The receiver who opened the most eyes was Beloit's Derek Carrier.
With Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson in attendance, the 6-foot-3, 238-pound receiver ran his 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, then caught everything thrown his way during position drills. Since then, he's had an on-campus workout for at least one team and 20 teams have asked for his film. Many teams see him as on-the-move tight end in the mold of Owen Daniels.
"How is this guy at Division III?" out scout asked Packer Report rhetorically.
Players end up at Division III -- or Division II or the Football Championship Subdivision, for that matter -- for any number of reasons: They're simply not good enough for Division I or II. They're late bloomers. They lack the grades to get into a big-time program.
None of those factors were really true in Carrier's case. At Edgerton (Wis.) High School, Carrier was a three-sport star who simply hadn't filled out his 6-foot-3 frame. Grades weren't an issue, either. Quite the opposite, in fact. At Beloit, Carrier was a pre-med major who made the dean's list all eight semesters at Beloit.
Wisconsin wanted him but only as a preferred walk-on. The schools in Wisconsin's premier Division III conference, such as powerhouse Wisconsin-Whitewater, didn't want Carrier playing in two sports, especially back-to-back seasons like football and basketball. So, Carrier landed at Beloit – in part because of a mistake by Buccaneers coach Chris Brann.
"I remember he called my mom at home and I was at a baseball game," Carrier recalled. "He asked if I had picked out a college yet and my mom's like, ‘No, he hasn't.' He was pressing, trying to figure out what I was doing and my mom was a little confused and said, ‘You know he's only a junior, right?' So, that was the first time I had ever gotten in contact with Coach Brann, and let me tell you, if it wasn't for him, I definitely wouldn't be where I am today."
Carrier played football and basketball during his freshman and sophomore seasons at Beloit. After putting up big numbers as a junior with 64 catches for 1,044 yards and 12 touchdowns, Carrier started getting recruiting calls from agents. At that point, he decided to give up basketball and put his focus on football. Though, Carrier being Carrier, he took up track and field for the first time in his life.
Photos courtesy Beloit Athletics
The road from Division III to the NFL is rare but hardly unique. Mount Union's Cecil Shorts was drafted in the fourth round last year by Jacksonville. In 2008, Indianapolis selected Pierre Garcon in the sixth round, and the Redskins recently gave him a $42.5 million. p> It's a road that Carrier is confident he can navigate.
"I know athletically that I can," he said. "It's just a matter of getting up to speed with the terminology and the new concepts. Granted, I played at a Division III school and it's a lot different than playing in the pros. I think with time I can easily make that transition."
Eventually, he'd like to get into sports science or physical therapy, and he's interned with the Chicago Bulls' strength and conditioning staff.
All of that can wait, though, as Carrier has a chance to become the second player in school history to be drafted. Quarterback Rod Hermes was selected by Green Bay with a 30th-round pick in 1956. He didn't make the team; the Packers took some guy named Bart Starr in the 17th round.
"I'm excited, but at the same time, I've worked hard to get to this part," Carrier said. "It's exciting and I'm happy but it's just Step 1 in the process and I've got to keep working and pushing. By no means am I resting on my laurels. I've still got to keep working."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.