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NSU Has Proven to be a Perfect Fit for DB Carey
NORFOLK - Don Carey made the only choice he could make after being offered a partial scholarship to Yale:
He enrolled at Norfolk State.
“I couldn’t afford it,” the Spartans senior cornerback said as he prepared for today’s 1 p.m. homecoming game against Florida A&M . “That’s a lot of money. I never minded coming to Norfolk State.”
Set to graduate this spring with a degree in building construction technology, Carey said he’s grateful, not bitter. Since the day he set foot on campus, he became an integral part of the Spartans’ building plan, playing in every game his freshman year and starting the final 10. His mother and three sisters, all living in Norfolk, got to watch it all.
“We’ve been through some hard times; that’s a story in itself,” Carey said. “When I found out I had the opportunity to stay with them, I took that.”
The story isn’t one Carey is eager to spill, but he offers a few hints. Growing up in Grand Rapids., Mich., he never was out on the street, but “probably two or three steps from it at times,” he said. He never was hungry going to bed, but neither was he ever completely full. He watched his mother, Karen, struggle with regular double shifts in a retirement center.
“She would work so many hours and come home so drained, so tired, she wouldn’t even eat,” Carey said. “Sometimes, she couldn’t eat if she wanted to. She made sure we ate first.”
Seeking a better life was the primary reason Carey moved with his family to Norfolk right before he was ready to begin high school. It wasn’t what the 14-year-old wanted, and Booker T. Washington High School didn’t hold much appeal.
“I hated it at first,” he said. “I don’t like the area much now. I love the opportunities down here. There are so many chances to succeed. I find it hard to understand why guys don’t.”
Education came first for Carey.
“I used to get grounded for C’s,” Carey said. “Growing up, my choices were very limited. My mother made sure I understood the consequences of my actions. My choices were work, football, church.”
Former Bookers coach Larry Stepney remembers mother and son showing up at his classroom door inquiring about football practice. Stringbean Carey was not quite 5-foot-9 and barely 155 pounds.
“His greatest salesperson was his mother,” Stepney said. “She said, ‘Coach, this is my son, Don Juan Jesu Carey III. He wants to play football and this boy is bad!’ ”
Awfully small, too, was Stepney’s initial thought of the gangly lad born on Valentine’s Day in 1987. It didn’t take long for the kid to win him over. Carey played everything from quarterback to kicker, but his hands and speed made him excel at receiver – one reason, Stepney said, he’s so good at defensive back.
Pete Adrian saw the same package when he went recruiting in 2005, but the first word he and Stepney use when describing Carey is intelligent. Currently, Carey’s is the second-highest GPA among the Spartans, and last season, he was honored with the Army Strong Award. It goes to the football player who best exemplifies community service and achievement on the field and in the classroom.
“Ever since he’s come in, he’s had great attitude,” Adrian said. “Everything you see now as far as him being outgoing, excited to play and smart was true back then.”
Carey has the attention of some NFL scouts, and Adrian said his speed and size – he’s now 6-1, 190 pounds – should make him draftable. Despite what he gave up, Carey has made NSU work for him, and not just the football part.
Last summer, he interned in Scottsdale, Ariz., with a general contractor. Carey was assigned to his own project with two other field engineers. One day, he plans to open his own architecture firm.
Though he is frustrated by NSU’s on-the-field woes this season – “We shoot ourselves in the foot every time,” he said – his memory of last fall’s 20-19 victory over Hampton carries him through these times. Carey blocked the extra point at the end of the game decided by a single point. The win broke a five-year string of losses to HU.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” he said, as if starting to rewind the tape in his head. “We’re lining up for the extra point, and we notice that their wing back, instead of stepping down, he’s lazy. What we did was our outside guy pulled him and our inside guy took the tight end. That left just enough seam for me to get through and get the block. I got through there untouched.
“That’s a story I’m going to be telling my grandkids.”
NSU has proven to be a perfect fit for DB Carey
By Vicki Friedman, The Virginian-Pilot