Corporate interests can take Derek Carr out of Nor Cal, but the Oakland Raiders quarterback will leave a piece of his legacy behind before exiting for Las Vegas.
Fresno State administrators announced Monday the athletic department will retire Carr’s No. 4 before the Bulldogs’ season opener against Incarnate Word.
The decision to honor Derek Carr now has special significance, intentional or not. Since his senior year of high school at Bakersfield Christian, he’s built an impressive legacy exclusively in a stretch of California from the Central Valley to the Bay Area.
To excel in one’s home region through three levels of sport — prep, college and pro — is the kind of thing children dream of. Derek Carr was no exception.
“As soon as Boise State beat my brother [in 2001], his senior year at Bulldog Stadium,” was when Carr committed to becoming a Bulldog, he told me in July 2013, shortly before kickoff of his final season at Fresno State. “We were ranked eighth in the nation. I remember crying in the stands. From that moment on, it didn’t matter who recruited me. I wanted to come to Fresno and make a difference.”
Of course that’s exactly the kind of pledge a 10-year-old would make amid the emotions of seeing his older brother lose a monumental game. Actually following through on that pledge? That’s the basis for a movie.
Carr left Fresno State following a stellar, four-year career that was very nearly a three-year career. He said in 2013 that he had considered foregoing his final year of eligibility, prompted by his wife’s pregnancy.
“‘How am I going to feed him?’,” he said he asked himself.
Encouragement from his wife and other family pushed Carr to pursue his goal to “get to the [NFL draft] combine and show that I’m the best guy out there.”
Thus far, he’s proven himself the best guy out of that 2014 draft class.
Who knows where Derek Carr’s drafted if he goes in 2013? In a significantly weaker class, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel was the first quarterback off the board at No. 16, and the only quarterback selected in the first round. Geno Smith was the next quarterback selected at No. 39 in the second round.
One can’t say where Carr would have landed, but his selection to the nearby Raiders at No. 36 in 2014 was serendipitous.
For the stars and planets to align so precisely that Derek Carr went on his remarkable journey without leaving one region makes it all the more unfortunate the Raiders are leaving. He’s Nor Cal through and through like former Raider Jim Plunkett, and developing into the franchise’s best quarterback since Kenny Stabler. Moreover, “Las Vegas legend Derek Carr” just doesn’t feel right.
Nevertheless, Fresno State ensures a tangible piece of his legacy remains entrenched in the region. Even the presenting sponsor of the ceremony, Valley Children’s, comes with a tie of personal significance to Carr.