By Kevin Alan Lamb
“And no one takes this honor for himself, but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.”
For the first time in 44 years, the Oakland Raiders took the field with a rookie quarterback at the helm. Son to Rodger and Sheryl, brother to David and Darren, Derek Carr was delivered into this world with faith, football, and a golden arm gifted from God.
“I have a very strong faith in God. He is the reason I play football. He has given me this special talent and I want to use it to glorify Him. I am grateful for the opportunity to further His kingdom by sharing my faith on and off the football field. At any moment, any second, my football career could be taken away, but my faith and relationship with God will never be taken from me,” Carr says.
Selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Carr left Fresno State the way a classic hero rides off into a Western sunset. He is one of 19 quarterbacks in FS history to throw for over 10,000 career yards, and 100 touchdowns. His 12,842-yard career passing total is good for 13th in FS history. In 2013 he won the Sammy Baugh Award, given to the nation’s top passer.
The 6-foot-3 Carr ended his collegiate career with a 113-to-24 touchdown-to-interception ratio (4.71), second highest in FS history for quarterbacks who have thrown over 100 career touchdowns, behind only Boise State’s Kellen Moore (5.07 in 2008). With 50 touchdown passes in 2013, he tied for the fourth-most in FS single-season history.
“The three most important things in my life are faith, family, and football,” Carr says. In that order, we add.
No matter his achievements on the field, the product of Clemens High School (Sugar Land, Texas) holds himself to a higher standard, and will not be defined by football. No matter your talent, and no matter your faith, without practice even great men falter from the path of righteousness.
“Christ became real to me when my wife (Heather), who was just a friend at the time, wrote me a letter that said, ‘You’re not the person I thought you were.’”
“He would say one thing, and act the opposite,” Heather recalls. “He talked about God, and how much he loved God, then I would see him going to parties, hanging out with girls.”
Devotion is not revealed through our beliefs. Devotion becomes evident in the choices we make, the lives we touch, and an unwavering commitment to something greater than ourselves.
“He must increase, and I must decrease.” —John 3:30.
While it wasn’t uncommon for a college athlete to stay out until 3 a.m., partying, and hanging out with girls, it was uncommon for a man committed to Christ.
“I thought he was so in love and on fire with God, then I saw what he was doing and it wasn’t adding up,” Heather says.
By nature, our human flesh is prone to faltering and sin, but no man is lost who holds Jesus in his heart.
“I remember that moment,” Carr says. “I felt so selfish. I felt so arrogant. I felt so cocky, but I was still a nice, genuine person. All of a sudden all the feelings came upon me and I got down on my knees. It was finally that time God put His foot on my throat and said, ‘I have special plans for you, and you’re screwing it up.’”
Before we run we must learn to walk; and before we walk we learn to crawl. From his knees, Carr asked for God’s forgiveness, and embraced The Increase into his life.
He says, “That next week we had a game at Ole Miss. I got up in front of my whole team and told them, ‘Guys, I’ve been calling myself a Christian and haven’t been living it; you guys know what I’ve been doing. I’m a Christian now and I’ve asked God for His forgiveness; now watch how I live my life’. That’s really what being a Christian is about.”
Ripe with Christ in his life, Carr made amends with Heather, allowing The Light to guide his love.
“That’s when we started hanging out again. Later on, we started to date and made it official, and then . . . yeah,” Heather says with smiling eyes.
“Let us know how to set as well as how to rise; and let it comfort our declining days, to trace, in those who are likely to succeed us in our work” —John 3:30, Benson Commentary.
In his 21 years, many words had been used to describe Derek Carr; “father” wasn’t among them until an August afternoon in 2013.
“I remember just looking at him; I was in awe of God’s creation,” Derek says.
Dallas Mason Carr was born 7 pounds, 10 ounces.
“You pack all the first-day outfits that you’re gonna go home with, and you’re so ready to take your baby home,” Heather says.
With seven nieces, Derek was no stranger to childbirth.
“I remember I went to go grab the nurse because I knew something was wrong.”
Those with the greatest faith in God, are often tested the most.
“He had X-rays done and all that, and they told us Dallas needed surgery; emergency surgery. Before he went in, they wheeled him out, we all grabbed hands and I prayed over him, and I prayed for strength, and I prayed to God that we even had one day to spend with him,” the new father says.
“I remember just laying down and I was so tired, as soon as my head hit I fell asleep. The doctor woke me up and said everything was great.”
His teammates call him “Superman.” On the day his first born entered this world, the name would be put to the test.
“They told us at that time he would spend 48 hours in the NICU and then we’d get to go home. 48 hours later he ended up having a second surgery,” Heather says.
After 23 days in the hospital, Dallas was released, and Derek and Heather brought him home.
“We were home for about two weeks and Dallas started throwing up again. We ended up taking him into the emergency room, and this time the surgery was five hours long. We were just waiting there, like ‘Is something really wrong, what’s going on?’” she remembers.
“I kept telling my wife that he was going to be okay,” Carr says, “and she kept saying, ‘How are you so strong?’ I told her, ‘If only you knew,’ and laughed, because I would go into the bathroom and cry my eyes out.”
The Grace of God ensures that we get what we need, when we need it, and we bleed because we are human; don’t be defeated.
“You can be a real Christian but be dying inside because we’re human,” he says.
Dallas has been healthy since.
“I just remember feeling God’s peace that I could never explain,” Heather says.
With a smile so bright it could light darkness, Carr proclaims, “That’s how I know He’s with me, because I have a peace and joy, and I can’t describe it, but I have it and I know it’s real.”
Son to Rodger and Sheryl, brother to David and Darren, husband to Heather, and father to Dallas; Derek Carr lives his life for his faith, family, and football. When the woman he loves called him out, he fell to his knees and asked God’s forgiveness. When his first born was weak, he prayed to God for strength; and when his Raiders achieve victory, it is because he leads them in observing the glory of Christ increasing.
“As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” —1 Corinthians 4:3-4.
If you have have faith, it will be tested. If you love unconditionally, it won’t always be appreciated. If you have a roadmap, God will toss it aside. When you find yourself lost, He will show you the way. And even if you aren’t looking for one, this is a Good Sign.