June 10, 2013
By Jason Clay
By Jason Clay
FRESNO, Calif. - The Fresno State football team and quarterback Derek Carr both had fine 2012 seasons.
The Bulldogs went 9-4 and won their first conference title since 1999 under the direction of first-year head coach Tim DeRuyter.
Before the 'Dogs' appearance against SMU in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, Carr announced that he would return for his senior season in 2013.
The momentum for both himself and the Bulldogs had been building and building, but just like that, with a 43-10 loss to the Mustangs on Christmas Eve, it was all lost. What we all came to learn last year is that fine is not good enough.
Nevertheless, the tough defeat did not derail Carr's dreams one bit and he's now on a mission to lead Fresno State to its greatest season ever as he aspires to be the best Bulldog of all time.
"I think he's just scratched the surface right now," head coach Tim DeRuyter has said of Carr. "I think that as good of a quarterback as he is, he could be the greatest in Fresno State history and he's got one more year to do that. We haven't had a Heisman Trophy winner here. We haven't gone to a BCS bowl. Those things are out there for a great leader like him and I think that's a challenge he's looking forward to."
If Carr can throw for 4,104 yards playing the entire season with a sports hernia - an injury he sustained late in fall camp but did not disclose to anyone other than the athletic trainers and coaches - imagine what he can do this fall coming back 100 percent healthy.
It will be his second season running offensive coordinator Dave Schramm's spread offense, third as a starting quarterback and no one knows the history of the program quite like him.
He's bled Bulldog blood ever since he was a little kid watching his older brother David become a star at Fresno State.
Now Derek, who lived in David's shoes as a 10 year-old in 2001 and who saw last season come to a screeching halt, is determined to re-write history.
"I really believe in these coaches and I really believe in what we are doing here," said Carr, who owns the Fresno State career completion percentage record at .652 and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 63-to-16 in two years under center. "I really believe in finishing what you start. The whole reason I came here was to win a championship."
In the last five games of the 2012 regular season, Carr and the Bulldogs were rolling. They won five-straight while averaging 47.2 points and 515.4 yards of offense. Carr threw for an average of 332 yards in that stretch, completed 67.6 percent of his passes and had 17 touchdowns against one interception.
In the regular season finale against Air Force - the game in which Fresno State clinched the Mountain West championship - Carr set a new school record for the highest single-game completion percentage when he connected on 28-of-32 passes for 452 yards and four touchdowns.
Because of that dominating stretch, the Bulldogs were as confident as ever entering the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl. Unfortunately, confidence didn't help Fresno State in the Christmas Eve 33-point loss to SMU.
"We got humbled. Sometimes I guess you don't want to say that, but you may need that," Carr said after the game where he was sacked seven times. "I know this gives us something to work for in the offseason. I can't wait to move on from this one and get going."
"I know if it's in Gods will, it's in Gods will. It already happened and he's never been wrong before," Carr said. "I remember telling guys after the SMU game, `his plan has never been wrong.' But our job here on earth is we have to go out and work for it. With hard work, it pays off over time and I know that we got to go earn it."
Playing Through the Injury
Three days after the bowl loss to SMU, Derek Carr had surgery to repair his sports hernia - which in layman's terms is basically a tearing of the abdominal wall just above the groin. Typically the injury is exacerbated with activities such as running, cutting and bending forward, all movements that cannot be avoided on the football field, especially for a quarterback with opposing defenders looking to take his head off.
That is the injury he played through for an entire season. He says it happened about a week before the first game.
"It wasn't too bad the first game, but playing on it, it got worse and worse as the year went on," he said.
Despite the pain, there was no way he was going to have the surgery early in the year and miss the season.
"It was tough on me personally," Carr said. "When things are happening to me, I tend to hold things in and so I would say me being the type of person I am, that's why it was on the hush.
"Hiding it was hard. There were times when I would run straight out of bounds into [Fresno State Athletic Trainer] Tony [Hill's] arms and just wanting to yell or cry it hurt so bad. I was definitely blessed to be able to play the whole year because there were some games where I didn't know if I would be able to make it through warm-ups."
He more than "made it through" warm-ups along with the entire season and is now back 100 percent working hard with the team during summer strength and conditioning sessions.
"My mentality right now is what can I work on to get better," Carr said.
Playing the Part
Being a starting quarterback, there's a lot of pressure that gets put on your shoulders. That does not bother Carr because no one else could put as much pressure to succeed as he does on himself.
And Carr takes that to heart.
"Being a quarterback is an everyday job for the whole year - 365 - you can't just be a quarterback on Saturday's," said Carr, who was a team captain last year. "If you don't run hard or you don't try to lift more weights than the guy next to you, than I don't think it's for you because I don't think that is someone that I would want to follow."
Through his hard work and play on the field, Carr has earned the respect of his teammates.
"I respect Derek as a leader and I go to him to talk about a lot of my problems because he always seems to know what to say," wide receiver Isaiah Burse said.
Fellow receiver Davante Adams added that Carr "leads with his voice as well as by example, which is in my opinion the most important aspect of leadership."
One thing that is never lost with Carr is his teammates and he attributes any success to them.
"I thank those guys so much because without them none of this would be happening," Carr said. "My receivers make me look a lot better than I am and my offensive line gives me the time. You got to give those guys the credit. I just stand there and throw it."
Derek Carr is an avid Batman fan. He'll wear a batman shirt under his shoulder pads from time to time. The dog he and his wife, Heather, own is named Bruce.
"You got to get into a different mindset and mine is Bruce Wayne, that's how I like to think of it," Carr said. "Being smart, being cool, being collected out there, taking what the defense is giving you and keep marching down the field. Then when the play calls for it, put the cape on and make the play.
"That's what my brother has taught me since I was little and that's how I kind of model my game. That's where my mind goes so to speak on game day."
That mindset has proven to be one of success. Carr has averaged 12.3 yards per completion during his career with 17 completions of over 50 yards, 10 of which went for touchdowns.
He is also the only returning quarterback in the FBS that has over 6,000 career passing yards, 50 or more career touchdown passes and less than 20 interceptions. No other QB meets all three categories.
Entering the 2013 season now, numbers don't mean a whole lot to the fifth-year senior. Sure he only needs 3,049 passing yards to break the school passing record that Kevin Sweeney has held since 1986, but there is only one thing on Carr's mind entering the season and that is achieving unprecedented success to leave a lasting legacy for the program he has loved since he sat in the stands at Bulldog Stadium watching his brother play.
"Being that BCS-buster team, my brother was so close to doing that. He was so close and that team was so close," Carr said. "If I could really help our team be able to do that, it'd be amazing. That would kind of be just a perfect ending to the story, until one of our kids comes here that is."
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