When sifting through the written profiles of NFL draft choices, one often sees a list of various honors and awards, injury histories and statistics. One listing that is less common however, is parent. In addition to defensive end Bills third-round pick Alex Carrington also holds the title of father, and it's a label he wears proudly.
Carrington has a five-year old son named Khalil. Four years ago when it was time for Carrington to choose where he would play college football. His then one-year old son was a pivotal part of his decision. Though recruited by an SEC school or two, Carrington chose Arkansas State.
"It is about two and a half hours away from my hometown," he said. "It was the closest of the four or five schools that I was considering. So being close to my son was the reason I enrolled at A. State."
His first year at Arkansas State his son stayed in Tupelo, Mississippi with his mother, but thereafter Carrington set about making arrangements to have Khalil live with him in his apartment off campus. Balancing his course load as a psychology major, football and his responsibilities as a parent proved difficult at times.
"I had a lot of help," said Carrington. "My girlfriend helped me out tremendously so Khalil was able to be with me for most of my college career."
Carrington's girlfriend Cheri Bridges took care of young Khalil while Carrington was at classes or football practice.
"It was still tough to balance because I would drop him off at her place and you're always making sure he's okay and playing football and then school," he said. "It was tough, but we found a way to make it work."
Bridges and Khalil made sure to make it to all of Carrington's home games as well as most of the away dates. As Khalil got older he became more engrossed in Arkansas State football to the point where he couldn't imagine his dad playing for any other team. Playing football is also at the head of the list for Carrington's young son.
"All we talk about is football," he said. "He just loves the game. He watches it on TV. He's a big fan of Red Wolves football. When he goes out to the games he doesn't miss a thing. But if you put a football in his hands you better get ready for a long day because he wants to play all day. There aren't a lot of offensive linemen that put up a fight like he does."
Khalil also plays Madden, the most popular football video game of a generation. Ironically, in the weeks leading up to the NFL draft Khalil was routinely playing Madden selecting the Bills as his team. Having a good measure of success with the Bills he had a request for his father.
"About five minutes before the Bills called me he said, 'I want you to go with the Buffalo Bills,'" recalled Carrington. "He was pretty good with the Bills on Madden, so I think that's why he was hoping I'd go to the Bills."
However, young Khalil changed his story after his dad got drafted by Buffalo.
"When I got drafted he started crying because he said he didn't want me to play in the NFL," Carrington said. "He wanted me to play for Arkansas State. So I had to explain to him what it meant to play in the NFL. He just had a blast at our games. He had a close relationship with some of my teammates because we would have cookouts at my house and he bonded with them as well."
Carrington is confident in time he'll have his son on board with the Bills. While Khalil was disappointed on draft day, his father had an overwhelming sense of relief knowing he'd soon have the financial wherewithal to support his son.
"Every man goes through this, or every man with a family," he said. "Being able to provide is something a man prides himself on, and now I'll have the means to do that. So I'm excited. In college it was pretty hard to provide because I couldn't work due to football. But I'm excited that I can provide for him now."
Forecast as a possible top 60 pick, the Bills feel they got good value with Carrington landing him 12 picks later (72nd overall).
"When I heard my name called I was thinking, 'It's about time.' Not because the draft was so long, but because I've been playing football since the second grade," said Carrington. "I finally made it through to the highest point you can reach as a football player, at least starting out a career. When I got picked I was thinking, 'I finally made it.' I know this is just the beginning, but I'm ready to get in there and get this thing going."
The first year for any NFL rookie is challenging. They must familiarize themselves with new teammates, new coaches, a new system and new and improved competition. The added responsibility of a young son makes the challenge that much more demanding.
Having been through that kind of adjustment period before Carrington feels prepared in finding a way to make things work again.
"I'm going to talk to his mother and we'll get some things worked out as far as leaving here," said Carrington from his home in Mississippi. "The rookie year is going to be a little iffy because it's an important year and I want to get my feet wet in Buffalo. I don't know the town at all. Once I get settled in then I'll try to bring him in. He'll be there with me eventually."
Carrington believes he'll square things away with his son and Khalil's mother after training camp. Whether Khalil is near or far however, he serves as supreme motivation for an NFL rookie looking to make his mark.
"Being close to my son was important to me then," said Carrington. "And it's important to me now."