Catching Up With ... former Colt Roger Carr
Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his\her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "
Bert Jones backpedaled, ducked the rush and threw. Fifty yards away, Roger Carr gathered in the football and, having outrun two defenders, streaked into the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown.
Then, as the Memorial Stadium crowd of 50,374 roared, the young Baltimore Colts receiver leaped high in the end zone, reached over the crossbar ... and spiked the ball.
The fans went nuts. So did Carr, who would add two more TDs that afternoon in a stellar performance during the Colts’ 1976 home opener. He finished with six receptions for 198 yards in a 28-27 victory over Cincinnati.
Thirty-three years later, Carr, now 57, recalled the buzz he felt that day, a sense that he’d finally arrived in the NFL.
"That’s the game that really got me going," said Carr, a first-round draft pick from Louisiana Tech in 1974. "I’d made other catches, sure, but that day told me that I belonged. That’s why I spiked the ball. When I crossed the goal line, I felt as though I’d busted through."
1976 Sun file photo by Carl D. Harris
Carr proved it all season. In 1976, he caught 43 passes – 11 for TDs – and led the league in both receiving yards (1,112) and yards per catch (25.9). En route, he made All-Pro and helped the Colts (11-3) to the AFC East championship. (Baltimore lost to Pittsburgh in the division playoffs).
It was a storied performance by the sure-handed Carr, who had 4.5 speed and a slow, southern drawl. "Louisiana Lightning," they called him, or "Runaway Carr."
"I’m confident that I can run as fast as anyone, black, brown, green, red or white –- and I like to try," he said then.
Carr flew past the Jets in New York, catching five of Jones’ bombs for 210 yards and two TDs. Afterward, Colts coach Ted Marchibroda labeled him "our home-run hitter."
Carr’s stock would never be higher. Sidelined by knee surgery in 1977, he spent much of the next five years wrangling with the Colts over money and the sagging fortunes of the team under owner Bob Irsay.
In 1982, Coach Frank Kush labeled Carr a malcontent and suspended him twice – once for wearing the wrong colored shorts to practice. Insisting that he be traded, Carr was dealt to Seattle and retired two years later.
His Colts numbers: 254 receptions for 4,770 yards and 29 TDs. Plus some regrets.
"Looking back, I’m not proud of some of the ways that I acted [in Baltimore]," said Carr, who lives in Charlotte, N.C. "You live, learn and, hopefully, get a little wiser as you age."
Since retiring, he has coached at a half-dozen high schools and colleges. Carr now coaches at Providence High in Charlotte, where he also works with autistic children.
Married 38 years, he has two sons – one a high school coach, the other a policeman – and four grandchildren.
1976 Sun file photo
"I’ve got a left knee that aches a little, but it lets me walk, swim and play golf," Carr said. "I’ve taught Sunday school and done some lay speaking. One of our sons lives just 15 doors down the road.
"Life has been good."
He stays in touch with Jones, the Colts’ quarterback from Louisiana State with whom Carr roomed for eight years.
"Bert and I had a chemistry on the field," he said. "He had his pilot’s license and, in the offseason, he’d fly from his home in Ruston (La.) to my town and pick me up. Then we’d fly somewhere else, work out for awhile, and fly back."
Had Colt officials known, he said, they’d have had a fit.
"I’m blessed that I got to play in Baltimore," Carr said. "That old stadium would rock. We had some neat times. The Colts were a storied team, and I got to be part of that."