Dedication and hard work, the hallmarks of his dad's NFL career, have turned
Bobby Carpenter into a likely first-rounder
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.
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
Like Bobby Carpenter, each of these first-day draft prospects was overshadowed
on his defensive unit by a better-known teammate
Manny Lawson, DE,
6'5", 240, North Carolina State
Teammate Mario Williams is projected as the next Freak, but Lawson (above)
isn't far behind. He has the explosiveness to be a dominant edge rusher. Watch
for him to go in the second round.
Abdul Hodge, MLB,
5'11", 233, Iowa
A rugged playmaker, he had more tackles in each of the last three years than
weakside linebacker and higher-rated Hawkeye Chad Greenway. Projected