There seems to be a running theme in the reasons given for former Arizona Wildcats running back Ka'Deem Carey going unselected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft:
"Character red flags."
"Questions surrounding his character."
And then this one from Heisman voter Lisa Horne, who is a Fox Sports writer from Southern California, after the season was complete in February:
Carey's actions involving his girlfriend and University of Arizona police more than a year ago are regrettable. He paid his price without charges filed in either case. He was suspended for Arizona's opener in 2013, eliminating his chance to lead the nation in rushing for the second year in a row.
Heisman voters like Horne held Carey's off-the-field issues before last season against him. He was not invited to New York City for the ceremony because of that.
Was Carey a bad seed to his son, teammates and coaches throughout the school year? No. Quite the opposite. He never pouted about his suspension. He never put himself above his teammates. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was complimentary in his comments about how Carey handled the adversity.
“I’m proud of him,” Rodriguez said late last season when Carey averaged more than 150 rushing yards per game. “He’s earned that. He had some issues in the offseason which he has worked very, very hard the last six or seven months to rectify. He worked hard to earn the trust back of everybody. Ka’Deem’s a good guy.”
These people who do not know Carey personally, including Horne, cannot look Carey's mother, Tisha Atkins Carey, in the eye and say her son has character issues.
Ms. Carey posted a photo on her Facebook wall hugging her son during the first night of the NFL draft Thursday night. "Enjoyment on day one, love my boo boop," is what she wrote.
Former LSU running back Jeremy Hill was taken in the second round by Cincinnati, the 55th pick overall, despite this background: Arrested on sexual assault charges while in high school. Arrested again in April 2013 after being caught on video punching a man outside a bar near campus. For the latter, he was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and two years probation. Hill is on probation until July 2015.
The ignorance involving questions about Carey's character is unfortunate, especially including the views of a Heisman voter such as Horne.
Hill's selection in the second round is peculiar in more ways than one.
The knock on Carey is his time in the 40-yard dash (4.66 seconds) but that was the same time Hill posted at the NFL scouting combine. Hill and the other seven running backs who were picked in the first three rounds are known for their pass-catching ability.
Hill had only 18 catches for 181 yards, however, in LSU's pro-style offense last season. Carey had 26 receptions for 173 yards in one less game because of his suspension. Washington's Bishop Sankey, a second-round pick (54th overall) by Tennessee, had two more catches than Carey for 304 yards overall.
Carey had four receiving touchdowns in his three-year Arizona career. Sankey had only one in his three-year career with the Huskies.
The NFL has become infatuated with big-play performers on offense. We are living in the ESPN "Top 10 Plays" highlight era. The days of hard-nosed, physical running backs blasting through the line for an important 30-yard gain are over. John Riggins, Franco Harris and Earl Campbell do not have a place in today's NFL. If their style was still approved by NFL scouts, Carey is a first-round pick without question.
The art of smashmouth running for paydirt in the red zone has given way to a quarterback scramble or five receivers zig-zagging to find an open area in the end zone for the quarterback to loft in the air for a jump-ball situation. The NFL of today would often rather have a quarterback (not always a running back) bolt through the line for a 10-yard gain and a first down. See Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin.
See running backs becoming less important of a commodity.
Arizona's spread offense is similar with a dual-threat quarterback and a bevy of receivers but Carey thrived in Rodriguez's balanced offense.
This much is certain: Carey's scouting combine performance in which he was timed at 4.7 seconds in the 40 and showed questionable hand-eye coordination in pass-catching drills are affecting his draft status. Two days in Indianapolis have meant the difference between Carey going in the second round to potentially landing in the fourth round or lower.
If character was a factor, Carey would shut himself off from the media and outside world because of his snub in the first three rounds. Instead, the affable Carey held a party at a Tucson establishment Friday night with family and friends. The Tucson media was welcome to attend.
Carey told the Arizona Daily Star's Daniel Berk, "It was a long night, but a great night" with family and friends.