Derek Carr is in his first season as the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, perhaps the most visible job in the entire city. The hopes of Saints fans everywhere rest on his broad shoulders, and he wants to embrace the city back.
As part of that, Carr has agreed to a one-on-one interview with Times-Picayune Saints editor Zach Ewing, who covered Carr years ago in California high school football.
This week, we discuss the aftermath of the Saints’ season-opening victory over the Titans, in which Carr passed for 305 yards and a touchdown, his memories of his brother David playing in Carolina and much more.
Each week, we’ll post the interview here in a question-and-answer format, brought to you by OOFOS. And you’re invited to participate, too. If you have questions you’d like Carr to answer — about football, family, life or anything in between — email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zach Ewing: Your brother David played in Carolina for one season. What memories do you have of Charlotte?
Derek Carr: Oh, I have a great Charlotte story. OK, so I went to training camp, and I remember (quarterbacks coach Mike McCoy) would always have me come out and have me play catch with him, Matt Moore, Dave, stuff like that, and then where my brother lived, he lived on this big hill. It’s very hilly in Carolina. And he was like, “You can’t take the skateboard all the way down this driveway.”
I’m like, “What?” And you know, I’m a teenager, so I’m like, “Of course I can!” So I go take this skateboard and ram it down this hill, and I get the speed wobbles. Because I was just cookin’. I was going straight line to see how fast I could go, and it started wobbling, so I know it’s over. So I made a hard left turn and try to jump for the grass, OK? Into this lady’s lawn. I didn’t know the lady at the time, but I tried to jump for the lawn.
So I jump. Foom, skateboard flies out from under me, and where the driveway comes up, I hit my chest — I was going 25, 30 miles an hour — hit my chest, and it knocks me out. I roll, I don’t know how far.
Next thing I know, I open my eyes, I sit up. It was like I was getting my first breath from under a wave or something, getting out of the water. So I’m sitting there, and right when this happens, this car pulls right into the driveway, which is 5 feet from where I just wrecked. And she looks at me, and the kids are staring at me out the back windows, scared to death, because I didn’t know, but I didn’t have a shirt on and I was bleeding everywhere. My head, my back, my chest, just bleeding, and I didn’t know.
She’s like, “Are you OK?” I’m like, “I’m great!” I popped up, start running back and my brother’s like, “Bro, are you OK?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m fine. Why?”
Then I looked down, and I’m just covered in blood. Road rash, just tore up.
My nephew sees me, runs in the house, because my mom knew we were skateboarding and yells, “DEREK’S DEAD!” My mom is like, “Oh my gosh!” and I’m running up all bloody.
So that is my favorite Carolina Panthers story.
ZE: The invincibility of youth. Do your kids do that kind of stuff?
DC: Heck no! If they were like, “We’re gonna take this skateboard,” I’d be like heck, no. From past experience, don’t do it.
ZE: So you got to have all the fun, in other words.
DC: I got to have all the fun. I let them venture out, but there’s some things, I’m like, “Just please learn from my lessons.”
ZE: Speaking of which, after Sunday’s game, your kids were out on the Superdome field playing, some of the other players’ kids went out there. Your parents were there, too. I’m sure you did that stuff in Vegas and Oakland sometimes too, but how special was that time, that 10, 15 minutes out there just soaking in that first home win?
DC: There were sometimes (the Raiders) wouldn’t let us on the field, cleaning or something, I don’t know, but now, that’s just what everybody does. It was so cool for my kids, because they would beg me, “Can we go on the field?” and it’d be, “Aw, buddy, we can’t this time.” But now it’s like that just what happens. I get to get my meal, they get to run around and get their energy out. Watching the kids play, honestly that was my favorite part of the day. We won the game, yes, I was excited and all that kind of stuff, but to watch my kids and the joy they had out there playing with all the other kids, that made my day. And then they got to meet Drew (Brees) for the first time. Drew took a picture with them, so they were all fired up after that.
ZE: Monday Night Football this week. What Monday night memories do you have?
DC: I’ve played a lot of them. I don’t remember my first one. I do remember one in 2020.
ZE: When you beat the Saints, the first home game for the Raiders in Las Vegas.
ZE: What do you remember about that one?
DC: It was the COVID year, no fans. I remember the Saints practice squad was sitting in the stands, but they got kicked out because they didn’t want anybody sitting in the stands. I remember our owner, he wanted our fans to be the first ones at a game. They didn’t want our fans to see someone sitting in the stands and be like, “What the heck?” And I understood that.
But yeah, first win in the stadium, I signed the locker room wall. Hopefully it’s still there. Hopefully they didn’t paint over that. But it was there until I left, which was really cool.
ZE: There’s a lot of talk about ranking quarterbacks, and I’m sure you try to ignore that as much as you can.
DC: Oh, yes.
ZE: But there’s always someone saying Derek is in this tier, or Derek is the 15th-best, or the 12th-best, or whatever. How should we be ranking quarterbacks?
DC: Oh, gosh. I think it should not happen, if I’m honest. I’ve been in so many offenses. I will literally watch someone running the exact same play I run, but I’ve seen people read it differently, they call it differently, they see it differently, and someone will be like, “Why didn’t he throw that?” And he’s sacked, and they grade him down. And it’s like, well, he’s probably not taught to look there first. So me, with 10 years of NFL experience, I don’t even critique quarterbacks, you know? I don’t even say, “What is he doing on this play?” I’m not in his room, I don’t judge him, I don’t know what he’s being told in that certain scenario. So I’ve never thought it should even happen, if I’m being honest.
ZE: You know it’s gonna keep happening.
DC: Yeah, they’re gonna keep doing it, because people listen to it.
ZE: How do you critique yourself then? You know on a given play what your reads were and what you could have done or should have done. So when you go back, how do you say whether you played well or you were way off?
DC: I’ve always done it based on what my coaches say. I’m just trying to be exactly what they want the quarterback to be during the game. Now there’s times where there’s an unscouted look, and I check to a play that we never even talked about. I hand-signal something, tell the running back to do something, and I may get a plus for that. Like, “Hey, great play.” But no one will know that stuff. Some of that stuff that happens, like I’ve done it before, and some of these plays that hit for big plays, if people knew, they’d be like, “Oh my gosh, he has to be a top whatever quarterback!” So I’ve always graded myself based on what does my coach say, and did I meet that expectation? And if I didn’t meet it in that area, OK, I gotta do this better in practice this week.
ZE: Last one is a reader question. It’s from Emiliana, and she wants to know where your faith comes from, and when did you first believe?
DC: That’s a good question. So my faith, obviously, I grew up in a family of Christians, pastors, missionaries, deacons, worship leaders, everything, but you know, I was a wild man throughout high school, first couple years of college, and my faith really wasn’t mine. It was my family’s, but it wasn’t mine until probably my second year in college.
And that’s when I just made the decision that you know, I want to be everything that I say that I am. I wanted to be a real person, and I found something that I desperately needed. I found something that actually gave me hope, actually gave me peace, actually gave me joy, without anything else going right in my life. And I found my foundation, and that foundation to this day has never let me down.
ZE: Was that a hard transition?
DC: Yeah, absolutely. Some of the things I was doing, and then all of a sudden, it’s like the taste and the want and the desire for any of the things that I was doing was just gone. And I know that doesn’t happen for everybody, but you know, we’re all in process. Everybody’s in process. My process was, I was a wild man and in a split-second, everything changed. In my heart, in my mind, what I wanted. And it’s the best decision I think I ever made.
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