On the whiteboard in Yale running backs coach Larry Ciotti’s office is the motto, “Big Time Players make the Big Time Plays in Big Time Games.” Taped up next to it is a large, yellowed feature article about running back Robert Carr ’05.
“If I had to list players under that [phrase], Rob Carr would be at the top of the list,” Ciotti said.
In Carr’s four years as starting tailback, he has ascended to the top of many lists and proved that he is indeed a “Big Time Player.” Not only does Carr lead the league in all-purpose yardage with 169.9 yards per game, but he also surpassed Rashad Bartholomew ’01 as the Yale career rushing leader with 167 yards on 31 carries against Penn. His career total presently stands at 3,214 yards. With two opponents remaining in the season and an average of 121.1 yards per game, good for second in the league, Carr is likely to end up among the top five career rushers in the Ivy League.
“[Being the all-time rushing leader at Yale is] a great honor,” Carr said. “They’ve been playing football here for over 100 years and in that time lots of great players have played here. I will probably appreciate it more after the season is over.”
That’s typical Carr.
Big-time achievements like breaking records do not affect his approach to the game. When he is on the field, he is a one play-at-a-time kind of guy.
“I don’t have a clue to how many yards I’m accumulating or how many touches I’ve had,” Carr said. “Even if I’m not getting the ball, I am trying to help the team however I can.”
Carr’s teammates can’t help but notice.
“He’s got the loudest kick-off return yell on the team,” running back Jordan Spence ’07 said. “It just gets everyone going. The whole team hears it on the sideline. It lightens the mood, but makes everyone intense too.”
Aside from his motivational tactics, Carr’s drive and work ethic are unmistakable, whether he is leading on the field or in the weight room.
“He has been really solid in the weight room,” Ciotti said. “He never misses a workout. He stays longer and works harder than he should.”
Defensive end and friend Don Smith ’05 said Carr’s commitment to strength and conditioning has directly transferred to his ability to power through tackles. Ciotti agreed.
“[Bartholomew was] faster and bigger, but Rob is a little more powerful and makes more tacklers miss with that power,” Ciotti said.
A low center of gravity matched with an intense desire to find the end zone makes Carr an almost unstoppable force.
“I go up against him in practice and I can honestly say that it’s very difficult to bring him down,” Smith said. “He takes what is seemingly a disadvantage and turns it into an advantage. When he gets hit he just seems to run harder.”
As a rookie, Carr’s big-time desire set him apart from the pack, even during preseason camp, when most freshmen are timid and adjusting.
“[Carr] was the real deal,” Ciotti said. “He had enough speed and the ability to take the ball into the end-zone. He wills it there.”
When both running backs in the two-deep were injured early in the Cornell game in 2001, Carr got the nod.
“I’ve never been a guy to get nervous,” Carr said. “I was ready to step out there and do the things I’m supposed to.”
Like a big-time player should, Carr racked up 82 yards on 16 carries in his first collegiate action, including a 45-yard touchdown run. Two weeks later against Dartmouth, Carr had a breakout game, gaining 185 yards on 29 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
Due to injury, Carr was limited to five games in his freshman season, but he has not missed a game since. Against Cornell in 2002, Carr turned in what he said was his most dominant performance of his career.
“The Cornell game was the best and most fun for me,” Carr said. “I was clicking on all levels.”
And for Carr, clicking on all levels meant setting the Yale single game rushing record with 235 yards on 28 attempts, with an average of 8.4 yards per carry, and scoring four touchdowns. One week later, he became the first player in Yale history to turn in consecutive 200-yard games with a 219-yard rushing performance against Holy Cross.
By the end of the season, Carr’s yardage ranked sixth on the Yale single season rushing list, the best sophomore campaign by a tailback in Yale history. After accruing 1,083 yards on 236 attempts and scoring 10 touchdowns, Carr was named First Team All-Ivy and All-New England.
As a junior, Carr was named Second Team All-Ivy after rushing for 800 yards on 170 attempts and scoring 10 touchdowns. Averaging 21.5 yards, Carr ended the season ranked second in the league on kick-off returns.
While it appears inconceivable, Ciotti insists Carr is just now reaching the apogee of his talent in his senior season, with exceptional performances against Dayton, Colgate, Lehigh and Penn.
“Against Colgate, he did an outstanding job,” Ciotti said. “He did a great job blocking in pass plays.”
Carr was recognized as Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for his showing against Colgate and has been named to the Honor Roll three times this season.
Over the past four years, Ciotti has seen Carr develop into what he called a “great all-around running back.” Though Carr always had exemplary field vision, Ciotti worked with him on eliminating “shake” — a prep-level technique of making several cuts to evade defenders.
“On this level, there’s no time for more than one cut,” Ciotti said. “You have to learn to make a decision and live with it. He has worked hard at that. Now he makes all the right cuts. This season, he’s only missed it maybe twice. It comes from experience. But a lot has to do with being determined to succeed.”
On Saturday, Carr’s well-honed techniques and game experience will be showcased against a strong Princeton defense. Looking back at Carr’s phenomenal debut in the Yale Bowl against Cornell in 2001, it seems especially fitting that he will face such a challenge in his final home game.
“[Princeton] always [has] good defense against the run,” Ciotti said. “I think the game will summarize his experience at running back … He’s had a lot of memorable experiences on that field. I know he’ll play his absolute best.”