It was late in the third quarter during Arizona’s November matchup with ninth-ranked Oregon that a chant began in the stands.
“One more season! One more season!” resonated from the sea of Wildcat red. Just then, a lightning quick and ferociously-strong Arizona player pummeled through the Oregon defensive line like a ballerina made of iron. Another Arizona first down. The crowd erupted in a cacophonic roar and the chant continued.
“One more season! One more season!”
The player causing the excitement rose to his feet, brushed off the tremors from the enormous impact he had taken from a colossal defensive line, and gingerly made his way back to the huddle.
At the end of the day, Tucson’s homegrown hero, Ka’Deem Carey would rack up 206 rushing yards and four touchdowns in route to becoming Arizona’s all-time leading rusher. His performance was flawless, and it resulted in a dominant Arizona victory over a BCS contender by a score of 42-16. But regardless of the hoopla, the hollers, and the “one more season” talk, I could not rid myself of the images of Carey smashing his body violently into a hoard of green jerseys time and time again.
As sports fans, it is all too easy to lose sight of what is in a player’s best interest. In our minds, they become statistics, tickets to success, and commodities. We seem to forget that athletes are ordinary people, and they have lives outside of the sport they play. In Carey’s case, the 21-year-old has his future to consider.
The fact of the matter is that Carey simply does not belong in a red and blue jersey next season; he belongs in the NFL. Being college football’s most complete running back in 2013, Carey has nothing left to prove at that level. The two time All-American holds 23 school records, a 2012 NCAA rushing title, a 2013 PAC 12 Offensive Player of the Year award, and 3,814 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns in the past two seasons. He has chiseled his name on the wall of college running back infamy, and has earned his way to a second round NFL Draft projection.
Not only does Carey have the undeniable talent to become successful on the professional level, but another season at Arizona may actually hurt his draft stock for the following year. In 2013, the Carey-centric Arizona offense only threw the ball in 35 percent of plays, resulting in 349 carries for their star running back. In three seasons, Carey has run the ball 744 times, handily placing him among history’s running backs with the most mileage upon entering the NFL draft. Surely the number of beatings a college player has taken must be factored into the draft equation by NFL teams, and another season in a Wildcat uniform may actually begin to work against the Tucson native. As it stands right now, however, Carey has done just enough to prove he is an expert at reading defenses and utilizing blockers, but also has not performed so much that his body has been expended beyond its limits.
Tucson has been lucky enough to call Carey our own, watching him mature and grow in facets of life on and off the field since childhood. However, the time has come to let our star athlete go, to relish in the memories he has created, the accomplishments he has made, and to watch from afar as he takes his talents to a bigger stage, showing the world what the rest of us have already seen.