Sunday, January 2, 2011

TCU Smells Like Roses

What a wonderful new year it's starting out to be! Yesterday, TCU conquered Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Woo hoo!! My favorite part of the entire game was the pass block by TCU's Tank Carder to solidify the win.

Tank is absolutely amazing. He's an inspiration. I was going to summarize his story, but I couldn't do it justice. Instead, I've posted an article from the New York Times that Danny found for me. I was wanting to hear more about his car accident and how he made it to play for TCU's football team. It was a perfect read aloud for my daily homework!

His is a story of survival, of hope, definitely courage, and most of all perseverance. Who doesn't love a story like that!?!? I hope you enjoy it the same way that I do. The only thing that could have moved me more would have been hearing his story while the theme music from Rocky was playing in the background.

From Broken Boy to T.C.U. Tackler

By THAYER EVANS



Paul Connors/Associated Press
Tank Carder was a BMX world champion at age 9, but gave it up when his interest waned. On the field, it is likely that no one has traveled a more unusual path to this point than T.C.U. linebacker Tank Carder.

He won a BMX world championship at 9, only to quit the sport. He nearly died a few years later when he was hospitalized for six weeks after being thrown from a moving car. The injuries were so severe that his early football days were as a kicker who would grab the kicking tee and run off the field because he was not allowed any contact. 

His improbable journey has him starting at linebacker and being a linchpin of a unit ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense (223.3 yards a game) and fourth in scoring defense (12.42 points a game). He is the third-ranked Horned Frogs’ second-leading tackler (81) and leads them in pass breakups (10). And he jumps off video the way he once did on a bike track.

“There’s not a lot of talk about Tank Carder, but he’s every bit a part of what makes that defense the No. 1 defense in the country,” said Chris Petersen, coach of sixth-ranked Boise State.

Raised in Sweeny, Tex., a town of 3,624 about an hour-and-a-half drive southwest of Houston, Carder was named Ricky Jr. but was nicknamed Tank as a baby for his enormous size. He started riding a bicycle without training wheels when he was 26 months old.

The owner of an area BMX track saw Carder burning up and down the street when he was 2 and mistakenly asked his parents if their 4-year-old son would like to ride at his track. After his first lap, Carder stopped and told his parents, “I need a bigger bike,” then resumed pedaling.

“I just kind of got on the bike and never wanted to stop,” he said.

Over the next six years, Carder did not. At 3, he won the first race he entered, against 5-year-olds. Soon, he was sponsored and traveling every weekend to BMX meets and winning virtually every race he entered. He flew so much that an elementary school teacher put up a map and tracked the cities that he had visited with pushpins.

But the grind of BMX eventually wore on Carder. He wanted to spend more time with friends and was envious of their playing football. Carder once played youth football for two weeks but quit because it conflicted with his racing. He wanted to quit BMX racing at 8 but was persuaded by his manager to continue.

The next year, Carder won a world championship in France. 

“I was from this little town in Texas and I’m the best in the big world,” he said. “It seemed like so much at the time.”

But Carder’s interest in BMX waned. By the end of fifth grade, he quit it to focus on other sports.

“If he would have just kept going, he would have been in the Olympics,” said Bubba Harris, a professional BMX rider. “He would have been the best in BMX if he would have kept going. That’s for sure.” 

At the end of seventh grade, Carder had regrets and had just resumed training for BMX when he was badly injured in a single-vehicle wreck. A rod broke and the vehicle flipped three times, ejecting Carder before hitting a tree.

“All I remember is that we started swerving and I started laughing because I thought she was playing,” he said of the driver, a teenage sister of a friend. “Then I got up after the wreck and looked down the road and passed out.”

The crash broke Carder’s back in two places, fractured seven ribs and punctured his diaphragm and lungs. If he lived, doctors said, they were unsure whether he would walk again. 

“Tank didn’t want to die,” his mother, Marti Carder, said. “His doctors called him the miracle child.”

While Carder was hospitalized, his mother asked him what he would do if he could not walk again.

“Well, I’ll just join the wheelchair Olympics,” Carder told her.

He did walk but was slowed by a fiberglass body brace when he was discharged from the hospital. A few weeks later, his father, Ricky Carder Sr., heard Carder crying in his bedroom and went to check on him. Tank Carder insisted nothing was wrong before saying, “I’m never going to be able to play sports again, Dad, ever.”

“I will never forget that,” his father said. “It broke my heart.”

The father came up with the idea of trying out as a kicker, but when Carder entered Sweeny High School, the football coach was leery of letting him kick because doctors had not cleared him. He was allowed to kick only after Carder and his parents signed a waiver and agreed to a stipulation: to ensure he avoided contact, Carder would pick up the kicking tee and sprint off the field after every kickoff and sprint off after every punt.

Carder became the varsity kicker and punter as a freshman, but he sometimes jogged to the sideline in hope of getting to make a tackle.

“I wanted to play,” he said. “I knew I could play.”

So when the holder fumbled the snap on an extra-point attempt his sophomore year, Carder picked up the ball and ran untouched into the end zone for a 2-point conversion. Afterward, Carder said, his fuming coach told him, “You do that again, you ain’t kicking no more.”

It was not until his junior year that Carder was allowed to make contact. He showed enough glimpses of potential at linebacker to receive letters from a few colleges. He continued to kick and play linebacker as a senior but also saw action at running back, tight end and quarterback.

That versatility prompted T.C.U. Coach Gary Patterson to call two weeks before signing day in 2007 and provide Carder his lone N.C.A.A. Division I scholarship offer.

“It was just one of those things where I watched his highlight film and really liked him,” Patterson said.

Carder redshirted his freshman year but made an impression on Patterson and his teammates when he tackled a 400-pound calf during a rodeo at the Texas Bowl that season.

Next season, Carder may also handle T.C.U.’s kickoffs and long field goals, Patterson said.

“The story’s not over,” he said. “I think most people judge it by how it ends.”

And if Carder’s past is indicative of his future, there are plenty more chapters to be written.

Like I said earlier in this post, I hope that Tank Carder's story moves you the same way that it did for me. Our bodies are amazing, and once you support that energy with a great mindset, you can truly conquer unbelievable feats. You don't get to pick your life, but you get to decide how you want to live it. Pretty amazing.

2 comments:

  1. First off I am from Wisconsin and I wanted the Badgers to win but if we had lose to someone I am glad that it was TCU and happy how it turned out. It was a very close game and well fought. Tank Carders pass block finish was an absolute fantastic way for TCU to win the game. He really is a good example of fighting for everything we have. And want to have. :)

    Jim
    Badger fan and Tank Carder fan

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oops, forgot to add 'Jessica fan too'
    Jim

    ReplyDelete

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