Edgerton native Carrier gains high-level attention
GREEN BAY Every year, small-school players across the United States begin what for most is the impossible climb to the National Football League.
The vast majority never even make it to first base: that is, obtaining and passing a legitimate evaluation.
Already safe at first, Beloit College’s Derek Carrier has taken a sizable lead and is heading for second: namely, signing an NFL contract.
Beloit, a private liberal arts institution that has been in existence since 1846, has had only two players drafted into pro football even though it has fielded teams for more than a century.
They were Jack Erickson, a tackle selected in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1953, and Rod Hermes, a quarterback who went in the 30th and final round in 1956 to the Green Bay Packers. Neither made it.
Carrier, 6 feet 3½ inches and 238 pounds, rewrote the Beloit record book as a wide receiver over the last four seasons. His accomplishments against Midwest Conference defenses, however, mean little in the scouting process.
The intrigue with Carrier among some NFL teams stems largely from the success the New England Patriots have had the past two years with Aaron Hernandez, a tight end who functions mostly as a slot, split or out-of-backfield receiver.
“A lot of other teams want to find their own Hernandez or their own (Rob) Gronkowski,” Carrier said last week. “A guy who can split out and create a lot of mismatches. It kind of becomes the hot commodity for that draft.”
Carrier, an inch taller, and Hernandez weigh almost the same. But when comparing Carrier in six speed, athletic and strengths tests from March 7 at the University of Wisconsin pro day to Hernandez’s combine workout in February 2010, Carrier was better in everything but the bench press.
Not only that but Carrier, who carries a 3.87-grade point average in pre-med and will graduate May 12, more than doubled Hernandez’s score on the Wonderlic intelligence test.
“It wasn’t just a good workout—he had a great workout,” a personnel man for an AFC team said. “I’ve watched a little film of him. Beloit…isn’t that Division III? But I think somebody will take a shot in the sixth or seventh (rounds). Maybe somebody takes him higher. He’s a big kid and he ran awfully well.”
Since that workout, agent Ron Slavin of Madison has fulfilled requests from all 32 teams for game tape of his client. Carrier spent a day last week in Seattle visiting with Seahawks’ officials, and on Monday departs for a visit with the Oakland Raiders.
Earlier, the Patriots dispatched Chad O’Shea, their receivers coach, to work him out at Beloit’s 3,000-seat Strong Stadium, where fewer than 500 attended the 2-8 Buccaneers’ final two home games.
In the last year, Carrier estimated he has met in Beloit with scouts from all but three or four clubs.
“If someone would have told me four years ago that this would be happening I’d probably call them a liar,” said Carrier. “It’s just been an amazing experience.”
Carrier wasn’t among the hundreds of prospects who left school in January for exhaustive training and coaching on their agents’ dime at any number of high-tech facilities down south. He maintained his quarters at the Sigma Chi fraternity and worked out on his own.
Help from Bulls
Last summer, Carrier spent a three-month internship with the Chicago Bulls’ strength coaches. They wrote him a training program, which Carrier has followed assiduously.
His present six-day-a-week workout routine is not new for Carrier. Growing up in nearby Edgerton, he lived for whatever sport was in season.
For his high school Crimson Tide, Carrier was a three-year starter in basketball and baseball (center field) and a two-year starter in football. He remembers vividly a heartbreaking regional loss to the Monroe Cheesemakers in his last basketball game.
“A lot of these schools kind of discourage multisport athletes,” he said. “I think that’s something you should encourage. The need to specialize kind of takes away from the experience.”
The Badgers offered Carrier a berth as a preferred walk-on, but he finally decided he just couldn’t walk away from basketball. Carrier considered UW-Whitewater, but basketball coach Pat Miller said the Warhawks discouraged playing two sports for competitive and scheduling reasons.
When the football and basketball coaches at Beloit called to say they’d accommodate his two-sport desires, he became a Buccaneer.
In two seasons of basketball, Carrier started 21 games and averaged 8.3 points. With NFL scouts beginning to call in spring 2010, Carrier decided he couldn’t commit fully to a third year of basketball and reluctantly gave it up.
By most accounts, Carrier will either be drafted or signed as a free agent. Among other things, he can look forward to being called something like “Beloit” by less-than-impressed new teammates.
Curious about the scouting buzz surrounding Carrier, an NFL personnel man watched 2½ games of Beloit football during a break in draft meetings last week.
“He’s out wide and catches a screen pass, and this little itty-bitty corner comes up on him and the kid (Carrier) runs out of bounds,” the scout said Saturday. “Makes no attempt to run him over or use a stiff-arm. Or anything. I lost interest on one play.
“I’m sure he’s a great kid, but at that level they really don’t know what they don’t know. You’re looking at a very raw lump of clay. He’ll take a long time to develop even if he takes the bit the first year.”
Reaching third base would be making an NFL roster. Having a long, successful career would be hitting a home run.
“If I had to describe myself in a few words I’d say determined and hardworking,” Carrier said as he prepared for another day in the weight room and gym. “Obviously, with the numbers athletically, I can succeed. I don’t see it as being anything I can’t handle.”