By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Football still mattered to Chris Carr, enough for the All-Empire defender from Montgomery High to find a starting spot at an emerging small college power.
All league honors and an NCAA playoff appearance with Cal Lutheran made Carr's decision look good and he looks forward to another standout season with the team out of Ventura County.
"I was able to come in and contribute. Ultimately our goal is to win a national championship," Carr said.
In his first season with Cal Lutheran, Carr led the Kingsmen in tackles and was second on the team in sacks and tackles for losses. Carr's success also was notable because he was a defensive end after playing linebacker at Montgomery and Santa Rosa Junior College.
Learning a new position was easy compared with moving among four colleges in four years. Carr was bound to play football at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, an NAIA program, when he decided to instead stay home and play at the junior college two seasons. Then he transferred to UC Berkeley last school year.
But walking away from football proved difficult.
"I just missed it. Being around athletes on campus made me realize I really missed it," Carr said.
So despite doing very well in classes at Berkeley, Carr transferred to Cal Lutheran. The NCAA Division III school previously recruited Carr, and several other Sonoma County players were on the Kingsmen roster.
At wide receiver for Cal Lutheran was Matt O'Brien, a former All-Empire and Sonoma County League player of the year from Casa Grande. Ryan Decker, All-Empire for Rancho Cotate, played defensive back. Both are juniors. Steve Brazil, a senior from Casa Grande, played on the defensive line.
Not playing for two years was a challenge for Carr. While he stayed strong with weight training and running, Carr's football fundamentals were rusty going into practices.
"It was pretty difficult getting back into the swing of things. Camp was an eye opening experience for me," Carr said.
Having to learn playing on the defensive line was challenging after years at linebacker, where Carr was All-Empire and a North Bay League defensive player of the year. Carr was a quick student at how to pass rush and be in close contact with bigger players.
"The coaching staff was phenomenal," Carr said. "The other guys on the defensive line were good at teaching me the position. Everyone's competing against each other, but they weren't selfish."
Earning a starting spot when the season opened, Carr was a defensive anchor for Cal Lutheran. Carr was an all-league pick in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"What helped me out is I used a lot of my skills at linebacker. I was a ball hawk. I'm used to running around the field and making plays," he said.
Cal Lutheran completed a third consecutive unbeaten conference season. In the NCAA Division III playoffs the Kingsmen fell to national power Linfield, of Oregon, in a close contest. Cal Lutheran finished 8-2 and ranked eighth in the nation.
Carr wants to help lead Cal Lutheran back to the NCAA playoffs his senior season. Now a sociology major, Carr is on track to graduate in 2013.
"It took me some time to find the right fit. I ended up in absolutely the right place," he said. "It feels good to play again."