INDIANAPOLIS: Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr knows he can handle any adversity he’ll face in the NFL because of the agony he endured after doctors told him his infant son might die.
The frightening ordeal changed Carr’s perspective and reminded him not to take anything for granted. Often labeled by draft analysts as the fourth-best quarterback in this year’s class behind Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles, Carr is confident his life experiences can help him succeed at the next level.
If the Browns don’t choose a quarterback fourth overall, Carr could become a target later. The team also has a late first-round pick (No. 26 overall) and an early second-round selection (No. 35). NFLDraftScout.com projects Carr as a first- or second-round choice.
But no matter where he lands, Carr vows to capitalize on his opportunity despite any obstacles he might encounter.
“For doctors to tell me my son might not live, there is nothing anyone can do or say that can affect me,” Carr said during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, where he and the other quarterbacks worked out Sunday. “My priorities in life are my faith, my family and then football. You can say whatever you want about me, but I’m going to give everything I have to whatever team I’m on.”
Carr’s wife, Heather, gave birth to the couple’s first child, Dallas, on Aug. 5, a few days after Fresno State’s training camp began. But something was not right.
The baby was born with a condition called intestinal malrotation. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the abnormality occurs in one out of every 500 births in the United States. A twisting of the intestine known as a volvulus can prevent food from being digested normally and cut off the blood supply.
“His intestines were all tangled up,” Carr said. “Nothing was passing through, and he was born eight days early. So the doctors told us if he was born on time, he wouldn’t have lived. So when they found out, what would happen is he would throw up like six feet. He was throwing up everywhere, so they rushed him to surgery. We’re having doctors tell [us] he might not make it.”
Dallas underwent three surgeries, the last one during the second week of September, before the issues were resolved. In the midst of it all, Carr fulfilled his football responsibilities as his senior season began Sept. 1. He had to rush from practice to the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera time and again.
“I’ve been pulled off the field by my coaches,” Carr said. “I think Dallas is doing great, and they’re saying, ‘Hey, Dallas is going back into surgery.’ I ran up the ramp bawling my eyes out because I can’t do anything to help my son but pray for him. There was a lot of emotion going through all that, and I get choked up talking about it now. He’s doing great now, has no problems. We just went to the doctor and they said if we never even tell him what happened, he’ll never know, so we’re very blessed.”
Carr, 22, considers the ability to pursue his dream a blessing as well. The younger brother of David Carr, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Houston Texans before their expansion season in 2002, has been groomed to become an NFL quarterback.
“Just having David is such an advantage,” Carr said. “I’ve been getting ready for this moment since I was 3.”
The younger Carr knew how to break down NFL defenses before he was a teenager. He recalls studying film of the Jacksonville Jaguars with David.
“I went to the game Sunday and I was telling my dad, ‘Hey, they’re about to bring this blitz,’ and next thing you know it happened,” Carr said. “I don’t think 12-year-olds are supposed to be doing that.”
Although Carr admires his brother, he hopes to have a better NFL career. David went 23-56 as a starter.
Asked why he would be more successful, Carr prompted laughter when he quipped, “Well, there’s no expansion teams, so that’s a great thing. That’s one thing that we were fired up about on our side of it.”
Carr flashed his athletic ability Sunday at the combine by posting an official time of 4.69 seconds in the 40-yard dash, fifth best at his position and just one spot behind Manziel’s 4.68. Bortles had a time of 4.93, and Bridgewater didn’t run. Carr also finished second in the vertical jump (34½ inches).
Of the four, Bortles is the only one who threw. The others will throw at pro days with Carr participating in Fresno State’s on March 20.
The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Carr insists he isn’t fazed when draft analysts rank him behind Bridgewater, Manziel and Bortles.
“It’s just fun for me to hear because I know what the teams are saying and what they’re telling me,” Carr said. … “It’s been really good so far.”
Last season, Carr completed 453-of-659 passes (68.7 percent) for 5,082 yards and 50 touchdowns with eight interceptions. However, he struggled Dec. 21 in a 45-20 loss to Southern California in the Las Vegas Bowl, completing 30-of-54 passes (55.6 percent) for 217 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
“To go all year and then finally have the one bad game that happens be at the end of the year, not very good timing on my part,” Carr said. “I wish it was at the beginning of the year, but it’s going to happen. It’s football. It’s adversity. How do you handle adversity?”
Carr handled it by bouncing back last month and impressing at the Senior Bowl. He’s determined to further redeem himself once he enters the NFL, even if he ends up in a city that chews up and spits out quarterbacks like Cleveland.
“I’ve been booed and I’ve had a standing ovation in the same stadium in my career,” Carr said. “I’m used to it. It’s all part of it. [Labeling someone a] franchise quarterback, that’s great, but it’s not about me. Whatever team I go, they’re going to get absolutely everything I have from an effort standpoint, preparation, extra work, making people better around me. They’re going to get all that, and that’s just one piece of the puzzle. It takes a team to win Super Bowls, and that’s my No. 1 goal.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.