A look back: Carr's No. 1 spot didn't come easy

If David Carr enjoys even half the success of the last California quarterback chosen with the first pick of the NFL draft, he could be a Hall of Famer. That's because the last time it happened was in 1983 when the Indianapolis Colts picked John Elway.

But the similarities between the paths of high school to the NFL draft are few and far between for Carr and Elway. While the recently retired Denver Bronco signal caller was known and desired by college scouts when he starred at Granada Hills High in 1977-78, Carr was much more of an unknown at Stockdale High of Bakersfield in 1995-96.

The 6-3, 225-pounder is unknown no more. Following a spectacular senior season at Fresno State, Carr was the first pick of this year's NFL Draft, held Saturday in New York. He was chosen by the expansion Houston Texans who've already signed him and appear to be willing to make him the centerpiece of their future.

It was obvious the Texans were extremely interested in Carr since last summer when offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, the former head coach of the Cleveland Browns, spent four days at the Student Sports Elite 11 Camp in Southern California watching Carr serve as camp counselor to 12 of the top senior-to-be high schoolers in the nation. Carr was joined at the camp by other standout college quarterbacks, including Kurt Kittner of Illinois and Rohan Davey of LSU, and all of the quarterbacks who were there threw every day.

When Carr was himself a high schooler, it's doubtful he would have been considered for an elite label of any kind. He did show a lot of promise as a junior at Stockdale when he threw for just over 2,000 yards and helped the Mustangs qualify for the CIF Central Section playoffs.

Bob Barnett, the historian of the CIF Central Section, remembers watching Carr play for Stockdale in a 33-14 playoff loss in 1995 to Buchanan of Clovis.

"I could tell even then that he had it," Barnett said. "He had a certain polish, a certain way of doing things."

Fresno State coaches obviously noticed the same thing, but not many other colleges came calling the following year.

One reason is because Carr was more like a normal-sized 6-2, 185-pounder at the time and not quite as big as he turned out to be.

Another is that the 1996 season was not nearly as successful for Carr and his team as 1995. Instead of making it to the playoffs, Stockdale only won three games and Carr had very little to work with around him. He may have been improving, but his totals of 1,400 yards and just six TD passes did not reflect it.

That's a far cry from the totals being posted by other more highly-ranked quarterbacks in the state that season like Randy Fasani from Del Oro of Loomis, Greg Cicero from Servite of Anaheim and Joe Borchard of Camarillo. Chris Czernek was putting up record totals at Newbury Park, Chad Elliott was throwing for bushels of touchdowns at Grant of Sacramento and Carr wasn't even the leading passer that season in Bakersfield as Highland's Jeff Dover had 2,000 yards in the regular season. Injuries have prevented Fasani from living up to his potential at Stanford, but Carr has simply rocketed by all others of his class.

Carr grew up near Fresno State and dreamed of playing at Bulldog Stadium so it might not have mattered if many other colleges recruited him anyway. He was happy to be a Bulldog and played a little as a true freshman in 1997. Following more limited action in 1998, Carr took a redshirt season in 1999 where he seemed to truly become a student of the game and his physical attributes were becoming more apparent.

For the 2000 season, Carr took his place as Fresno State's starter and threw four interceptions in his first game against Ohio State. He finished up strong, however, and put the pieces in place for him to emerge as one of the best in the nation last fall.

Looking back on it all, you should now be able to see how much more difficult it has been for Carr to become a No. 1 pick than it was for Elway. By Elway's third year at Stanford, he was an All-American and already being tabbed as a top five or No. 1 draft pick. By Carr's third year at Fresno State, he was redshirting and no one except those in the Central Valley wearing a red sweater even knew anything about him.

But for every Elway, there's a dozen like Carr. These are kids who grow up with dreams of the big time, but the college offers are just not there. These kids don't get frustrated. They shrug their shoulders, work on getting bigger, stronger and faster and become even more passionate about their game. That's what David Carr did. He has improved every season of his career so far and the Texans certainly hope that trend continues for many more seasons to come.

No. 1 NFL Draft Picks

from California High Schools

2002 -- David Carr (Stockdale, Bakersfield) chosen by Houston Texans.

1996 -- Keyshawn Johnson (Dorsey, Los Angeles) chosen by New York Jets.

1983 -- John Elway (Granada Hills) chosen by Indianapolis Colts

1977 -- Ricky Bell (Fremont, Los Angeles) chosen by Tampa Bay Bucs.

1975 -- Steve Bartkowski (Buchser, Santa Clara) chosen by Atlanta Falcons.

1971 -- Jim Plunkett (Lick, San Jose) chosen by New England Patriots.

1969 -- O.J. Simpson (Galileo, San Francisco) chosen by Buffalo Bills.

1954 -- Bobby Garrett (South Pasadena) chosen by Cleveland Browns.

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