- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Slumped in a cushy sofa in an off-campus apartment, Bobby Carpenter talks about the celebration he envisions on April 29, the first day of the NFL draft. The Ohio State linebacker will be at the family home in Lancaster, Ohio, surrounded by high school buddies. His girlfriend, Cortney Walter, will be by his side, and his three younger brothers, Jonathan, George and Nate, will be nearby. They'll all be waiting for the phone call telling Bobby where he'll begin his NFL career. But the Carpenter boys are anticipating that day for another reason, too: They'll be watching cable TV in their parents' home for the first time. Until recently, former NFL running back Rob Carpenter and his wife, Susie, both high school teachers, didn't allow cable in the house. "When Bobby wanted to watch ESPN," says Rob, "I told him, 'You have friends. This would be a good time to develop those friendships.'"
As a kid Bobby was missing more at home than HBO and ESPN. There was no Internet access in the house until he was midway through high school (he convinced his parents that the Web would help him with schoolwork), and he didn't get a cellphone until he left for Ohio State in 2002. Carpenter says his low-tech upbringing helped mold him into the type of prospect the pros love: a versatile, hardworking athlete who's physically and mentally mature. Instead of spending hours a day watching the tube and surfing the Net, he was tossing the football with his brothers and studying game film. The 6'3", 256-pound Carpenter has the speed (4.6 in the 40) to drop into coverage, blitz or chase down ballcarriers from sideline to sideline. With eight sacks as a senior he could become a designated rusher on passing downs. "Whether you're looking for an every-down 4-3 linebacker or a stand-up 3-4 linebacker, you'd have to jump at him," says Titans general manager Floyd Reese. "It all depends on what a team needs, but there's no question that he'll go high."
How high? Though he's coming off a broken right fibula suffered in a Nov. 19 win over Michigan, most draft analysts expect Carpenter to join his more celebrated teammate, All-America linebacker A.J. Hawk, as a first-round selection, possibly to the Patriots (picking at 21), Giants (25), Colts (30) or Steelers (32).
Rob played 10 seasons, from 1977 through '86, with the Oilers, Giants and Rams. At each stop he reaffirmed his reputation as a hard-nosed player who did the little things--most notably, blocking for Earl Campbell--to help his team win. As Bobby's football coach beginning in the seventh grade, Rob instilled those same traits in his son. "I always made sure Bobby knew that I was an overachiever," Rob says.
Bobby, who began studying game tape in junior high, never acted envious of Hawk during their four years together. He's tough, too--after breaking his leg, he insisted on making it to the sideline under his own power. And he scoffed at the idea of hiring a trainer to prepare for the draft, instead hooking up with Hawk and fellow Buckeyes linebacker prospect Anthony Schlegel at 6 a.m. each weekday to work at the Ohio State facility.
Carpenter expects to finish his degree in business and economics this semester, but he won't need to use it for a while. He's likely to be drafted a lot earlier than his dad, the last pick in the third round in 1977. "If I can do that," Bobby says, "I'll be a happy man."
Time to Shine
Manny Lawson, DE,
6'5", 240, North Carolina State