TUCSON, Ariz. – Ka’Deem Carey is living out a dream, setting records and achieving standards unheard of in the world of Arizona football.
Carey, a Tucson native who’s only a sophomore, has already surpassed anyone’s expectations.
“As a kid, you hope to grow up to achieve a lot of goals,” said Carey earlier this week as Arizona was preparing to face Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15. “I feel like I’ve achieved them this year.
“It’s nothing where it’s (caught me) off-guard or surprising. I knew what this team was capable of, because the front line was more experienced this year.”
After a freshman season in which he tallied 491 yards on 91 carries, Carey has exploded on the scene with 1,757 yards (second in the nation) and a national-best 146.42 yards per game in Rich Rodriguez’s first year as the Wildcats’ coach.
Among the highlights:
• Carey has been named first-team All-All America by the Sporting News, FOXSportsNext.com and CBSSports.com.
• Carey was named first-team All-Pac-12.
• He set the single-season school rushing mark, breaking Trung Canidate’s record of 1,602 yards from 1999.
• Carey set the single-game Pac-12 rushing record with 366 yards (to go along with five touchdowns) in Arizona’s win over Colorado.
• He scored 21 touchdowns (20 rushing and one receiving), tied for eighth nationally and second in the Pac-12.
• He became just the second Arizona player to register back-to-back 200-yard rushing games and just the third to have multiple 200-yard games in his career.
Yes, he said, “dreams do come true.”
Carey also has those to keep him grounded: his girlfriend and his mom, Tisha.
“They say I’m not good,” he said behind a wide smile. “I just try to prove them wrong.”
Tisha hasn’t missed a game of her son’s since he was in the eighth grade, she said. But her mission statement to him has always been: “God is first before any one of us. He has to remember where he came from and where he’s trying to go.”
That would be the record books and beyond, of course. We’ll have to wait to see if he finishes as college football’s leading rusher — there’s an indication Arizona coaches will attempt to make that happen in the bowl game, and that could also result in him reaching the 2,000-yard milestone.
“We knew he was a good player, but it takes a combination of things and not just the linemen up front, perimeter blocking and making the right reads,” Rodriguez said. “He has squeezed out every yard he’s got. He’s earned it, for sure.”
“This is huge, and I’m not sure we understand the magnitude of it,” said Dustin Peace, Carey’s high school coach at Tucson Canyon del Oro, “because it’s happening right in front of us. But when you sit back and think about it, he could be the best Tucson player to ever play.
“And he’s only a sophomore.”
Peace said he remembers talking to former coach Mike Stoops about Carey going to Arizona and potentially leading the team to a Rose Bowl. The coach has changed, but “it’s about winning a Pac-12 championship and still getting to the Rose Bowl.”
Carey’s goal is Arizona’s goal, Aalways has been. And with Carey putting up huge numbers in Rodriguez’s system, getting there seems more realistic.
“He’s got great athletic ability,” Rodriguez said. “He’s got as good of balance as any football player as I’ve ever been around. His ability to keep going forward after contact is as good as I’ve seen. He’s got uncanny balance.”
And his football IQ continues to improve with every game, every play.
“He’s picked it up pretty good from what we’re doing,” Rodriguez said.
Carey said he works to continually learn about the game and build on his skill set. It started when he was a young player growing up in Tucson.
“One year it’s the stiff arm, another it’s a spin move, another it’s breaking tackles,” he said. “My biggest strength is learning from each coach.”
And listening to his mother.
“It’s amazing what he’s doing,” Tisha said. “It’s a blessing actually. Ka’Deem is blessed, and I think he realizes it. God could have chosen anybody, but he chose him.”