Derek Carrier has had to be persistent and patient during his short professional career, waiting for his opportunity.
At little Beloit College, Carrier was an outstanding receiver, setting school records with 189 catches for 3,111 yards and 29 touchdowns. But the 6-foot-4, 241-pounder from the Division III school went undrafted in 2012. He was signed by the Raiders as a free agent, released, and picked up by the Eagles, who released him late in training camp last summer. He then was signed by the 49ers to their practice squad in September of last season and promoted to the active roster in November.
But buried on the depth chart behind Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald and Garrett Celek, Carrier is a long shot to make this year’s roster.
Now, however, with Davis holding out, Carrier – who also was on the basketball and indoor track teams at Beloit – has had a chance to show what he can do, and the 49ers have been pleased with what they’ve seen.
It now could be an interesting battle in camp for Carrier to prove he belongs on the opening-day roster.
Recently, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Kevin Lynch made Carrier his No. 1 pick on his list of 10 “sleeper players” going into 49ers training camp.
“With Vernon Davis fighting for a new contract, Carrier is the guy on the roster who most closely replicates what Davis does,” wrote Lynch. “Carrier is athletic, fast, runs routes like the (wide) receiver he used to be and is making rapid strides with his blocking.”
For his size, Carrier is fast (a 4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine) and has good jumping ability (38-inch vertical leap and a broad jump of 10 feet, 2 inches). He’s also shown good hands in practice with the 49ers. At organized team activities (OTAs) and the recent full-squad minicamp, Carrier had plenty of opportunities to play, and was singled out several times by coaches for fine catches.
“The fundamentals, the technique, he’s made worlds of progress,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman told Lynch recently. “He’s more than a leaper. This isn’t broad jumping. There are a lot of good things that go into that position. But he has good range.”
Carrier is a converted wide receiver who was offered a chance to walk on at the University of Wisconsin. But he decided to go to Beloit, where he could play all three sports plus get a good education.
Some players might have gotten discouraged after being signed and released by two previous teams, but Carrier believes in himself.
With the Eagles, Carrier also was behind several good players, which eventually led to his release. Yet in Philadelphia he spoke of his drive to keep working and earn a job.
“I just want to get better every day and give it my all every day,” Carrier told the Express-Times of Lehigh Valley, Pa. “Whether that’s enough, I can’t worry about that. I just want to put myself in the best position possible and set my goals high.”
This summer, he has a chance to finally achieve his dream.