Senior Bowl: Carr wise to ways of QB world

Derek Carr (John David Mercer/USA TODAY)

Before Derek Carr could walk, his father had a football in his hand. By 10, he was feeling comfortable diagnosing NFL defenses. That's what happens when you're the younger brother of a former No. 1 overall draft pick.

Pleasant and productive, Derek Carr still hears the criticisms. But, thanks to the many experiences of his brother, former No. 1 overall draft pick David Carr, Derek knows how to tune out the noise.

The distractions would be so easy in his position. He has the lineage. He has the statistics, the honors and the accolades. He has been booed and critiqued, even in the midst of an incredible string of efficiency. By now, he has learned how to handle it all.

"When I was young, it was hard. My sophomore year (of college), getting booed in my own stadium, that was hard. That stuff was hard, but as I got older and more mature I realized how much it didn't matter," Carr said Monday after his first practice at the Senior Bowl and in the midst of a dizzying array of media and team interviews. "You just continue to work hard. Things just seemed to turn around.

"I've had people say a lot of crazy things to me, especially during games, and my own fans. Oh, man. There was one game our team, we threw five touchdowns in the first half and I had a guy come up behind me and say, ‘Hey, you need to make quicker reads.' I've heard it all. A fan said that to me. I went to sit down at the bench after I threw a touchdown. We're sitting there and the guy walked up behind me and said it right in the back of my ear. I turned around and put my hands up and smiled. I said, ‘I've heard it all now.'"

He's heard it all regarding his draft stock, too.

At this point, he's prudent enough to know he can't control everything. He can control how he plays, how he practices, how he interviews with myriad NFL teams. But the final analysis won't be in his hands. That's up to NFL scouts and general managers.

So far, he's heard his draft is placed anywhere from the top three overall picks to late in the first round. That's a wide range of analysis and a wide scale of payday in rookie signing bonus, but Carr is wise to the ways of the NFL.

His brother – the 2001 Johnny Unitas Award winner and the No. 1 overall pick of the Houston Texans in 2002 – taught him well, and on many levels. There is the football side and there is the mental side of handling the jeers and accolades with equal aplomb.

"(David) said you're going to be praised and criticized. Ignore both. Just continue to work hard. You know how to work hard. When your coach tells you something, you know what to work on. If I continue to do those things, those are the things he hits on," Derek said.

"You just see sometimes how much people don't know and how ruthless it is. You learn a lot from watching and paying attention. In practice, you learn a lot taking mental reps when you're not in. I sat back and watched a lot and I always go back to what he taught me and the advice he gave me."

Derek said his father, Rodger, had a football in his hands as soon as Derek learned to sit up. His dad would just raise his arm with the football in it. He didn't just learn to crawl before he could walk.

But the mental side might be where Derek has the biggest advantage over the other quarterbacks that are assessed as having more of something – more athleticism, more arm strength, more prototypical quarterback desirables – in this draft. But few can match Derek's early immersion into the mental gymnastics required of the position.

"(David) taught me coverages, pressures, fronts. He's been teaching me that stuff since I was 10 years old," Derek said. "I remember sitting there at 12 or 13 years old, my brother was playing the Jaguars and I was sitting in the stadium and I could tell you what coverage they were playing based on the front. I could tell you what they were doing."

That's a skill serving him well over the past year as one NFL scout after another made the pilgrimage to Fresno State to see the thrower that slung it for 5,082 yards, an amazing 50 touchdowns and equally impressive eight interceptions in 2013, continuing the ascent that started with 3,544 yards, 26 TDs and nine INTs in 2011 and progressed to 4,104-37-7 in 2012 before the culmination in 2013.

Carr's ability to diagnose what's in front of him – whether it is defenders on the field or an aerial view of an entire defense on the film-room screen – is serving him well.

"I make sure I always know the coverage. I make sure I always know the pressures," he said. "From a quarterback standpoint, you can't throw the ball on your back so you make sure you can pick up the coverages and know the pressures and all those things. That's one thing that I've always tried to not get beat on."

He said NFL decision-makers "try to break you down" evaluating defenses, but Carr claims he has never been confused by a coverage.

He is both confident and likeable, qualities that will serve him well in the interview process this week in Mobile, Ala., at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and again at his pro day.

And there is also the maturity factor. He played through his senior season. He will be 23 years old before the draft. And he is married and has a son, which he says are advantages when he faces the demands of the NFL.

"I know what I'm going to when I go home. I don't have extracurricular stuff I have to worry about after work. I have my wife, I have my son and No. 1 my faith," he said. "I try to be as solid of a person as I can be so when I get to football it's my job and I'm going to give it everything I've got and I'm not thinking about things."

NFL brass like that, he believes, but ultimately his experience and production on the field will be the enticer to whichever team enters his name on its draft card in May.

"My No. 1 goal if you asked me when I was little, I was: ‘I'm going to be an NFL quarterback. I'm going to be the best to ever do it. I would always say that. I would never say that now. That was politically incorrect to say that. But that was my mindset and my teachers would be like, ‘OK, that's good, but what else?' My mindset never changed. I stayed on a mission to get there."

That mission is nearly realized. It might quiet his college critics, but there is sure to be another set blossoming at his next stop. He's ready, and he likely won't pay them much attention. By now, he's too wily to the ways of the position.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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