Dedication and hard work, the hallmarks of his dad's NFL career, have turnedBobby Carpenter into a likely first-rounder
Slumped in a cushysofa in an off-campus apartment, Bobby Carpenter talks about the celebration heenvisions on April 29, the first day of the NFL draft. The Ohio Statelinebacker will be at the family home in Lancaster, Ohio, surrounded by highschool buddies. His girlfriend, Cortney Walter, will be by his side, and histhree younger brothers, Jonathan, George and Nate, will be nearby. They'll allbe waiting for the phone call telling Bobby where he'll begin his NFL career.But the Carpenter boys are anticipating that day for another reason, too:They'll be watching cable TV in their parents' home for the first time. Untilrecently, former NFL running back Rob Carpenter and his wife, Susie, both highschool teachers, didn't allow cable in the house. "When Bobby wanted towatch ESPN," says Rob, "I told him, 'You have friends. This would be agood time to develop those friendships.'"
As a kid Bobby wasmissing more at home than HBO and ESPN. There was no Internet access in thehouse until he was midway through high school (he convinced his parents thatthe Web would help him with schoolwork), and he didn't get a cellphone until heleft for Ohio State in 2002. Carpenter says his low-tech upbringing helped moldhim into the type of prospect the pros love: a versatile, hardworking athletewho's physically and mentally mature. Instead of spending hours a day watchingthe tube and surfing the Net, he was tossing the football with his brothers andstudying game film. The 6'3", 256-pound Carpenter has the speed (4.6 in the40) to drop into coverage, blitz or chase down ballcarriers from sideline tosideline. With eight sacks as a senior he could become a designated rusher onpassing downs. "Whether you're looking for an every-down 4-3 linebacker ora stand-up 3-4 linebacker, you'd have to jump at him," says Titans generalmanager Floyd Reese. "It all depends on what a team needs, but there's noquestion that he'll go high."
How high? Thoughhe's coming off a broken right fibula suffered in a Nov. 19 win over Michigan,most draft analysts expect Carpenter to join his more celebrated teammate,All-America linebacker A.J. Hawk, as a first-round selection, possibly to thePatriots (picking at 21), Giants (25), Colts (30) or Steelers (32).
Rob played 10seasons, from 1977 through '86, with the Oilers, Giants and Rams. At each stophe reaffirmed his reputation as a hard-nosed player who did the littlethings--most notably, blocking for Earl Campbell--to help his team win. AsBobby's football coach beginning in the seventh grade, Rob instilled those sametraits in his son. "I always made sure Bobby knew that I was anoverachiever," Rob says.
Bobby, who beganstudying game tape in junior high, never acted envious of Hawk during theirfour years together. He's tough, too--after breaking his leg, he insisted onmaking it to the sideline under his own power. And he scoffed at the idea ofhiring a trainer to prepare for the draft, instead hooking up with Hawk andfellow Buckeyes linebacker prospect Anthony Schlegel at 6 a.m. each weekday towork at the Ohio State facility.
Carpenter expectsto finish his degree in business and economics this semester, but he won't needto use it for a while. He's likely to be drafted a lot earlier than his dad,the last pick in the third round in 1977. "If I can do that," Bobbysays, "I'll be a happy man."
Time to Shine
Like Bobby Carpenter, each of these first-day draft prospects was overshadowedon his defensive unit by a better-known teammate
Manny Lawson, DE,6'5", 240, North Carolina State
Teammate Mario Williams is projected as the next Freak, but Lawson (above)isn't far behind. He has the explosiveness to be a dominant edge rusher. Watchfor him to go in the second round.
Abdul Hodge, MLB,5'11", 233, Iowa
A rugged playmaker, he had more tackles in each of the last three years thanweakside linebacker and higher-rated Hawkeye Chad Greenway. Projectedsecond-rounder.
A.J. Nicholson,OLB, 6 feet, 235, Florida State
If not for questions about his durability and character (multiple off-fieldincidents), he'd be mentioned in the same breath as teammate Ernie Sims. Quick,with good instincts and a nose for the ball. A second-rounder.
Cedric Griffin,DB, 6 feet, 203, Texas
Like All-America Longhorn Michael Huff, Griffin can play any position in theNFL secondary. That alone makes him a solid bet to go by the third round.
JAMIE SABAU (FAMILY)
FOLKWAYS- Thanks to Susie and Rob, Bobby was prepared to be a big hit at OhioState.
CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/AP (CARPENTER)
KEVIN C. COX/WIREIMAGE.COM (LAWSON)