2|
What the NFL needs is more David Carrs.
You need players that can play at the highest levels when you ask them to compete at the highest levels. But when you find those rare diamonds in the rough who are both at the top of their profession as well as definitive all-around solid citizens and human beings, it's those players you want to see more of in the league. If you dig hard enough, you will find those special players who can indeed excel in both the game of football and the game of life.
Warren Sapp. Larry Allen. Terry Glenn. Keyshawn Johnson. Bill Romanowski. Terrell Owens. Jeremy Shockey. David Boston. Ray Lewis. There are many others.
These are men who are at the top of their profession, but who fall short in the citizenship category. These men are anti-David Carrs, each in their own way. Whereas it's still fun to watch these guys play football, you probably wouldn't want your daughters to fall in love with them, or to have your sons emulate them (other than how much money they make).
Charles Barkley once declared that "I am not a role model!" Like it or not, pro athletes are, to some extent, impressionable on the young people of the USA, whether they want it that way or not. There isn't any young sports fan out there who doesn't look up to his sporting heroes with some degree of adulation, and many of them perhaps wish something like, "Boy, I wish I could be like him!"
Carr is definitely that model. He indeed is everything you would want in a son, everything you would want in a prospective husband for your daughter, and everything you would want your son to be like. He really is too good to be true, except that he actually is both good and true.
Unfortunately, Carr won't be in the lineup when the Patriots head down to Reliant Stadium on Sunday to play the Houston Texans for the first time (the Patriots will be making their first visit to the city of Houston since 1988). The Patriots, currently on a six-game win streak, will deal instead with Tony Banks, himself formerly of the Rams, Ravens and Redskins. Banks engineered a 12-10 win on the road last week over Drew Bledsoe and company. Carr, who is out with a shoulder bruise sustained in that game, will watch the game from the sideline. At best, he may be the emergency quarterback, but he won't where he belongs.
Carr is the latest in a long line of "hot new phenoms" who dazzle their leagues by being a "fresh new face" and who bring a ton of game to the table. All anyone in the NBA can talk about, excepting those facing rape charges, is LeBron James. Even though someone else won top rookie honors in the American League, Hideki Matsui remained an intriguing figure for the entire 2003 baseball season.
When Carr came into the league as the top pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, high expectations were placed upon him immediately, given his high draft stature. But the expansion Texans tried to diffuse that pressure by making it clear long before the draft that Carr was their man. Given the fact that Houston was a brand new franchise, Carr would not be under such a glaring spotlight nor intense public scrutiny that James is facing in his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Carr has not disappointed in his brief NFL career thus far. In his rookie campaign of 2002, he completed 52.5 percent of his passes, but suffered 15 interceptions which lowered his passer rating to a 62.8 figure. Thus far in 2003, Carr has increased his pass completion percentage to just under 58 percent, has thrown only nine picks and has a passer rating of 75.1. His numbers will continue to get better as the team around him gets better along with him, as evidenced by the emergence of running back Domanick Davis and first round draft pick Andre Johnson at wideout.
But what makes Carr so endearing to everyone in general is he himself as a person, a family man, and a Christian. Like former Patriot Tebucky Jones, he came into the league already a husband and a father, which is not generally the norm among draftees. His commitment to family as well as to his faith is what puts him in the top pantheon of high echelon sports athletes. As his football career continues to take off, so will his reputation as one of the finest young men to come into the NFL in quite some time.
Carr, who starred at Stockdale High School here in Bakersfield before moving on to Fresno State after graduating in 1997, was well grounded in family values in this city which is distinguished by its sense of a small town feeling within large city limits. Carr's maternal grandfather is a pastor, and religion was a staple of the Carr household. It was this bond with religion which led him to meet his future bride, and to begin married life at the tender age of 19.
Carr met Melody Tipton at a religious summer camp while he was still at Stockdale HS, and the two became instantly inseparable. The two dated for three years, and David could not stand being away from Melody while at Fresno State, which affected both his football playing as well as his classwork. David and Melody were married on March 27, 1999, and this writer bore witness to the event. The couple had already produced their first child, Austin, when Carr was taken first in the 2002 NFL Draft.
The fact that Carr was already married with a two-year-old son made an impression on Houston GM Charlie Casserly. Everyone knew that Carr had prime time NFL potential (his 2001 stats at Fresno State include 344 of 533 passing for 4,839 yards, with 46 touchdowns and only nine picks; this includes an insane 531 passing yards in a Silicon Bowl loss to Michigan State). But when you added in the maturity factor due to the fact that he was also a husband and father at a relatively tender age, Casserly decided that Carr was the man to become the first draft pick in Houston Texan history.
The whole city of Bakersfield exploded in celebration when Carr became the top pick of the 2002 draft. But while Bakersfield celebrated back then and has since looked on with pride and adulation, Texan Nation felt a sense of euphoria not unlike when the Patriots snatched franchise quarterbacks with the top pick in the NFL draft in 1971 (Jim Plunkett) and 1993 (Bledsoe). Houston continues to watch Carr grow, develop and mature, and as long as Casserly and Dom Capers are committed to building a winner, Carr will be in a great spot his entire career.
Carr and his Texans may still be a ways away from their glory days in the NFL (although both Carolina and Jacksonville, the newest NFL teams prior to the arrival of Houston, made it to their conference championship games in their second year, with Capers coaching Carolina back then). But there is no question that the good people of Houston have one terrific centerpiece for their beloved new football franchise. For a city whose quarterback heritage includes George Blanda, Dan Pastorini, Archie Manning, Ken Stabler and Warren Moon (and Steve McNair, albeit briefly during his first two years in the league), Carr has a chance to outshine all these great players.
More than that, Carr has a chance to become a Houston icon, maybe the biggest one that has ever been. When you think Astros, you perhaps think Nolan Ryan or Jeff Bagwell. Akeem Olajuwon, Rudy Tomjanovich and maybe Calvin Murphy are the biggest Rockets ever launched at Hofheinz Pavilion or The Summit. You may not remember the Houston Aeros of the old WHA, but you ought to remember someone named Gordie Howe. When Carr retires, he could very well stand taller than any of these great sporting gentlemen.
And he'll do it with all that is David Carr. Dynamic, handsome, dedicated family man, deeply rooted in his faith. And one awesome NFL quarterback to boot.
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