By: Jim Steele
Former McKenzie High School quarterback Derek Carr, who became a record-setting quarterback for The University of Tennessee at Martin, has returned to his collegiate alma mater as passing game coordinator.
"Man, it's great being back," said Carr. "It's nice to be back and see people you know. For the last few years, my wife and I have been places where we didn't know anybody. It's great being back and seeing how people are and the relationships you've built."
Carr was a three-year captain at UT-Martin where he set numerous quarterback records including school marks for career pass attempts (1,110), yards (8,428) and touchdowns (69) along with single-game touchdowns (seven). Carr also holds the record for single-game passing yards (560) and career 300-yard passing performances (10). He also set the NCAA record for passing efficiency in a game at Murray State in 2012, completing 42-of-46 passes for 560 yards and seven touchdowns.
While at McKenzie, Carr was the starting quarterback his junior and senior seasons. He was 276-502 passing for 4,873 yards, 48 touchdowns and 17 interceptons. He was used primarly as a wide receiver his sophomore season, but saw action at quarterback, giving him over 5,000 yards passing in his career. He was the second two-time all-state quarterback in McKenzie history and was a Mr. Football finalist his senior year. He led the Rebels to a 13-2 mark and a spot opposite South Pittsburg in the 2007 state championship game, where he was 19-37 for 301 yards, three TDs and no interceptions.
Carr said he's excited about his opportunity.
"I'm pumped, I'm not gonna lie," he said. "This is the next step as far as being an offensive coordinator. We have a fifth-year quarterback and a bunch of receivers returning and some younger guys who look promising. I hope they keep developing."
After his career at UTM, he was a graduate assistant coach for Jason Simpson's Skyhawk team. When Marcus Satterfield took the offensive coordinator's job at Temple, Carr joined him as a grad assistant there and followed him to Tennessee Tech, where he was quarterbacks coach.
Simpson, UTM's head coach, cited many reasons for bringing Carr back.
"We're excited to have him. Here's a guy who basically holds all our career passing records, was here five years as a player, a graduate assistant for a year and now we're bringing somebody back who understands the culture here," he said. "I expect him to bolster confidence in the quarterbacks and receivers and we like the swagger he brings to the meeting and film rooms."
But Simpson said Carr is like having an extension of himself on other parts of the field.
"The cool thing about working with Derek is that he knows exactly what I want and how to fix problems because he's been here, so I don't have to say a whole lot. But he's been at other places and learned from other people. That's what made it a great time to bring Derek back," said the coach.
There have been many changes to the infrastructure at Grantham Field and the UTM football complex since the Simpson era.
"Kudos to coach Simpson, going back to 2006 when he won the OVC. He's built a winning traditon at UT-Martin," Carr said. "It's awesome to see what's gone on not only from a coaching standpoint, but also as alumni."
This past year, UT-Martin renovated its home side, including a state-of-the-art four-story press box, chair-back seats and additional seating.
"We feel like we're the standard for FCS football in Tennessee," said Simpson, citing a 22-8 mark against other FCS teams in the state. "And with Derek, we'll have a little more swagger. It was very important bringing him back."
The Skyhawks concluded spring work on April 22. Derek is the son of Kenny and Jackie Carr of McKenzie.