Edgerton native Derek Carrier could start Sunday for 49ers

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Eric Schmoldt
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Derek Carrier's family was excited about the possibility of seeing him play an increased role on special teams.

His parents and brother got more than they bargained for Sunday night at Levi's Stadium.

Carrier, an Edgerton High graduate and former standout at Beloit College, had a breakout night as a San Francisco 49ers tight end. With Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald dinged up, Carrier caught three passes for 41 yards in a 28-20 loss to Chicago that aired nationally on NBC.

“We were told Derek would be playing a lot of special teams,” said Paula Carrier, Derek's mother. “With both Vance and Vernon having a tweak, that door opened up so incredibly fast that we didn't even see him running on the field

“Once he did, it was incredible. We couldn't get the cameras out fast enough.”

Paula hasn't missed one of Derek's games since he played in the peewee ranks. That she was joined by Derek's brother, Kyle, and the boys' father, Bill Pennekamp, was simply a byproduct of the schedule. The two make as many games as they can, and the Sunday-night kickoff made travel plans easier.

An undrafted rookie in 2012, Carrier spent time on the practice squads of the Los Angeles Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles before signing a three-year deal with San Francisco last year. The 49ers promoted him to an active NFL roster for the first time late last season.

All of a sudden Sunday, he found himself in the mix during the second quarter of a nationally televised game.

Carrier made his first NFL catch with about three minutes left in the first half, a 22-yard leaping grab on second and 10. The 6-foot-4 target had to go up and get the ball on a pass over the middle and paid the price by absorbing a big hit.

“I was thankful that I wasn't looking at that time,” Paula Carrier said. “I didn't want to see it but saw the replay. It made me sick. But Derek … said when he was going up high, he intentionally went higher to bring the ball in and crouch and protect his ribs.”

Carrier received praise for the catch from NBC commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. Collinsworth suggested it might have been the catch of the day in the NFL. The 49ers scored a touchdown two plays later to go up 17-0.

The 24-year-old also had a 5-yard snare early in the fourth quarter and a 14-yarder later that got San Francisco into the red zone as they attempted to stage a comeback, trailing 28-20.

Collinsworth continued to laud Carrier for his route running and said the tight end is working on his blocking. When the 49ers faced fourth-and-nine from the 17 with the game riding on one play, Collinsworth said quarterback Colin Kaepernick should look Carrier's way.

“Derek's college football coach … instantly texted me and said, 'You've got to hear what Cris Collinsworth is saying,'” Paula Carrier said. “And then I looked, and Kyle's and Bill's phones were both lit up, and it was just insane.

“I got texts from Canada, Las Vegas, Tampa, Bismarck (North Dakota). Everyone was watching.”

Now fans near and far will wait and see what Derek Carrier's role is moving forward. The 49ers play at Arizona at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Tests revealed no structural damage in the injuries suffered by Davis and McDonald, but their status for Week 3 is uncertain. Davis was still on crutches Wednesday, and McDonald did not practice.

The absence of one or both, combined with Carrier's solid showing, could have the local product in the mix moving forward.

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