Attitude is one of the few controllable elements of the game, a character trait that, when channeled in a positive and thoroughly productive way, leads to success. Pat Fitzgerald outlined his path to prosperity, success, preached it with the vigor, passion and unmistakable determination that has come to define the animated, 37-year-old head coach.
"You can just tell coach Fitz is really dedicated guy," Carta-Samuels recalled, touching on his experience at the mini-camp. "He made it clear that he really cares about his players and I know he has a plan. I really enjoyed what he had to say."
The younger brother of Vanderbilt quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, K.J. has seen his recruitment heat up significantly this spring. His strong arm, pocket poise and precocious schematic expertise shone through at multiple tournaments and passing showcases, including the IMG 7 v 7 national championships, the Oregon NFTC and the Passing Down regional 7 v 7, for which he was named MVP.
Academics will loom large in his ultimate decision, and its one of the main reasons for his genuine interest in NU. Carta-Samuels, despite already hearing from numerous high major heavyweights, says he won't sacrifice academic quality for a more established program and that he needs to find the total package—school, team, coaches, location—that fits him best.
"Academics is definitely a huge factor in my decision," he said. "It's not just a football decision, it's about the whole school."
When Carta-Samuels traveled to Evanston for the minicamp, he toured campus and came away impressed with the facilities, the lake and the school's proximity to nearby Chicago. Most of all, he appreciated the campus's "home-type feel" and classic college-like environment.
He partook in several physical tests, like the 40-yd dash and shuttle run, before throwing to receivers. Carta-Samuels said he performed well in front of McCall and other coaches, though timing issues with new receivers led to a few miscues.
"I enjoyed the workout," he said. "It's tough when you don't really know the guys you're throwing to, but I thought it went well overall."
NU ranks near the top of Carta-Samuel's list for its academic prestige and its coaching staff, which he said was one of the most intriguing aspects of his visit. Offensive coordinator Mick McCall first contacted Carta-Samuels and invited him to camp. The two discussed quarterback development and how McCall believed he could positively affect Carta-Samuel's progression, both mental and physical, as a pocket-passer adapting to the college game.
The Bells, who return a strong core of players after losing in the finals of the CIF State Division I Championship game against Santa Margarita, run an offense called the Wing-T, where running plays dominate and passing is sparse.
Carta-Samuels will take over the offense for the first time in the fall, and while he admits that his team's system isn't conducive to pass-first quarterbacks, he feels comfortable running a spread offense and would have no qualms conducting McCall's high-tempo system.
"I'm a pocket QB," he said. "But I'm willing to do whatever. Just because I play in a system that doesn't pass the ball a lot doesn't mean I'm uncomfortable doin it. I'm willing to play in whatever system. Playing in a spread wouldn't bother me. I'm comfortable with it."
There's no timetable for his decision, but Carta-Samuels would prefer to wrap up his recruitment before his senior season. He plans to remain in contact with McCall and Fitzgerald and visit campus sometime this year.
"I'm excited to see what happens with Northwestern," he said. "I'm excited to see what happens with the whole recruiting process, but especially Northwestern."