>His name is Ka'Deem Carey, and he's a jerkaholic.
This isn't based on personal experience with the University of Arizona's star running back—I've never covered his games or interviewed him—but rather an opinion formed by following his on- and off-the-field (mostly off) exploits the past few years.
Again, let me be clear. This is an opinion, something that is apt to exist in an opinion piece. Agree with it or not, that's your choice. Just don't take it out on my editor by confronting him at a literary festival or some other public event.
All I know is that the most talented athlete from a non-country club sport to come out of the Tucson area in two decades has an image problem, and for his own good it needs to get fixed before he becomes more like the next Bryan Booker than the next Sean Elliott.
To those not in the know, Bryan Booker was an amazing basketball player who was the focal point of Catalina High School's team in 1996. The 6-foot-3 power forward averaged 24 points and 12 rebounds as a senior but was known as much for his explosive personality as for his physical prowess. He was ejected from games several times that season for losing his temper, either overreacting to a perceived bad call or what he felt was disrespect from referees who should have known better than to whistle him for something he didn't think he'd done.
That attitude—and his academic struggles—derailed Booker's dreams of playing college and pro ball. I don't know much about his support system at the time, but it didn't appear to be that strong, which likely contributed to his inability to make progress.
A little more than a year after his basketball career ended, so did his life of freedom. Booker was implicated in a fatal drive-by shooting in April 1997. Now 35, Booker is housed at the Arizona State Prison in Winslow and is in the 16th year of a life sentence for first-degree murder.
I saw such promise in Booker, if he could have just gotten out of his own way.
I see the same thing in Carey. Heck, we all do. His tireless effort in games, always moving his feet to get that extra yard, endears him to the entire Wildcat populace. The country has taken notice, hence his appearance on various all-American teams and the early 2013 Heisman Trophy buzz.
But some of his actions away from Arizona Stadium speak more of how Carey sees his place in this community beyond just being a football player. He sees himself as the shiznit, to quote the Urban Dictionary gods.
A look at Carey beyond the facemask and shoulder pads was first seen around Christmas, when he was involved in an alleged domestic violence incident with a pregnant ex-girlfriend. Police reports and information from an order of protection filed by the woman say Carey shoved the woman and knocked her to the floor after she got in his way as he tried to light up a blunt or some other illegal substance that required the lighter he was searching for that led to the alleged confrontation.
Carey was ultimately charged with domestic violence, for which he's pleaded not guilty. Following a hearing Tuesday, his trial is now set for July 12.
If that was it, I wouldn't be worried. Not that the allegations aren't serious; they very much are. But one incident doesn't prompt labeling someone negatively.
Sadly, Carey's public image continued to take hits, and nearly each time it was his own doing. No one else can be blamed for the 20-year-old playing the "Do You Know Who I Am?" card at McKale Center during a UA basketball game in late January. A McKale employee was trying to get Carey and his cousin to move from their seats, partly because they were sitting on the backs of them and partly because they didn't actually have tickets to the game. But instead of instantly complying, Carey allegedly told the employee to "fuck off" because he was an all-American.
Carey and his cousin were ejected from McKale, joining a long list of douchebags and a-holes who find ways to turn watching a sporting event in person into having it be all about them.
It was later discovered that Carey had been cited in Casa Grande a week earlier for driving without insurance and with an expired registration. A check of statewide court records indicates Carey has had minor run-ins with authority figures as far back as 2010, when he was starring for Canyon del Oro High School. Citations included, among other things, driving without a seat belt (twice), shoplifting, hitting a parked car and marijuana possession.
Most of those citations were dismissed, though he did participate in a diversion program for the drug charge.
Kids do stupid stuff—that's a given. And some kids start thinking pretty highly of themselves as success comes along, no doubt. But those who achieve greatness without conflict are the ones who develop a certain level of humility, who learn to look past the hangers-on and the ego boosters to understand that it's really up to them to make it all happen.
Ka'Deem isn't there yet. He's a long way from spiraling out of control, but that doesn't mean it's too early to steer him on a more positive course.
To that end, here's my modified 12-step plan (there are only five steps), which takes some of the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous and fits them to Carey's situation:
1. Admit that his poop does indeed stink. This requires Carey to speak publicly about his issues, but with ongoing legal action this would mean being vague while still trying to convey his acknowledgment of the problem.
2. Seek help. He's got tons of people to help get him past injuries, poor performance on the field and any and all classroom issues. Those same people can help with more personal issues.
3. List the wronged. There are probably more instances than what has been made public, but only Ka'Deem knows. He needs to take stock of what he's done wrong, and to whom he's done it.
4. Make amends. Apologies and seeking forgiveness can go a long way toward helping one's image, as long as they don't come off as scripted. This isn't about holding a press conference to read statement that's been written for him. It means seeking out those he has wronged and apologizing individually.
5. Continue to dominate. Carey led the nation in rushing last year, and with a nonconference schedule that is far from difficult, he could get off to an amazing start next season. And as we all know, if Ka'Deem keeps breaking tackles and scoring touchdowns, most of us won't care what else he does.