Edgerton's Carrier certain he can measure up in NFL
Derek Carrier wants to gain membership into an exclusive club.
Carrier, an Edgerton High graduate, has a fine physical presence, a solid resume and strong references, but the 32 National Football League teams only keep the cream of the crop, knowing Super Bowls are not won on paper or by word of mouth.
NFL teams scout big-name players from big-name programs like Alabama, which plays in Football Bowl Subdivision's Southeastern Conference. The league produced a record-breaking 63 players in April's NFL draft.
Carrier is not one of those. Carrier's pedigree is humble, playing Division III football for Beloit College against Knox and St. Norbert in the Midwest Conference.
By all measures, Carrier was a star at Beloit, posting 15 100-yard receiving games in three seasons. He caught a record 12 touchdown passes in 2010 and tied the mark in 2011, his senior season.
Overall, Carrier had 189 receptions for 3,111 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also broke single-season school records with 75 catches for 1,250 yards his senior year.
Carrier knows football players at Beloit think differently about the game than those at Alabama.
"The mindset at a small school is not everyone wants to go on and play football," Carrier said. "Not everyone on the team has aspirations of playing after college."
Carrier is hoping the Philadelphia Eagles find that he has NFL potential for the 2013 season. It's Carrier's second shot at making an NFL roster.
In 2012, Carrier signed a free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders and stuck as a wide receiver until the final cut last August. However, the Eagles added him to their practice squad and he was switched to tight end.
Carrier doesn't feel like a rookie anymore as he goes through the Eagles' organized team activities this spring.
"My mindset has changed," Carrier said. "As a rookie, I felt more pressure to perform and make plays so I'd get noticed on film by the coaches, but after a year, I don't put that kind of pressure on myself."
Carrier said he is more confident.
"In Oakland, there was more pressure," Carrier said. "Here, you understand how things work, and that's a plus."
At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Carrier is a bit small for an NFL tight end, but he has speed and technique. Carrier said his experience at wide receiver is a plus.
"I know more about running a route and understanding a defender," Carrier said. "After playing wide receiver, I know how to run a route and the coverages."
Carrier knows he needs all of his 245 pounds to block defenders that weigh as much as 50 pounds more than him.
"The biggest aspect you have to learn is blocking," Carrier said. "You have to maintain good technique."
The Eagles have five tight ends on the roster, including Carrier. Seven-year veteran Brent Celek and four-year player Clay Harbor lead the group.
The Eagles made Zach Ertz, a standout tight end at Stanford, their second-round pick in April.
"I can't worry about what other people do," Carrier said of his competition. "I just do my job."
Carrier said he enjoys playing for Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who has brought his quick-moving offense from the University of Oregon to Philly this year.
"I love the offensive tempo," Carrier said. "I know the offense and it can catch the defense off guard. I'm used to the concepts."
Since 1991, NFL teams have drafted 15 Division III players. In 2012, there were 12 such players on active rosters. Carrier and former UW-Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard, who was cut by the Bears but was re-signed this spring, were on practices squads.
Odds of making an NFL roster from a small school program are long, but Carrier's dream is still alive, and he maintains he can play at the pro level.
"My mindset has changed," Carrier said. "Over the last year, I have matured enough as a person to play. The only pressure is the pressure you put on yourself."
Ken Veloskey is a sportswriter for The Gazette.