Tank Carder came to TCU with no other offers from FBS programs and as a two-star recruit. To put it mildly, he was unknown. Five years later, he’s a fan favorite among Frog fans and now he’s gearing up to hear his name called in this weekend’s NFL Draft as the Frogs’ highest rated prospect.
Carder started 39 career games at TCU and in his five years on campus, his class owns the all-time win record at TCU. TCU played in two BCS bowls including the Rose Bowl, their first undefeated season and finished with their highest ranking (#2) since 1955. He totaled 228 tackles in his career, was named Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011 and was named to several All-American teams as a junior and senior.
Fans will remember Carder for his big pass deflection against Wisconsin that ultimately positioned the Frogs for the biggest win in school history. His three trademark armbands will not be forgotten any time soon nor will his #43 jersey be absent from any Frog home games in the near future.
HornedFrogBlitz.com caught up with Carder, who I first talked with over five years ago when he made his commitment to TCU. Carder gets us caught up on what he’s been doing in preparation for the draft, where he’ll be this weekend, why he chose TCU five years ago and his overall experience at TCU.
What have you been doing to prepare yourself for the draft since you guys finished the season?
“Right after the end of the season I went on vacation for a week and I got back January 1st and started working out January 2nd. I’ve been working out since. I worked out in San Diego with Todd Durkin of Fitness Quest 10 from January 2nd until the combine. After the combine I’ve been up here (Ft. Worth) training everyday; running and lifting, staying in shape. I went on visits to Cincinnati, Tampa and Buffalo and did the workout with Dallas. I’m just trying to stay in shape and try to impress who I can when I can and make the most of my opportunities.”
What’s your daily routine right now?
“I’ll get up around nine, Cash (his son) wakes up usually around nine so we’ll feed him breakfast then I’ll leave to go workout. I usually get done about 12 or 1 then I just relax and spend time with my fiancé and Cash and make the most out of everything. That’s everyday Monday through Friday and I’m off on the weekends.”
TCU players that are going through the draft process rarely use anyone besides strength coach Don Sommer for their training because they say he is the best to work with.
“He’s great. He does a dang good job at all of his workouts and running and everything. He pushes you real well, that’s probably one of the main reasons I came back to TCU after the combine to work out just as intense as I did in San Diego.”
You had offers from West Texas A&M and Texas A&M Kingsville before TCU offered. You visited TCU’s campus late in the process but wasn’t offered on the visit. When did the offer happen?
“Coach P was going to come down but the weather prevented him. He was driving to Oklahoma and he called me on the phone and he asked me if I wanted to be a Horned Frog and I committed right there on the phone. It was a no-brainer, there was only two weeks left (until signing day) and there were no other division one’s in the mix so when he called and offered I said yes.”
How big of a decision was that for you, choosing TCU?
“It was a huge decision. It wasn’t really a tough decision, that’s the crazy thing, it was an easy decision. I didn’t have any other choices; it was yes to TCU or don’t go division one. It was an easy decision, but as far as the way God set it up, he kind of had his hand on me and made that my only choice and it worked out good. The past five years we’ve been to two BCS games, went undefeated, won the Rose Bowl. It was an act of God the way he put me there with no other teams in the mix and how I came up with no offers to now hopefully making it in the NFL.”
Speaking of TCU being your only offer, in the THSCA All-Star game when you won defensive MVP, did you have a chip on your shoulder knowing other big name schools in Texas never recruited you?
“Oh yeah, when I was a replacement I just always knew that I could play ball with those guys, all of those guys that went to Texas and those five star recruits. I knew I could play ball with them, I just never got looked at. I was mad that Texas never offered me. At the time I wanted to go to Texas so bad in high school before TCU came into the mix and now if I had to go back I’d choose TCU three times over if Texas offered me.”
Can you talk about your overall experience at TCU?
“It’s really unexplainable, I get chills just thinking about it. It was one of the greatest times of my life, I’ll always remember it. We went to the Rose Bowl, all the fans showed so much love for all of us players, the school, the coaching staff, the faculty; just everything was great. Everything was just an amazing experience and like I said it was an act of God that he put me here. It was my only division one (offer). It’s been the best part of my life. It’s something that I’ll remember and cherish for a long time; I’ll always keep in touch with all of my guys I played with and all of the coaches.”
You weren’t ranked too high out of high school and for that matter there weren’t a lot of highly rated recruits you played with the four years you played, what made you guys so successful in winning all of those games?
“It’s really a crazy thing, the guys that Coach P has turned into great players in the NFL they were two-stars. Jerry Hughes was a two-star runningback. I was a two-star athlete. Jason Phillips was a two-star fullback. I can go down the list that were no-names that nobody wanted and Coach P took them in and turned them into men and grew them up and made them some of the better football players that went through TCU. I couldn’t even explain the way he does it; he’s just got a knack for taking boys and turning them into men and making them great football players.”
What was the biggest personal highlight you felt you had at TCU?
“I want to say the Rose Bowl but everybody knows about the Rose Bowl. If I had to pick one, I’d say it was my pick six against Utah in 2009 with College Gameday at the game. We hadn’t beat Utah in two or three years. Whenever they came into our house we beat up on them pretty good and it was 28-7 when I scored that touchdown and kind of made it out of reach at 35-7 with the defensive touchdown. That’s the ultimate play, the defensive pick six. I felt like that was probably one of the highlights that I’m personally fond of in my career. Of course the knock down pass in the Rose Bowl, but anybody can make that play. It was just the right place at the right time. The pick six, you had to have a little skill to make that play and that’s one of the one’s I always remember. I’ve still got it TiVo’d and watch it sometimes to this day.”
How often do you get asked about the Rose Bowl knockdown pass?
“Man, for about a year after, the last few months, even now. It’s how I’m remembered. Nobody remembers me by Utah in 2009. Anytime they want an autograph they say ‘can you put Rose Bowl defensive MVP on there’. I’m like, I sure will. It’s that one time when your name gets put out there and you’re on the scene and it’s a crazy thing but that’s how it worked out. I’m just so glad I could be a part of that and the things TCU has done the past five years.”
When you got to TCU as a freshman, did you have the expectation that every TCU fan is going to know who you are, a name fans will remember for a long, long time and one of the top linebackers ever to come through TCU?
“No, not at all. I didn’t even think I could play in the NFL. I had already gotten my offer from TCU and after I played my redshirt freshman season I go back to Sweeny and there’s a few guys that were still playing (in the NFL) and he’d be working out and talking about the league and it never clicked that I could play in the NFL until after that 2009 Utah game. I thought I could play this game a little bit. That was kind of the turning point that I could go to the next level and play in the NFL.”
What’s the plan for this weekend during the draft?
“We’re going to be down at the lake just having a good time. We’re going to have a little crawfish boil and just relax and hopefully somebody calls me.”
Have you been told what round you’re projected at and are you going to watch the draft on T.V.?
“No, I have no idea. I’ve seen all kinds of projections with mock drafts with me going in the third. It’s really a crapshoot; we’ll just have to see. I know I’m not going to be watching it on T.V.; I don’t want to sit there and be waiting. I’m just going to go do my thing and go to the lake and have a good time and relax. I know for sure I can at least go as a free agent so that’s an upside I can look forward to.”
What is the one thing you take away from TCU that doesn’t have anything to do with football, maybe something you learned from Coach Patterson or the other coaches that one day you’re going to pass down to your children and use in your everyday life?
“Probably the one thing I can think of is Coach P says you never know who is watching you. No matter what you’re doing in life, whether you’re at home you never know who can be watching. Whatever you’re doing, do it to the fullest and to the best of your ability. Like I said, you never know who is looking at you, there can be somebody across the street when you’re mowing your yard and see that you’re doing your yard half-assed and they can be the CEO of some big company that you want to be part of after football. You never know who’s watching you so always do everything you do no matter what it is in life to the best of your ability and to the fullest.”
Who carries on the triple armband tradition?
“Oh, ya’ll will see(laughing).”