Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey is the national rushing champion. A consensus All-American. Local kid made good.
He’s 20 years old, mentioned as a potential Heisman candidate, gazing at an NFL future, the potential to be as popular a football player as there has been here since the Wildcats joined the Pac-10 in 1978.
He has the smile to charm the fan base as Tedy Bruschi did in Tucson 20 years ago.
You just want to say to Ka’Deem: Don’t mess it up. Don’t be a knucklehead.
Or, more to the point, stop being a knucklehead.
Since the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15, heading into an offseason in which the athletic department wants to market the junior-to-be under the “TeamKa’Deem” brand, Carey has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
The latest came Tuesday, when the Arizona Daily Wildcat, citing a campus police report, reported first that Carey was removed from Saturday’s basketball game at McKale Center after a verbal confrontation with event staff and local police.
During the incident, Carey and a cousin, Hakeem Adams-Johnson, were “double seated and sitting on the backs of the chairs” and couldn’t produce tickets when asked. Carey allegedly responded, “Get the f— out of my face” and then went to his football credentials, saying, “Do you know who I am? I’m an All-American.”
Yeah. He went there. Actually played the “Do you know who I am?” card.
For a guy who said as recently as early December that he keeps humble because “I surround myself with great people,” it’s time to sound the alarm to all members of Carey’s posse: It’s time to make sure his head isn’t getting too big for his helmet.
The scene at McKale Center was just the latest issue for Carey, a graduate of Canyon del Oro High. He will be facing charges for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct, stemming from a Dec. 26 incident with his pregnant ex-girlfriend.
She alleged that Carey pushed/shoved his way into a room in her home to “obtain a lighter to use illegal substance.”
And the Arizona Daily Star reported that Carey was cited in Case Grande on Jan. 22 for driving with expired registration and failure to produce insurance.
Hold off on that Carey marketing campaign.
The court case will play itself out. Perhaps the other incidents can be chalked up to youthful indiscretions. It might blow over. Someone as talented running with a football as Carey always will get multiple chances. Any punishment from the football office has yet to be announced.
Shortly after the bowl game, coach Rich Rodriguez said the biggest task for Carey in the offseason was to “keep the same attitude he had this year as far as his eagerness to learn and his hunger to prove himself.”
Added Rodriguez: “We have to keep him hungry and keep him humble.”
Carey isn’t off to a good start with that humble thing.
He will, some day, have his name on the Ring of Fame at Arizona Stadium. He already qualifies — twice, in fact, for being an All-American and a national statistical leader.
But whether or not he becomes football’s version of Sean Elliott — the beloved local kid turned All-American who handles himself with class — will be determined by more than what Carey does on the field.
He doesn’t have to be perfect. But he’s had a bad five weeks, marked by poor decisions, and that’s a troubling trend for anyone, let alone someone with a future as dazzling as Carey’s could be.
All the more reason to stop being a knucklehead.