- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

HOUSTON He's the poster boy for a new franchise, the can't-miss quarterback. Most of the eyes in southeast Texas are upon him, and he hasn't even played a down in a real NFL game.
David Carr, the No.1 pick in the draft four months ago, is no dummy. He knows the expansion Houston Texans have invested a lot in him a seven-year, $46.5million contract, including a $10.9million signing bonus to be exact and expect a return on their investment.
Carr is intelligent, hard-working and has a strong right arm that teammate Corey Bradford, an ex-Green Bay receiver, likened to that of Brett Favre. Mike Quinn, who used to hold the clipboard for Dallas' Troy Aikman, said Carr is from a similar mold. Houston center Steve McKinney said Carr reminds him of Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, for whom he once blocked.
But there are other reasons why the Texans favored the 23-year-old former Fresno State star. The kid is humble, handsome and friendly, so much so that he thinks it's "cool'' when fans bother him during dinner. In short, Carr is a public relations dream for the Texans.
"The first thing you notice is David's phenomenal arm strength, but the best thing about him is his demeanor," Quinn said. "He's very easygoing and down to earth. He's got a good head on his shoulders. You can't tell that he was the No.1 pick with all that money."
Carr grew up in Bakersfield, Calif., rooting for Fresno State and idolizing Bulldogs quarterback Trent Dilfer. They've since become friends and Dilfer, the sixth choice in the 1994 draft and the winner of Super Bowl XXXV with the Baltimore Ravens, has talked to Carr extensively about handling fame and fortune.
"Trent gave me the best advice, advice he wishes someone had given him as a rookie," said Carr, who still has the autograph Dilfer gave him when he was 12. "He said people will ask you to do different things, things out of the ordinary, but remember that they picked you because of who you are. Be yourself."
Apparently, that's no problem for the well-grounded Carr, who is married with a 2-year-old son and another child on the way. When it became clear that Carr was going to be a multi-millionaire, he told his parents to retire and then bought them a house near his in suburban Houston.
Rookie free agent receiver Atnaf Harris, a classmate at Fresno, said Carr is the same "smooth, real quiet guy'' he has known since they were being recruited. Carr made a point of carrying McKinney's bags on day one, like any rookie hopeful.
"David can be very special," said Texans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, who has coached Pro Bowl passers Drew Bledsoe and Mark Brunell as well as Tim Couch, the top pick in the 1999 draft. "All great players Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky have great vision. They see things that other players don't. David has that kind of vision. Like all quarterbacks, there are going to be some speed bumps, but with time, David is going to be very good in this league."
Yet despite all the good things the Texans say about the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Carr, it's still a surprise he's in Houston.
He had a solid junior year at Fresno State in 2000, but the Texans had him pegged as a third-rounder until Palmer watched him at a passing camp last summer and was dazzled by his play in Fresno's opener against Colorado. By the time Carr finished his senior year with absurd numbers 42 touchdowns, seven interceptions, 4,308 yards, a 64.8 completion percentage and a 148.9 passer rating he had rocketed to the top of Houston's draft board.
"If all the top players are about the same, you take the quarterback," said Texans general manager Charley Casserly. "He doesn't have to be John Elway and Troy Aikman rolled into one. There aren't many of those guys. If you think he can be a playoff quarterback, you take him. David can make the big throw, the one that makes you say, 'Wow!'"
Of course, for every highly-touted rookie quarterback like Manning who hits it big, there's a Ryan Leaf who goes belly up. Casserly and Texans coach Dom Capers both have been burned taking quarterbacks early in the draft. Heath Shuler, whom Casserly chose third in the 1994 draft for Washington, always seemed to be holding out, hurt or horrid. Kerry Collins, whom Capers made the first choice in Carolina history in 1995, drank himself out of a job. So Casserly and Capers looked into Carr's character to see if it was as impressive as his quarterbacking.
"We wanted to be sure that David could handle success," said Texans owner Bob McNair. "We got to know him and his family. I am convinced that David is the right kind of young man. He's mature and has good character. He doesn't pose any kind of a risk off the field. It's just a question of whether he can perform on the field."
That hasn't been much of a question so far. Carr was virtually handed the starting job when he agreed to terms in April and has given observers very little to criticize since. In practice the other day, Carr's spirals sizzled into the hands of Bradford and other receivers in a manner that veterans Quinn and Kent Graham couldn't begin to match. And Carr played pretty well in Houston's first three preseason games, completing 26 of 46 passes for 318 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
"There's a lot of pressure on David, but he has handled himself very well," said offensive tackle Tony Boselli, who can relate to the scrutiny as the second choice in the 1995 draft. "He's just one of the guys. The most impressive thing to me is how he approaches the job. He came in prepared. He knows the offense."
Rodger Carr, who attends every Texans practice, said his son has always been a perfectionist.
"David doesn't want to be the weak link on the team, the first-round pick bust," the elder Carr said. "That's what drives him. He'll do everything it takes to make sure he's prepared."
Carr generally was in tune with his father's assessment.
"The hardest thing is the pressure of living up to your own expectations," Carr said. "I don't want to let anyone down. I want people to think positively about me on and off the field. I want to be a professional. I like the way Troy Aikman could make his teammates step up a notch and play to the level they needed to win. I like the way that John Elway and Brett Favre could bring their teams back with one throw. I would like to think I have some of those qualities.
"Some people get all this money up front and think they've arrived. I look at the NFL as a launching point. I've worked all my life to get to this point, and now I want to take off."

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