If not for a track meet in Haughton in 1970, one of the top wide receivers in the history of college football and the NFL might not have gotten a chance.
Roger Carr was not highly-recruited coming out of rural Cotton Valley in the late 1960s. In fact, Carr wasn't really even known about.
After playing football -- he played guard and served as the team's punter -- as a sophomore in Enid, Oklahoma, Carr moved to Louisiana to live with his grandparents in the summer of 1968.
"It was a good thing," Carr remembers about moving to Cotton Valley where he grandfather had been transferred to work for Sun Oil. "My grandparents were wonderful Christian people. I was their only grandchild.
"One summer, I got on a Trailways bus and went to visit them. My mom bought me a couple of pairs of Levis and I went to visit them and never went back."
However, due to LHSAA transfer rules, Carr was rule ineligible to play any sports his first year in Cotton Valley. The negative news had a domino effect on him.
"I was lost," said Carr, who will be inducted into the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame Oct. 20. "I quit studying and then my grades dropped. I wasn't eligible to play sports my senior year until mid-term. I had to drive to Bossier City High School to take summer classes just so I could graduate with my senior class on time."
During his senior year in high school, Carr played the last five games of the year for the Cotton Valley basketball team after earning his eligibility academically. One day during the spring, Carr talked coach Butler Miears into taking him to the district track meet in Haughton.
Whether it was God's intervention or pure luck, it was a life-changing decision for Carr. Tech track coach Jim Mize discovered Carr at the meet and began the recruiting process, for a track scholarship.
"Jim Mize was instrumental in me coming to Tech," Carr remembers. "He saw me at that track meet. I won the long jump and went to the state meet."
Mize remembers it well.
"His high school coach told me I should take a look at Roger," Mize said. "He told me, `I've got a guy up here who can jump out of the park and he is a great punter.' I caught the meet and he jumped right at 23-feet, 11-inches. He really outclassed the other high school chaps."
So Mize ventured to Cotton Valley in pursuit of what he thought would be his next great track star at Louisiana Tech.
"Coach Mize had been watching me," Carr said. "My grades were better. He picked me and my grandparents up and brought us to Tech and offered me a track scholarship."
Carr headed to Ruston. Mize had told head football coach Maxie Lambright about Carr's punting abilities and so a tryout was given.
"Coach Butler said come out to football field and I want you to see this kid punt," Mize said. "He kicked it and was netting 50 yards. I immediately perked up and told Coach Lambright about the kid over at Cotton Valley that can punt it out of the park. He gave him a tryout and Roger kicked well."
Carr's God-given ability was evident to the Tech coaches, ability that surpassed just punting.
"We noticed him out there warming up," said former Tech assistant coach Mickey Slaughter. "He looked like a wide receiver. He was catching everything. All of a sudden he became a very important part of our football team. In his time he was really something."
He started a number of games his freshman year at wide receiver and ended the season with 15 catches for 374 yards and two scores. However, the combination of a tough year on the field (Tech won only two games) and the transition to college were not easy on the young receiver.
"Because I didn't play in high school, I wasn't used to routines," Carr said. "I wasn't used to people hollering at me. It just took a while to grow up and realize I had to work and go to practice every day."
Mize remembers driving to Cotton Valley twice during Carr's freshman year to bring the homesick young man back to Tech.
"Coach Lambright called me and asked me to go pick him up," Mize said. "I went to his home and visited with his grandparents. They were great people. I wanted Roger to know what he was thinking about giving up, a free education."
Carr is grateful the Tech coaches were persistent.
"Once the lights came on, I loved to play," Carr said. "It was just a matter of maturing. It was a matter of growing up and accepting responsibility."
Carr grew up quickly on the football field. He quickly became one of the main ingredients to a big-time Bulldog turnaround as Tech went 9-2 and won the Southland Conference title in the program's first year in the league. He snared 29 passes for 738 yards and eight scores in 1971.
"Roger was 6-foot-3, and he was very, very fast," Slaughter said. "He was an excellent route runner and he had great hands. He was our home run hitter, our deep threat. Roger could make the big play when you needed the big play to be made."
His final two years were even better as Tech posted a 24-1 mark and won two straight national championship titles.
Once again, Carr was heavily involved in this national success. His 21-yard touchdown reception with 0:12 left in the game propelled Tech to a 38-34 win over Boise State in the 1973 Division II semifinals; Tech would defeat Western Kentucky 34-0 the following week in Sacramento to claim their second national title.
Carr was named All-American in both 1972 and 1973.
"We had some wonderful athletes in those three years," Carr said. "Kenny Lantrip was the quarterback. It was a lot of fun."
Carr ended his Tech career as the school's all-time leader in receiving touchdowns (19) and ranking second in career receiving yards (2,717). His 19 touchdowns also set the state record, previously held by LSU's Andy Hamilton.
His success in the college game did not go unnoticed as Carr was selected with the 24th pick of the first round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts.
"Lynn Swann and I were the two receivers picked in the first round that year," Carr said. "I got to play with Bert Jones, who was in his second year when I was drafted. Baltimore was going through a youth transition.
"My third year I came into my own. In the opener that year, I caught like six or seven passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns. It was my defining moment when I felt like I belonged."
Carr finished that season with 43 receptions for 1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns, leading the NFL in receiving yards. He would spend 10 years in the league, eight with Baltimore and one each with Seattle and San Diego.
When he retired from the NFL in 1983, Carr had left his impressions on the league with 271 catches for 5,071 yards and 31 scores, very impressive numbers for a man who almost wasn't recruited out of high school.
And even more impressive for a Louisiana Tech Hall of Famer.
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