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Arizona football: Enjoy Ka’Deem Carey while you can

Ka'Deem Carey is running toward the Arizona career rushing record. Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ka’Deem Carey is running toward the Arizona career rushing record. Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona Wildcats running back Ka’Deem Carey said his plan for after the season is to “relax” and “get my body ready.”

Ready for what, though, he’s not saying.

With two games left in the regular season — at home vs. fifth-ranked Oregon and at No. 19 Arizona State — Carey has plenty on his mind, including one very big school record to break before mapping out 2014. Will he turn pro or return for his senior season?

“I haven’t even thought that far,” he said earlier this week. “Not even. I’m just focusing on this first game, Oregon, and trying to knock it down.”

Carey needs 118 rushing yards to knock down the school career record of 3,824 yards, held by Trung Canidate.

“That would mean a lot,” he said of the record. “This game means a lot. Lights, camera, action. Let’s go. I’m excited.”

That he breaks the record seems inevitable. That he is approaching his final two (or three) games as in an Arizona uniform seems likely.

Perhaps sometime during Saturday’s home finale, the Zona Zoo will serenade him with chants of “One more year! One more year!”

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said he will wait until after the regular season to discuss the future with Carey.

“He is looking forward to every practice and what we’re doing this week in the game plan,” Rodriguez said.

“He has been really focused in that regard. I think in a lot of ways maybe he looks at the possibilities we have never year with a deeper wide receiver corps and a lot of linemen coming back. He’s probably thinking about that and getting excited. I hope he is.”

Ka'Deem Carey runs for the Marana Broncos in the fall of 2004. Photo by Renee Bracamonte, Tucson Citizen

Ka’Deem Carey runs for the Marana Broncos in the fall of 2004. Photo by Renee Bracamonte, Tucson Citizen

Rodriguez’s typical advice is to endorse an early jump to the NFL if the player is considered a high first-round pick. Carey won’t be a high first-round pick in 2014. No running back in this class will. Carey might have late first-round possibilities, but figures to settle more comfortably into the second round.

If Carey wants more information, he can take advantage of an NFL advisory committee that will return an opinion on a player’s draft status before he has to declare.

“If you’re not going to be a high first-rounder and can improve your status, you ought to look at all your options,” Rodriguez said.

“But that’s up to the individual and his family. Our job is to allow him to get all the resources he can to make the right decision.”

Carey has been a fixture on the Tucson sports scene for nearly a decade, starting when he helped the Marana Broncos Peewee team to a national championship in January 2005.

When he was a freshman at Canyon del Oro High School, the secret was out.

“He played basketball on my little brother’s travel team,” said Arizona senior linebacker Jake Fischer, a graduate of Ironwood Ridge High.

“I knew who he was. I didn’t know he was any good at football. And then his freshman year, when he burst onto the scene, everyone was talking about him.”

That was, in part, because of a 96-yard kick return, a front flip into the end zone on a two-point conversion that became a YouTube hit (see video at bottom of story) and other amazing feats that helped CDO reach the state title game. The Dorados lost to Scottsdale Saguaro 23-21, despite Carey’s 91-yard kick return for a score.

“He’s got the best raw ability I’ve ever coached,” then-CDO coach Pat Nugent said at the time. “Talent-wise, he’s got stuff I’ve never seen before. He’s got a chance to be one of the great ones around here I think.”

It’s worked out just that way. Carey split time with Keola Antolin as an Arizona true freshman in 2011, when coach Mike Stoops was fired halfway through the season, and then he quickly proved himself to Rodriguez.

“I knew of him a little bit, but not a lot,” Rodriguez said.

“I had talked to some of the previous coaches who were here. Through spring practice, we thought this game could be pretty good. He was better in the game and, as the season went along, then even we anticipated.”

Becoming a consensus All-American and leading the nation in rushing as a sophomore (148.3 yards per game) … well, that was something Carey could foresee happening when he stepped on campus.

“I saw,” he said.

“They didn’t see it. Nobody else saw it, but I knew what I was capable of doing. Patience is a virtue is what I always say. You have to be patient sometimes.”

Carey is averaging slightly more yards per game this season (150.3), although the long runs, the highlight plays, have been less frequent. Every inch has come with a higher degree of difficulty in the absence of other offensive stars.

“I think he’s a better football player,” Rodriguez said.

“He hasn’t had as many creases or holes as big at times, and he still runs with great passion. He plays hard without the ball, too, blocking-wise. He’s been a really good player and he’s still getting better.”

In every way.

“The thing a lot of people don’t realize is how much he’s developed as a leader,” Fischer said.

“He’s so charismatic, has so much enthusiasm. He gets the other guys revved up. He’s awesome on the field, awesome off the field.”

Enjoy him while you can.


Trung Canidate ready to hand off Arizona rushing record to Ka’Deem Carey

Ka’Deem Carey’s all-around skills put him in first-round range

Carey as a freshman at CDO:

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