Derek Carr: Faith first, family second, football third

FRESNO, Calif.

Derek Carr has established himself as the leader of the football team that each week, is a step closer to the perfect season.

His wife, his coach and his teammates all say Derek is driven by hard work, moral principles, and his faith.

It was the season opener, and Derek Carr dazzled. He was confident, composed and unstoppable.

In an overtime nailbiter. Carr threw his fifth touchdown pass of the night to win the duel against Rutgers 52-51.

Few people knew that just two days before Derek had been standing helplessly by as his three-week-old son underwent major surgery.

At 22-years-old, Derek Carr has already lived a lot of life. He grew up in Bakersfield with two older brothers, Darren and David. Both brothers played division one football. David played quarterback for Fresno State and went on to play for the NFL's Houston Texans.

As Derek grew he came into his own as a talented football player, winning accolades and awards at Clements High School in Texas and as a senior at Bakersfield Christian High.

Carr became the first recruit of the 2009 Fresno State class of incoming freshmen. He saw little play his first year. Year two he redshirted, and that was also the year he met his wife, Heather. Heather Neel worked at a restaurant near Fresno State.

Heather recalls their first encounter, "I had like diamond earrings in my ear and I had them both, I knew I did. And he said, "Why are you only wearing one earring?" And it made me check my ears. And I was like, "that's your pick up line?" (It worked) it did work. I talked to him."

It wasn't long before Derek got up the nerve to ask her out. He said, "I asked her if she could come pick me up because I wanted to show her off to my friends because she was so beautiful. They wouldn't believe me. I'm texting this girl. She's so beautiful. I'm gonna marry this girl. And they would laugh at me. We hadn't even hung out yet."

Heather explained, "The first thing he told me was what he wanted in a wife. (Didn't that put you off?) No because I thought he knows what he wants. He shared his faith, we shared the same interests. We shared the same faith."

Derek credits his strong Christian faith to the influence of his grandparents, David and Delores Joyner, Pentecostal pastors. Derek says he often spent time hanging around them at their church while his parents were at work.

While Derek will tell you he strayed from what his grandparents taught him during his senior year of high school and the first two years of college, he says his wife Heather grounded him.

Derek said, "I've lived the other life. And I've lived the life the bible teaches. I can tell you right now I am more stable and more sturdy. And I've got a lot more joy and peace. I would never trade any one of those nights for a night just sitting here watching football with them."

Fresno State Coach Tim DeRuyter says it's Derek's strong faith that has made the standout quarterback a natural leader for the rest of the team.

DeRuyter explained, "As the head football coach I want our guys to examine spirituality their lives and I talk to our guys about it all the time. It can't be something that we drive. But through Derek's leadership and the way he lives his life, I think he draws people to his faith."

Perhaps the first real test of Derek's strong faith in god came the day his son was born.

Derek and Heather say the delivery was perfect. Dallas Mason Carr arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon August 5th. It wasn't long before Derek noticed something was terribly wrong.

Derek recalled, "I've been around nieces and nephews and I've seen them throw up. But he started throwing up this dark green. I mean he was laying in his little bassinet and it was shooting out to the floor."

Twelve hours later Dallas was at Children's Hopsital Central California undergoing surgery to fix wrapped and tangled intestines.

Two days passed before Derek returned to the Fresno State practice field. Just minutes into the workout, Offensive Coordinator Dave Shramm grabbed his arm.

Derek said, "He grabs me and tells me Dallas has to have another surgery. I remember I just put my head down and I'm glad I had my helmet on cuz I just started crying. He said, 'You know I love you. I know your faith and your family is more important.'"

It was the second of three surgeries for little Dallas. The third came two weeks later. Just as before, Derek left football behind and sat by his wife and son at the hospital.

Heather said, "I always knew that his faith was number one, but I really saw it when he was at the hospital when he was praying over us and how strong he was."

Two days after little Dallas came home from the hospital for good. He rested quietly in his mother's arms at Bulldog Stadium while his daddy pulled out a victory for the Bulldogs over Boise State.

Whether on the football field or the hospital, Derek Carr maintains a sense of peace, and his priorities are clear. Faith first, family second, football third.

Derek explained, "I'm going to be a husband and a father and a brother a lot longer than I'm going to be a quarterback. Someday they're going to take my jersey away."

For those people wondering about little Dallas Carr, he's doing fine, weighing in at a healthy 13 pounds.

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