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Still fearless

Posted May 7, 2012


Ricky Carder Junior was nicknamed Tank at just 18 months old when he weighed about 33 pounds. This Tank has been fueled by both speed and aggression ever since he can remember. He has always been passionate about sports and his first love was Bicycle Moto Cross (BMX).

“I was abnormally good at it. I was always riding a bike around when I was two, three. I started riding my bike when I was 19 months old. I was just abnormally good at it, I guess,” said Carder.

“I actually took my training wheels off when I was 19 months old. That’s what the crazy thing was. I went to my brother and I said, ‘Get those training wheels off.’ He got them off and I just never stopped. It was just kind of something I was really good at.”

He was first recognized by a local member of his community who instantly realized his potential as a rider.

“An old man, we called Papa Mac, he lived right down the street where I lived probably from when I was born actually until I was 10-years old,” Carder said. “He lived right down the street and I was riding my bike up and down the street, and he asked my dad if I wanted to come out to his race track. He had a local track and asked me if I wanted to come out there and race. My dad said, ‘Sure.’ He took me out there. I started racing.”

Carder was extremely good at a very young age and won his first national championship when he was just four-years old. He then earned his first sponsorship just a year later when he was five-years old. Carder was obviously one of the best in the world at what he did, but he did contemplate quitting before achieving one of his prominent goals.

“When I was nine, I wanted to quit racing and move on to sports,” he said. “I couldn’t play sports. It took up all my time. So I was going to quit. So my manager persuaded me to come back another year. He was going to take me to France and race in the world championships for the world title, a legit world title. I said, ‘All right.’ So I went back the next year and raced all through the season. He took me to France and I won in France and I was best in the world as a 10-year old.”

Unfortunately, when Carder was 13-years old he was involved in a serious car accident that nearly took his life. Numerous injuries were suffered during the crash including seven broken ribs, a punctured lung, a punctured diaphragm, and two breaks in his back. Doctors told him that there was a chance that he would never walk again.

Tank’s mother Marti asked her son what he would do if he couldn’t walk again and without hesitating he said, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to join the Wheelchair Olympics.”

Knowing his mindset it is not hard to believe that Tank made a full recovery and is completely healthy today. In a sense, the accident led Carder into his next endeavor in life.

“It’s working out for me up to this point and hopefully it continues to work out,” said Carder of his transition to football. “It’s worked out. I tried to get back into it when I was 12, 13, two years after I retired from it, and got in that car wreck so I wasn’t able to continue that. It was kind of God telling me to just leave it alone.”

Carder went onto pursue football full-time. He attended Texas Christian University (TCU), where he was a member of the number one ranked defense in the country for three straight seasons from 2008-2010. The team reached two BCS Bowl games following the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Following the 2010 regular season they won their first BCS Bowl game when they defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Carder was named the Defensive MVP of the game and broke up the potential tying two point conversion to end the game. Being a member of the top ranked defense was a great accomplishment, but Tank only cared about one thing at the end of the day.

“It was definitely a great accomplishment looking back to it, but we never really dwelled on stats,” said Carder of their top defensive ranking. “We always looked at a win or a loss. We never dwelled on personal stats or team stats, we always looked at if we were on the right side or the left side of the column. That was what we always looked at. As long as we were winning, we knew if you were winning, you got good stats. Make sure we win, then look at stats next.”

Tank’s playmaking ability made him a great college football player, but some scouts question his speed heading to the next level. The team who drafted him is a lot more optimistic about Tank’s potential heading into the NFL.

“He plays a lot faster than he timed at the Combine. He is an instinctive player. He is smart and he has played inside and out. He closes very fast,” said Bills scout Shawn Heinlen. “So for him he is going to have to just bulk up and get a little stronger taking on at the point. He has great coverage skills. He is fluid for a linebacker. He changes direction well. His short area quickness is very good. And like I said because of his instincts and his intelligence to diagnose things, he just has a feel for the game. He plays a lot faster than he times.”

The Bills were certainly impressed with Carder’s body of work on the field, but they had to be even more impressed with his mindset off of it.

“He is a competitor in everything he does from what he has come through from the accident in high school, being a BMX kid and football,” said Heinlen. “Everything he does he is very good at and he competes at a high level. That is kind of the way he is made up. He is just a really competitive guy that likes to excel at whatever he is doing.”