TUCSON, Ariz. KaDeem Carey is living out a dream, setting records and achieving standards unheard of in the world of Arizona football. Carey, a Tucson native who's only a sophomore, has already surpassed anyones expectations.
As a kid, you hope to grow up to achieve a lot of goals, Carey said earlier this week as Arizona was preparing to face Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15. I feel like Ive achieved them this year.
"Its nothing where its (caught me) off-guard or surprising. I knew what this team was capable of, because the front line was more experienced this year.
After a freshman season in which he tallied 491 yards on 91 carries, Carey has exploded on the scene with 1,757 yards (second in the nation) and a national-best 146.42 yards per game in Rich Rodriguez's first year as the Wildcats' coach.
Among the highlights:
He was named first-team All-Pac-12.
He set the single-season school rushing mark, breaking Trung Canidate's record of 1,602 yards from 1999.
He set the single-game Pac-12 rushing record with 366 yards (to go along with five touchdowns) in Arizona's win over Colorado.
He scored 21 touchdowns (20 rushing and one receiving), tied for eighth nationally and second in the Pac-12.
He became just the second UA player to register back-to-back 200-yard rushing games and just the third to have multiple 200-yard games in his career.
Yes, he said, dreams do come true.
He also has those to keep him grounded: his girlfriend and his mom, Tisha.
They say Im not good, he said behind his wide smile. I just try to prove them wrong.
Tisha hasnt missed a game of her sons since he was in the eighth grade, she said. But her mission statement to him has always been: God is first before any one of us. He has to remember where he came from and where hes trying to go.
That would be the record books and beyond, of course. Well have to wait to see if he finishes as college footballs leading rusher -- theres an indication UA coaches will attempt to make that happen in the bowl game, and that could also result in him reaching the 2,000-yard milestone -- but he already has the school single-season rushing record and the Pac-12 single-game rushing record.
We knew he was a good player, but it takes a combination of things and not just the linemen up front, perimeter blocking and making the right reads," Rich Rodriguez said. He has squeezed out every yard hes got. Hes earned it, for sure.
And the accolades are coming in. Earlier this week, CBSSports.com named Carey a first team All-American, and theres a good possibility more will come. Hes the first Tucsonan to be named a first-team All-American by any service since linebacker Mark Arneson was honored by The Sporting News in 1971.
This is huge, and Im not sure we understand the magnitude of it, said Dustin Peace, Careys high school coach at Tucson Canyon del Oro, because its happening right in front of us. But when you sit back and think about it, he could be the best Tucson player to ever play.
"And hes only a sophomore.
Peace said he remembers talking to former coach Mike Stoops about Carey going to Arizona and potentially leading the team to a Rose Bowl. The coach has changed, but "it's about winning a Pac-12 championship and still getting to the Rose Bowl.
His goal is Arizonas goal. Always has been. And with Carey putting up huge numbers in Rodriguez's system, getting there seems more realistic.
Hes got great athletic ability, Rodriguez said. Hes got as good of balance as any football player as Ive ever been around. His ability to keep going forward after contact is as good as Ive seen. Hes got uncanny balance.
And his football IQ continues to improve with every game, every play.
Hes picked it up pretty good from what were doing, Rodriguez said.
Carey said he works to continually learn about the game and build on his skill set. It started when he was a young player growing up in Tucson.
One year its the stiff arm, another its a spin move, another its breaking tackles, he said. My biggest strength is learning from each coach.
And listening to his mother.
Its amazing what hes doing, she said. Its a blessing actually. KaDeem is blessed, and I think he realizes it. God could have chosen anybody, but he chose him.