There was another reason that he wanted to stay close to home. Shortly after the end of his senior season, he returned from a three-day church youth camp with his head spinning. Says Rodger, "The first thing he said when he got home was, 'Oh, Dad, I think I found her.' "
David had met a beautiful blonde named Melody Tipton. On the final day of camp he got her phone number, and they went to a movie the next Friday night. Before the film they walked up a hill to a Sonic Burger, and on the way down David lost his footing. Depending on whom you believe, he either slid all the way down on his backside or popped up immediately.
"It actually kind of broke the ice," says Melody of that pratfall. "We ended up having a really nice time." In March 1999 they were married, and just over a year later Melody gave birth to Austin Duke Carr, now 16 months old, who displays his father's natural throwing motion while chucking the television remote all over the family's modest Fresno apartment.
Carr rode the bench for three years behind Billy Volek, now a backup quarterback with the Tennessee Titans. Realizing that he wasn't likely to play much, Carr decided to redshirt as a junior. During the week he ran the scout team, earning raves as "the best quarterback we saw all season" from Kevin Coyle, the defensive coordinator at the time. On game days he sat in the press box alongside offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig, charting coverages, keeping his head in the game and even suggesting plays on occasion. Watching highlights of the games with his family, he would pipe up and say, " I called that play!"
Last season, on the long-awaited day of Carr's first start, the ramp he walked down happened to be at the Horseshoe in Columbus, where Ohio State administered a 43-10 beating to Fresno State in general and to Carr in particular. (He completed 26 of 44 passes for 238 yards, threw four interceptions and, by the tally of the coaching staff, took 34 hard shots.) Watching at home, his wife and mother cried for him. "That was one of the toughest days of my life," says Carr. "But I learned a lot, too. I learned that if I could battle through that, I could withstand anything."
The Bulldogs finished the season 7-5 despite many injuries. Though he looked like a walking, talking welt at the season's end, the 6'3", 225-pound Carr was the team's only offensive starter not to miss a game, a testament to his great strength. (He bench-presses 390 pounds, squats 500 and power-cleans 300.) Ludwig, who is also Carr's position coach, is loath to discuss his pupil's NFL prospects, believing that it can only distract from the business at hand. "I will say this," Ludwig says. "It's hard to imagine a guy being more physically prepared."
Hill is less reticent. "He can throw, he can throw with touch, he can move in the pocket and manufacture a play," he says. "I don't think there's any doubt about his pro prospects."
Hill made this assessment in his office last Thursday, while several NFL scouts studied film of Carr in an adjacent room. Carr has been told that in a preseason report released by Blesto, an NFL scouting service, he was among the top three quarterbacks listed. To which Dilfer, a Fresno State star who is now the Seattle Seahawks backup, might respond, "Duh!"
"I work out with him," says Dilfer, "and he's making throws right now that only a handful of people in the NFL can make. He's an absolute stud." Both Dilfer and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove have noted that Carr's motion comes in slightly sidearm, "about three quarters," says Dilfer. Neither thinks it will be a problem in the NFL. " Jeff George had a little of that," says Cosgrove, "and he's done O.K."
Carr completed 22 of his 38 throws against the Badgers, with two touchdown passes and one interception. On the season he has thrown for 778 yards, seven touchdowns and that one interception, and he will now, presumably, make his way onto various Heisman Watch lists. For their part, the Bulldogs hope to make their way through the rest of their eight conference and two nonconference games, including a trip to Colorado State—and on to one of the four BCS bowls. However, even if Fresno State goes undefeated, a distinct possibility given the caliber of those 10 opponents, one of the eight major bowl spots isn't a certainty because the BCS guarantees berths to the champions of the six power conferences ( ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC) but not the WAC.