Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
I’ve been a fan of the Dallas Cowboys all my life – at least as long as I can remember. It’s a family tradition I’ve passed on to my family and many of my friends (at least the intelligent ones). I’ve never had season tickets as I don’t live close enough to make that a sound investment, but I’ve been to a number of Cowboy games over the years. And, I’ve had a precious few live encounters with actual, current Cowboys players.
The first Cowboys game I ever attended was at Texas Stadium on December 16, 1979 against the Redskins. I had just had knee surgery from a HS football injury and was in a brace and a wheelchair. True Cowboy fans will remember that game as the one where the Cowboys were playing the Redskins for the NFC East championship (sound familiar?). They fell behind by 17 points at one point in the first half and again by 13 in the 4th quarter before scoring 14 straight capped off by a Staubach throw to Tony Hill to win the game 35-34. After the game, we waited outside the locker room area and I’ll never forget that Billy Jo DuPree saw me in my wheelchair and made an effort to come over and talk to me and wish me well. Up until last Saturday, probably the best single day of my life as a Cowboy fan.
Writing for The Landry Hat is a hobby. I’m passionate about the Cowboys and have a lot of opinions that make it a natural fit. As much as I thoroughly enjoy it, there are very few rewards outside of the thrill you and a small circle of friends and family get when they see your name and article on the internet. But, occasionally we are afforded some rare opportunities as a member of “the media” – a bit of a stretch, but technically true. This last Saturday was one of those times.
The Landry Hat was invited to cover the first annual Brandon Carr Youth Football Camp put on by the Carr Cares Foundation (www.carrcares.org), Brandon Carr’s own non-profit focused on providing educational enrichment and physical fitness opportunities to youth in both Texas and Michigan. My fellow senior writer at The Landry Hat, Mark Lane (@therealmarklane) and I were asked to cover the football camp. Mark was able to have our interview with Brandon Carr (@BCarr39) at the camp recorded and it has already been posted on The Landry Hat (link to the video here). But, there were a number of things that didn’t get captured on the video that are worth sharing.
First of all, Brandon Carr is genuine. He is a rare breed of ultra-talented, highly paid athletes that feel incredibly lucky to be where they are and he has a genuine desire to give back. Brandon had a great, supportive family growing up with both parents in the home. He knows that for many kids these days that is not the case and he wants to give something back to his community that just might make the difference for these kids. It’s not a show. It’s not just something he put his name behind – it is something he believes in strongly. How do I know this? Well, all I can relate is what I observed first hand.
Brandon Carr arrived at Duncanville HS a little late, but it was just him. He drove himself there, did not have a “posse” with him or body guards. If everyone had not recognized him, he could have been just another guy. He immediately jumped into the camp activities and I watched him for nearly two hours work intimately with young athletes of all ages and abilities. He was always upbeat and was giving these kids unbelievable insight into not only how to play football but also into how a man conducts himself. At one point, in the hot Dallas sun, he broke away and spent nearly an hour including our 10-minute interview answering reporter’s questions.
Here are a couple of extra tidbits I picked up.
> Carr was not widely recruited out of HS where he played both receiver and defensive back (he preferred basketball as a sport). He says he kind of “fell through the cracks” as far as recruiting. But, he ended up at Grand Valley State University, a D2 college located in Allendale, MI a 2-hour drive from his home in Flint, MI.
> GVSU may be a D2 school, but it is no glorified community college. The Lakers have won 15 national championships in seven different sports including the two back-to-back national football championships they won in Carr’s junior and senior seasons. But, he started his career with the Lakers as just another fairly unknown freshman player with no guarantee to even make the team. Brandon loves a challenge and he set his sights toward proving all the naysayers wrong. He said, “I told myself, okay, I have to take someone else’s spot on this team. What he became was one of the only true freshman to ever start at the school. By the end of his career there, he was voted Defensive Back of the Year his senior season by the GLIAC (Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).
> But, despite a solid college career he was once again largely off the radar of many NFL teams as the 2008 draft approached. He was finally taken in the 5th round by the Kansas City Chiefs. Although he has never once doubted his own ability, he was once again put in a position of having to prove himself. His position in the draft made him a long shot to even make the roster. He approached it the same way he had as an incoming freshman at GVSU – he had to take someone’s spot on the roster. He felt like he was “branded with the D2 stamp” meaning making the leap from a D2 college program to the NFL is more than most players are able to make. But, make it he did, becoming a first year starter for the Chiefs. They got quite a bargain as his rookie contract was for 3 years and $1.36 million.
At the camp on Saturday, Carr revealed that his father was not a huge fan of his tattoos and that “he gave it a lot of thought before he got his first one a couple of years after being in the NFL”. On the back of his right forearm, he proudly displays a large “D2” with the words “carpe diem” below it. This is meant to remind Brandon of the “D2 stamp” he came into the league with and was a source of many people writing him off. The “seize the day” words below it are to remind folks that you have to create your own opportunities and take advantage of every one. Nothing was handed to Carr, and this is a constant reminder to stay hungry.
> On the front of his right forearm, he sports a sign that looks like the “Built Ford Tough” logo from Ford trucks with the word “Ford” replaced with “Carr”. This “Built Carr Tough” phrase relates to the fact that going back to his senior year of college, Carr has yet to miss a start. That is incredible durability in today’s NFL. He’s proud of that record and it has required him to play through pain and injuries and still perform at a high level. Carr is quite proud of that record and we should all hope that it continues.
Later that day, Mark Lane and I got to attend the Brandon Carr Celebrity Softball Game as well and got to interview Dez Bryant and Mo Claiborne. Those guys are great too! Very nice of them to give us a few minutes. Pretty much the best day of my life as a Cowboy fan! Link to that interview here.
Brandon Carr was as nice and gracious to us as I’ve ever experienced. He treated Mark Lane and I like we wrote for Sports Illustrated and was incredibly generous with his time and was patient and personable. That is incredibly refreshing. Brandon Carr has a new fan in me. Once he became a Cowboy, he was covered under my ‘team umbrella’. But, now having met him personally, I am a fan of him personally as well. What he is trying to do with his foundation is great. I think he is poised to have a breakout season and no matter where the Cowboys end up in the rankings, I hope Brandon Carr has a great season. Yes, I have a Carr jersey on order. Should be here by opening night! Go Cowboys!