April 19, 2002

Another Side of the Draft

They have been timed at 10, 20 and 40 yards. They have done their vertical jumps and short shuttles. They have taken the Wonderlic test.

The numbers are in for the NFL Draft class of 2002. And behind the numbers are the stories that tell the human side of the draft.

Some of the interesting notes on the class of ’02:

Carr’s Interior: He’s scheduled to be the first overall pick in the draft, say the expansion Houston Texans. Fresno State quarterback David Carr would be the first from his school to be so honored. In fact, he’d be the first player ever from the WAC Conference to be chosen No. 1 overall. Carr led the nation in 2001 in passing yards (4,839) and touchdowns (46), to become only the sixth quarterback in history to throw for 4,000 yards and 40 TDs in a season. He threw for 10 300-yard games as a senior, topping it off with a 35-of-53, 531-yard, four-TD performance against Michigan State in the Silicon Valley Bowl.

Everybody knows the features this Carr comes with. But following are 10 extras thrown in:

DRIVING THE CARR

1. Born in Bakersfield, California, south of Fresno, his father Rodger would take little David to Fresno State’s Bulldog Stadium at night, they’d climb the fence, dodge the sprinklers, and chuck the ball around. “Good times,” says Rodger.

2. Married with a 22-month-old son (Austin), he met his wife Melody at a summer camp. He was 17, she was 16. She had a Troy Aikman poster in her room. “She is the reason David is the player he is today,” says Fresno State head coach Pat Hill.

3. Following in his father’s footsteps, he would take Austin to Bulldog Stadium, where they, too, would throw the football around.

4. His uncle, Lonnie Boyett, played tight end for the San Francisco 49ers in 1978.

5. Tennessee Titans quarterback Billy Volek, whose Fresno State career completion percentage Carr broke, would call him the past two years to offer advice and encouragement. “I tell him I’m rooting for him,” says Volek.

6. Last season at Colorado State, he brought Fresno State back to tie with 27 seconds left, then win in overtime. In the stands? “Mr. Comeback” himself, John Elway. “He rubbed off on me,” said Carr.

7. His friend and mentor is former Bulldog and present Seattle Seahawks quarterback Trent Dilfer. “He gives me a lot of tips,” says Carr. “Like, give your wife flowers when you go to the (NFL) combine because you won’t be around.”

8. At the NFL Combine this February, he turned off his cell phone so he could concentrate during the interviews and examinations. When he flicked it back on, it rang with a call from wife Melody. “I knew the second I turned this on, she’d call,” said Carr. “She wanted to know and my son wanted to know how I did. I told them that Daddy did OK. Daddy did OK.”

9. He’s a kinesiology major – the study of the principles of mechanics and anatomy in relation to human movement.

10. He likes pink-frosted donuts with sprinkles. So does son Austin. “They were my favorite when I was little,” Carr says. “So it’s probably my fault that he’s hooked on them.”

Peppers’ People: He came within one sack (15.0 as a junior) of breaking Lawrence Taylor’s school season record. As a Lombardi Award- and Chuck Bednarik Award-winner, and unanimous All-American this year, North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers is the Tar Heels most decorated athlete since Michael Jordan.

Yet, who does Peppers most look up to? An academic advisor and his head coach. Carl Carey is North Carolina’s associate director of the academic support program for student athletes. “He’s been like a mentor or older bother who has helped me get through schoolwork and things outside schoolwork,” says Peppers.

His coach, 11-year NFL linebacker John Bunting – defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl XXXIV-winning team – helped Peppers on and off the field. “Every now and then, he’d slide a tape of a lineman who played with the Saints (where Bunting coached in 2000) or Rams when he was there, and tell me to watch how certain players do things. But a lot of what he taught me off the field translated well to the field. Things like being more confident in what you can do and being mentally tough.”

Poster Boy: He’s not from Manhattan — and he didn’t win the Heisman Trophy (Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch did) – but everybody in football remembers the 80 X 100-foot poster in midtown New York City this past summer that promoted Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington for the Heisman. But there are other things to remember about the QB who took the Ducks (who’ve been quarterbacked by the likes of Norm Van Brocklin and Dan Fouts) to the first two 10-or-more-win seasons in their 106-year history and a Fiesta Bowl victory:

If Carr Can Have A List, So Can Harrington!

· He’s an accomplished pianist, from jazz to Gershwin, and has hired himself out to parties and functions.

· He almost chose Stanford because of its music department.

· His father John and four uncles preceded him as quarterbacks at Portland’s (OR) Central Catholic High.

· His family and friends – 48 of them – would bus to see his Ducks games.

· His entire clan reunites in a lodge near Eugene every summer on the McKenzie River. Been doing it for 30 years.

· He has a 3.4 GPA in business administration.

· He shared a rental house this year with five non-football players, just to be a regular student.

· He and his father paid their own money last summer to travel to New York to see his billboard.

· “He doesn’t have an ‘entourage’ when he goes out,” says Ducks teammate Chris Tetterton. “It’s just Joe.”

· His teammates nicknamed him “The General” after a comeback win over Arizona State.

Big Mac: They call him “Big Mac” because he likes them – and he’s big! Miami tackle Bryant McKinnie, the 2001 Outland Trophy-winner as college’s best interior lineman, is 6-9 and 340 pounds. In addition to never giving up a sack in his college career – not in practice, a scimmage or game – after playing drums at one time in the Woodbury, New Jersey High School marching band, McKinnie is known as a gargantuan eater.

“One time I saw him sit down at McDonald’s and eat five quarter-pounders at one time,” says Miami tackle Joaquin Gonzalez. “We had another lineman, Vernon Carey, who’s a biscuit away from 360 pounds, and he had trouble holding up to Big Mac. He’s a guy who can really dominate when it comes to eating.”

Big Brows: Some guys have big eyebrows. But Texas cornerback Quentin Jammer has big eyebrows. Bushy eyebrows. “I’ve always had thick eyebrows,” says the first Longhorn in history to be named as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back. “But when I was eight or nine, a lady cut my hair and she trimmed my eyebrows. They were really thin. When they grew back, they were – bushy.”

Big-Mouth Mike: “It’s the Mike Williams Show”! And was the Texas tackle’s Internet video show ever popular down Austin way with Longhorn fans! Teammates were prime targets. He once asked Quentin Jammer, “What’s up with your eyebrows?” And once cajoled guard Tillman Holloway into singing “Jingle Bells” in an operatic baritone. He’s claimed he’s like the Incredible Hulk, saying, though, that he turns burnt orange instead of green.

“On the Mike Williams Show, you could relax,” says Williams (who allowed only two sacks in his college career, one of which, says Longhorns quarterback Chris Simms, he kept apologizing for). “We were respectful to other teams and players, but fans could have another angle on how the players are.”

Bryant’s Ready: He’s not even in the NFL yet, and already he’s preparing for life after it. Wisconsin defensive tackle Wendell Bryant spent his junior summer working five days a week for two months for a Merrill Lynch brokerage branch in Madison, Wisconsin where he analyzed clients’ investment portfolios. “I’ve heard too many stories of athletes losing huge sums of money,” says Bryant. “”I’ll probably throw my draft bonus money into a couple of mutual funds, watch $10,000 grow to a million-plus by the time I’m 40 and be able to set up my kids’ education. I want to enjoy being old.”

Bryant credits his serious approach to life to his mother, Karen. She worked on an assembly line for General Motors, and moonlighted at the post office throughout Wendell’s youth. She then earned a bachelor’s degree in education from St. Louis’ Washington University in 1992, and is now a researcher for a chemical company in St. Louis.

A Friend Indeed: He’s so handsome, Hollywood producers have contacted him about the movies. He already has his degree in exercise science. He sings in musicals to raise money for charity. He listens to Frank Sinatra. He has mulled over a career in medicine.

Yes, so far in life, Heisman Trophy-winning Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch has made his mother Susan proud. But perhaps the one thing that has pleased her most was Eric’s actions in grade school. As a popular athlete, Eric would befriend the students others teased. “I talk to them, become friends with them,” he told his mother, “and they don’t get picked on anymore.”

Family Ties: If Auburn wide receiver Tim Carter ever needs advice on an NFL career, all he has to do is talk to his cousins – plural. Carter has an incredible five cousins who played in the NFL – Carlos Carson, Al Harris, Darrin Nelson, Ozzie Newsome and Tim Newsome.

Hey, Unc!: Talk about genes! Illinois center Luke Butkus’ uncle is Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus, and Luke followed the legend to the Illini. “I was glad to carry on my uncle’s legacy,” says Luke, who wears a crew cut like Dick. “But I’m not my uncle. I’m my own player and I had to prove to everyone that I could play.” Every time there has been a Butkus as a senior at Illinois, it has won the Big Ten title (Luke, his cousin Mark, and uncle Dick).

From Prom to the Pros: He walked on, and ended up taking the coach’s daughter to the prom.

That, in a nutshell, summarizes the career of Hawaii wide receiver Ashley Lelie. Cut in high school in California because he was too slight, Lelie’s family moved to Hawaii when his father — in aircraft maintenance for the U.S. Marine Corps – was transferred. Two years in a running offense at Radford High in Honolulu induced no scholarship offers. So Lelie walked on at Hawaii and eventually became the first receiver in Rainbow history to post 1,000 yards in successive seasons (2000 and 2001) under head coach June Jones, former NFL quarterback, Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers head coach, and a high-octane offensive proponent.

The prom story? Jones had no problem when his high school daughter Nikki invited Hawaii’s star receiver Ashley to her prom. After the invitation, Ashley checked first with his girlfriend, then his coach, then accepted. “A favor for a friend,” he says. “It was a little weird, but nothing major. I did the pictures, sat in the limo, everything. We had a good time.” Pop was proud of his player. “I thought it was great, because he is a great guy,” says Jones. “It was a riot watching him come into the house for pictures and then crawl into the back of that limo.”

Draftniks – Young-sters: How big was Kentucky defensive end Dennis Johnson in the second grade? He was so big — 5-7, 170 pounds – that he played on his local high school team in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. His brother Derrick was a third-grader on the team. They are believed to be by the National Federation of State High School Associations the youngest participants of any high school varsity sport in history. “One of the guys on the team had to teach me how to tie my shoes,” says Derrick……The Oakie Hurricane: From Ada to Miami – quite a change in cultures. But Miami tight end Jeremy Shockey negotiated the trip successfully thanks to his pleasant personality. Born in Ada, Oklahoma (pop. 15,600), Shockey chose Miami as his college, “and stuck out like a sore thumb,” according to his boyhood friend and Ada High School teammate Mike Babb. “We grew up in the small towns, lived on the outskirts. They called him the ‘crazy redneck.’ But Jeremy can get along with anybody.” An Oakie in South Beach? “We weren’t sure what to make of him at first,” says Miami SID Doug Walker. “He’s real country”…… Tennessee Defensive Tackle John Henderson’s grandfather Joe Lee Henderson was a blues singer who had a hit in 1962 – “Snap Your Fingers” (Some of the lyrics: “Snap your fingers, I’ll come runnin’/Back to you on bended knee; Snap your fingers, I’ll come runnin’/I’ll be true, take a chance on me”……Don’t Follow In My Footsteps: Miami safety Ed Reed took his father’s advice. Pop Ed, Sr., a welder for 25 years on 12-hour shifts in a shipyard outside of New Orleans, told his son eight years ago, “You don’t want my job” and to work hard in school to gain the opportunities he had missed. This May, Ed, Jr. will become the first member of his family to graduate with a college degree (in liberal arts)……Shoe To-Do: “He’s got more shoes than most women,” says North Carolina defensive tackle Will Chapman of fellow tackle Ryan Sims, who admits to owning at least 18 pairs. “He says, ‘The shoe makes the outfit.’” Sims says all the talk about his footwear is just envy. “It’s just a little hate,” says Sims jokingly. “I like to look nice, you know? I like to look presentable. Guys hate me because of that.”

And Before You Know It, It’ll Be “Irrelevant Week”!: The week-long festivities of events in Newport Beach, California to honor the last player selected in the draft – “Mr. Irrelevant” – will be from June 17-21. And with the final pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans select…

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