David Carr

The 24-year-old quarterback of the Houston Texans on faith, family, fame, and what it’s like to get sacked over and over and over again.

Evan Smith: So the rumors about your hair are true: You won’t cut it until the Texans win two consecutive games.

David Carr: Actually, I got it trimmed a couple of times. My wife made me. It started out because I was frustrated that we hadn’t ever won two in a row. My dad’s doing the same thing, though he needs to cut his hair. It’s almost down to his shoulders. It’s getting a little ridiculous. I looked at him and my mom from the back the other day, and their hair was the same length.

ES: Why do you think you haven’t won two in a row? What will it take?

DC: I think it’s one or two plays in each game. We’ve had the lead in most of those games, and we just happened to give it away or something happened—a turnover. It’s football; something’s going to happen. Hopefully this year we’ll win more than two in a row. I think we have enough talent to. We played much better than our record showed last year. Some of the teams we beat made it to the postseason. The Patriots won the Super Bowl. We beat them. But we also lost to the Bengals.

ES: How good are the Texans, honestly, both on their own and compared with other teams?

DC: On the practice field I feel totally different than I felt last year about how good we can be. I’ve played with every guy out there. This is the first time in three years that I walked onto the practice field and didn’t see a rookie in the huddle.

ES: But if the team has the same personnel, what’s the difference?

DC: The confidence level—just the fact that you know you can make plays. I remember when I got to meet Charles Barkley. He said the day he knew he was going to be all right in the NBA was when he heard someone on TV say he was good. I think it’s self-perception more than anything else. We realize that we’re not an expansion team anymore. We’re a real NFL football team, and we can go out and make plays. We have talent. We can beat teams. It’s not a fluke if we beat the Cowboys. It’s not a fluke if we beat the Dolphins. We have to get into the mind-set that we’re supposed to win football games, and we’ll start doing it.

ES: What’s it like to do what you do? Do you ever step out on the field and say, “I can’t believe this is my life”?

DC: I said that as soon as I got down to Houston. It’s a job that anyone would want. I get to do something I love doing, and I get paid for it.

ES: Not everybody gets paid this much.

DC: It just so happens that the thing I do well is play football, and it pays a lot. I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in, and I go out and enjoy it. It’s fun. But it’s hard too. It’s so competitive at this level. Day in and day out you have to stay focused. A lot of people think we play for five or six months and then go home and sit on our butts for six months and not do anything. It’s totally the opposite. I find myself busier and working harder in the off-season than during the regular season.

ES: Is there something about playing quarterback rather than another position that causes people to treat you differently on or off the field?

DC: I’ve heard a lot of people say that the quarterback gets too much credit when the team wins and not enough blame when the team isn’t doing so well. Look, I’ve always liked having the ball. When people play in their backyard, or wherever they play, they want to be in charge of the game. That’s how I’ve always been, so I figured the best way to do it was to play quarterback. As far as how people treat you, you’re the unofficial spokesperson for the team. They see your face when the news comes on. Especially being drafted number one, and also the first pick in franchise history—that’s something that kind of stuck with me.

ES: Is it a burden?

DC: No, not at all. You go out to lunch and people come up to you and say hi. I love the fans. When I bring my friends out from California, they get kind of overwhelmed by the whole situation, but I’m used to it by now. It’s a lot to deal with sometimes, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

ES: How do you know how to behave? You’re a young guy who hasn’t done this before, who went from being an extremely good college quarterback to the white-hot center of the world.

DC: I think it has to do with how I was raised. I was raised to believe that whatever you do in life, you stay humble and take it for what it is. You stay the same person. When I came out here, my family came out here with me. My grandfather, who’s been my pastor since I was little, lives here during football season. They’re really who I spend most of my time with. Of course I’m around my teammates a lot, but when I’m around my family, I feel like success in football hasn’t changed me. I realize how blessed I am, and it’s really kind of easy when you look at it like that.

ES: You were sacked 76 times in your first season, more than any quarterback ever. For the benefit of people who will never know themselves, what does it feel like to be hit like that?

DC: When you

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