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Lineman puts ROTC career on hold to walk on

Mary Green | Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kevin Carr has always been part of a team.

The identity, though, of the groups with which he’s been has changed throughout his four years at Notre Dame.

The senior offensive lineman began his Notre Dame experience as a member of the University’s Navy ROTC program.

“It was good,” Carr said of his ROTC stint. “I really liked the unit. I kind of wished I had stayed in it, but at the same time, football is great.”

Carr’s parents, his grandfathers and his godmother were in the Navy, and his godmother still serves as a Captain. Though his parents retired when he was born, Carr said their legacy influenced the route he took in college.

“They were career Navy, so I was kind of raised in a naval household, so that really drove me to join ROTC and want to do the Navy [branch],” he said.

After two years in ROTC, Carr, who played high school football at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tenn., and won a state championship, realized he missed the gridiron a little more than he first thought after graduating from high school.

“I went to all the games freshman year and sophomore year, and I was like, ‘You know what, I miss this. I might as well try [out],'” he said.

Carr walked on the team at the end of his sophomore year but did not see any game action the following fall. A herniated disk in his back prohibited the 6-foot-5, 355-pound senior from gaining playing time at the beginning of this season.

“It was tough, but the training staff is great,” he said. “They really helped me, and all the doctors, too. They were great, so they helped push me through and kept my spirits up. And now I’m in full health for football.”

With his body ready and able to stop any defensive ends coming his way in practice, Carr waited for the moment when he could do the same in an Irish game. However, the first time that happened came as a pleasant surprise for him against Air Force on Oct. 26.

“That was honestly a dream come true,” he said. “It was incredible. I didn’t know I was traveling until I had my car packed to go home Thursday [for fall break], and my plan was to leave right after practice, and they told me that morning I was traveling. Coach [Mike] Elston comes up to me and said, ‘You know you’re going to the game, right?’ I said, ‘I didn’t, but that’s awesome.’ 

“And then finally to get in at the beginning of the fourth quarter, that was a dream come true.”

The 45-10 Irish win was especially significant for a player with as many ties to the armed forces as Carr.

“It was nice to get in there and beat up on Air Force a little bit,” he said. “My parents were pretty happy about it.”

Though Carr’s schedule as a senior on the football team differs from his freshman schedule with ROTC, he said the two groups are similar in many aspects.

“With both, it’s pretty regimented,” he said. “I don’t have to get up as early in the fall as I did with ROTC, but with spring practices you still have to go through it. But it’s pretty much the same. It’s like being part of a team, being part of a battalion. It’s pretty much the same.”

But which one does he love more?

“Probably football, I’d say. I love football.”

The former Knott Hall resident said the sport has brought him friendships that moved off-campus with him.

“I live with [senior center] Bruce Heggie and [senior receiver] Luke Massa,” he said. “They’re pretty much my brothers because I’m an only child.”

Besides competing with the football team, Carr does have another claim to fame. During his high school years in the Music City, he appeared in a football-themed, Kenny Chesney music video.

“I’m in ‘The Boys of Fall’ ,” he said. “I didn’t even know. They came, and they just videotaped us running up through a banner, and I guess a couple weeks after they did it, a bunch of people from my high school were texting each other like, ‘Hey, check out the music video. We’re in it!’ So that was pretty cool.

“Coach [Paul] Longo, our weight coach, likes to bring it up.”

After he closes out his career for the Irish and his four years at Notre Dame, the chemical engineering major said he would like to return to his naval roots, specifically as a nuclear engineer.

“I kind of want to go in the Navy, so that’d be my first choice,” he said. “But if not, then I’ll look for a job or [go to] grad school. Hopefully one of those will pan out.”

But no matter if he is on an aircraft carrier, a base or somewhere else in the world, Carr said Notre Dame would always hold a special place in his heart.

“The campus is beautiful, and the people are great,” he said. “Everyone that goes to Notre Dame, I love being around. … [I’ll miss] everything. I can’t even think of one thing I think specifically, just everything.”

Contact Mary Green at mgreen8@nd.edu