Starkey: Oh brother, Steelers' pick makes history
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The NFL didn't have a draft lottery until Saturday, when a family in Fontana, Calif., bucked the odds in a way only a Powerball winner could appreciate.
LaGenia and David Carter saw both of their sons — David, 23, and Chris, 22 — drafted into the NFL on the same afternoon. Chris, a 6-foot-1, 248-pound defensive end/linebacker from Fresno State, went to the Steelers in the fifth round. David, a 6-5, 297-pound defensive tackle from UCLA, went to the Arizona Cardinals in the sixth.
LaGenia, in her 25th year as a dispatcher at the Los Angeles Police Department, has yet to recover. Her legs still feel like Jello. Seems like five minutes ago the boys — born 16 months apart — were crawling around in diapers, sharing a bedroom, playing video games, climbing trees in the backyard and teaming up on a pretty good defense at Kaiser High School.
Now they're both in the NFL?
"I had faith it would happen, but (Saturday) I couldn't really breathe or stop crying until they both got called," LaGenia said by phone. "It was the happiest feeling of my life. A few months ago, David said he had a dream that he and his brother would shake hands and congratulate each other after the draft."
That is precisely what happened. LaGenia, like any self-respecting mom, was armed and ready to capture the moment.
"I was like, 'Hey, guys, I have to get this picture,' " she said. "They were both crying."
The last time brothers were drafted in the same year was 2007, when Auburn's Kenny and David Irons went to the Bengals and Falcons, respectively. The most noted pair of draft brothers in recent memory was Tiki and Ronde Barber in 1997.
Back in Fontana — call it Carter Country — the story reverberates. It is one of genetics, to be sure, but millions of kids are big and strong. The overriding theme is discipline. The parents instilled it. The children incorporated it.
Lesson: Heavily involved authority figures make a difference.
Until the boys were in junior high — they have an older sister, Sadia, 27, who has always been fiercely protective of them — the family lived near Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles. It was a neighborhood filled with challenges and temptation.
The elder David, who works in information technology, was raised in a restaurant-owning family. LaGenia's father worked in a police department. When their boys were young, the two enrolled them in a program called "Devil Pups," which works in conjunction with the U.S. Marines. The boys weren't in trouble. It was just a way of giving them a sense of good, orderly direction at an early age — a 2 1⁄2-week sojourn they will never forget.
"We were up at 4 in the morning every day doing push-ups," Chris recalled, laughing.
The Carters decided that even with the proper safeguards in place, L.A. wasn't the right place for their boys to grow into teenagers. They moved 45 minutes away for the relative calm of Fontana.
"We didn't want our kids to become a statistic," David said. "You know the saying, it takes a village to raise a child• That's what is here. Everybody cares. If you do something wrong, you probably get scolded three or four times before you get home and then get scolded again when you get there."
The Carter kids knew they better produce good grades and meet curfew. And even when they arrived home on time, dad was in the doorway.
"I didn't debate it too much," Chris said. "But as we got older, our parents gave us a lot of freedom, because they learned to trust our decision-making."
If football doesn't work out, the Carter brothers have degrees to fall back on — Chris in communications, David in history. The two are different in some ways — David is more reserved — but have shared a passion for football practically since they began walking. They have an uncle who's a die-hard Steelers fan, which accounts for Chris wearing No. 43 in honor of Troy Polamalu. "Guess I'll have to give it up," he said.
The two faced each other once in college, when Fresno State beat UCLA. If all goes well, they will reunite Oct. 23 when the Steelers play at Arizona.
Low-round picks are hardly guaranteed to make the final cut. But in this case, I like the odds.
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