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December 15, 2013

Looking back at Derek Carr's career

As the career of Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr comes to a close, one can't help but look back on the legacy he's left behind and wonder where it fits with the all-time Bulldog greats.

Carr currently holds 25 Bulldog records and another 21 Mountain West Conference records. He also took the Bulldogs to back-to-back conference championships and their first outright conference title since parachute pants were in-style. It really depends on whether you consider this era to be tougher than the eras in which Trent Dilfer and David Carr played.

In truth, 'greatest of all time' is a nebulous concept. It often comes down to generational preferences when debating which guy is better than the next. Just as Bill Russell's 11 championships, including one as a player-coach, gave way to the greatness of Michael Jordan, so too will people's memory of other athletes. One is probably better served by comparing a player to others of his era when examining things like all-time status.

But when are sports ever logical and academic?

As the Las Vegas Bowl gets closer, people are undoubtedly going to scrutinize everything about Carr. The NFL Draft is just around the corner and Carr's stock is rising higher and higher. A fantastic outing against a defense chalk-filled with NFL talent and Carr might be looking at a No. 1 overall pick, especially with Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater considering a return to the college game.

Perhaps the most ironic part of all the discussion around Carr's legacy will be the fact that most people will fawn over the numbers rather than the man. This isn't the case for anyone who has ever been around the Fresno State program for any longer than 15 minutes, but he's definitely an unknown character for most people in the college football community.

The analysts will point to his incredible accuracy in the passing game, an astounding 70.1%. But they're not going to tell you how Carr will stop an interview with a reporter to spend time with a smiling child anxious to see his favorite player. They will over-mention the fact that he is the brother of David, but how often will they mention that he was a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete recipient and that he plans to use the money to attend seminary school?

Did we mention that Fresno State has only had two such award winners in school history? Vernon Fox won the award in 2001 and Moses Harris took it home in 2009. Carr is definitely the highest profile Bulldog to take the award home. He was also one of 16 finalists for the foundation's William V. Campbell Trophy, more affectionately known as the Academic Heisman.

The legacy Carr has spent his time building off of the field is as important to understanding the man as the statistics he has achieved on the field. The man and the player are fueled by the same thing - a strong belief in God.

He's somehow managed to balance all of these things while starting a family. Carr and his wife, Heather, were married in 2012 and had a child earlier this year. As a matter of fact, Carr became a dad right before the season began. Try to process rocking your child to sleep at night while analyzing opposing teams' coverage schemes.

Utah State defensive back Brian Suite went up against Carr in the Conference Championship and came away singing his praises. Suite actually came away saying Carr might be undervalued as a talent.

"Anytime you go up against an athlete like Carr it is a great challenge," Suite said. "He can stretch the field with his arm, and I believe people do not give him enough credit for being a great athlete in the pocket. His best weapon is his head. We want to play against the best so that we can prove we are the best. Give him and his whole team credit."

Carr has been more than a leader on the field for the Bulldogs, he has been a pillar of the community and a worthy off-the-field role model. There's really no question as to which one has been more important to Carr over the course of his career. He addressed that very subject at the NFF Award dinner.

"The reason I do what I do is because of the Lord my God," Carr said. "I want to continue to reach out to young kids about the mistakes I've made. That's the main reason I play football."

How people define Carr's legacy after he leaves Fresno State is well beyond his control. It's really not up to him as to whether people want to remember him as a community leader or a field general. Carr has always said that he will be a husband and a father a lot longer than he will play the game of football. He will one day find - and perhaps already knows -- that the man he has become off the field will be far more permanent, important, and lasting than anything he accomplished on it.

His legend on the field is still being written, but the type of man Carr is determined to be for his family and community was decided long ago. A decision far more important than any stat he could ever put up.

Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates on the 2013 Fresno State Bulldog season.

Josh Webb is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BulldogsTwist.


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