Is there anything less than one degree of separation from something? If there is, T.J. Carrie has that. And when the Raiders drafted him at pick 219 in the seventh round on Saturday, it just seemed like what was meant to be.
First of all he grew up in the Bay Area. He is from Antioch which is about a half hour Northeast of Oakland. There is another Raiders player who grew up in Antioch - Taiwan Jones - and it is possible come the season the two of them could share special teams duties. Jones is a kick returner and gunner and Carrie was drafted to return punts. Both are also cornerbacks as well. Making it all the more confusing that both players could conceivably go by T.J.
Taiwan got a head start on T.J. heading into the NFL because T.J. had injury setbacks in college. The two were one year apart in high school and played football and ran track against each other - Taiwan at Deer Valley in Antioch and T.J. at De LaSalle in Concord.
"I've played against him, ran track against him," Carrie said of Jones. "I know him very well. I actually tuned in when he got drafted by the Raiders as well, so a very familiar face."
T.J. is pretty fast - he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash. But he isn't Taiwan Jones fast (4.33 40). Few are. T.J. recalls facing off against Taiwan in high school track.
"Aw, man. Actually, that's a very memorable moment," said Carrie. "He actually kind of... he's fast, let's put it like that. I won't embarrass myself too much, but he's very fast. Good to see some familiar faces."
That brings us to our second connection - De LaSalle. Probably the most successful De LaSalle football alum just signed with the Raiders this off-season - Maurice Jones-Drew. The school has long been a farming ground for elite college prospects and during the time Maurice Drew (as he was known back then) attended the school, they had the nation's longest winning streak and torched even the next most winningest programs in the nation.
From De LaSalle, Carrie was recruited to Ohio University. There aren't a great many Ohio Alums who get drafted in the NFL, let alone play in the NFL. In fact, Carrie becomes just the fifth in the past five years while Carrie was in the program. One of those was former Raiders' second round Mike Mitchell who was the highest drafted Ohio player in the past 75 years.
Mitchell spent his first four NFL seasons with the Raiders before he left as a free agent to sign with the Carolina Panthers on a one-year deal. He played well enough to earn a free agent contract from the Steelers this past off-season.
The one thing that probably attracted the Raiders to Mitchell and had them draft him higher than anyone expected was his intensity. He has a personality and passion that makes quite an impression on anyone who speaks with him, and he was a firey presence both in the locker room and on the field. Carrie played in 11 games as a freshman at Ohio, sharing the defensive secondary with Mitchell who was a senior.
"Mike, he's a character," Carrie said of his Mitchell. "He's a character in a good way. And he brings a lot of enjoyment to the game of football. I think we both do it, and we express it in different ways. Mike expresses it a little more enthusiastic than me, but he gets his point across. Being around him I kind of gained some of his enthusiasticness. I'm working on where I need to be to be where he was at."
The Raiders tried many players at punt returner last season and couldn't find the answer. The Jacoby Ford experiment ended this off-season as he was allowed to walk as a free agent. The Raiders were very much in need of adding a punt returner to the squad and Carrie fit the bill.
Though his position is that of a cornerback, he was an All-MAC first team punt returner and that's what got him drafted and how he will likely make his NFL career. It just makes sense that that career should be with the Raiders.