Carey scoring from everywhere on the field
Lock Haven's Rob Carey insists that he doesn't have a favorite way to score a touchdown.
"It really doesn't matter to me, just as long as I score some way," he said.
The variety of ways in which the 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior has reached the end zone this season suggests that he isn't too picky. Carey, listed on the Bald Eagles' roster as cornerback, has scored five times, by way of:
"It's a huge advantage for us to have an athlete of Rob's caliber," Lock Haven coach Mark Luther said. "We've been able to use him in many different areas to help our football team."
Carey's diverseness on the football field is no surprise to Luther. Carey, a 1999 Woodland Hills graduate, was a first-team selection last year in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division as a kickoff/punt returner and a second-team pick as a cornerback.
But Carey's cameo appearances on offense this year as a wide receiver for the Bald Eagles (4-6, 1-4 PSAC West) and his scoring prowess have happened because he is a more mature, knowledgeable player, the third-year coach said.
"Rob has grown a lot over the last three years," Luther said. "He was already one of the best returners in our conference, if not the country. This season, we saw that everything was OK with him on defense. He has our system down, and that allowed us to also work him on the offense."
The result has left Carey, who had two career kickoff returns for touchdowns before this season, tied for the second-most career touchdowns on the team behind junior wide receiver Marcus Burkley (seven), another Woodland Hills graduate.
"He gives our opponents something to prepare for every week," said Luther, whose team was scheduled to travel to Edinboro in its season finale Saturday. "He can come into a game and make plays for us at any time."
Carey said the idea to play wide receiver came about in practice.
"I was playing around at the position and asked (Luther) if he was short of receivers," Carey said. "My focus is to help the team. I told him I would do whatever I could do over there (on offense), even if it was just for one play. Whatever I can do to put points on the board and help the team."
Carey's five touchdowns came over a six-week span, starting with his first chance at wide receiver.
His first career catch came in the Bald Eagles' second game of the season, Sept. 14 against Kutztown. With his team trailing 14-0 in the fourth quarter, Carey caught a 16-yard touchdown pass and sparked Lock Haven to a come-from-behind win.
The next week in a loss at Bloomsburg, Carey's second career reception also went for a touchdown, this time, for 48 yards.
Carey had punt returns of 80 and 48 yards, respectively, in each of the next two weeks in wins at Mansfield and against Cheyney, and he had a 99-yard fumble recovery two weeks later in a win Oct. 19 over Shippensburg.
"He's provided a spark for our team." Luther said. "They get really fired up when he's out there and makes a play. He's been a real positive for this football team."
Carey — who leads the Bald Eagles with 916 all-purpose yards — has a total of three catches on the season for 102 total yards and, on defense, is currently tied for third with 66 tackles. Undeniably, his best position is as returner, where he has now has a combined four career touchdowns and averages this season of 17.6 yards on punts and 24.0 yards on kickoffs.
"On special teams, he's a scoring threat every time he touches the ball," Luther said. "On returns, he can stop on a dime and change direction. He kind of slithers through the creases. People have a hard time tackling him."
"When defenders are running full speed at you, it's hard for them to stop and change direction," Carey said. "A lot of it also has to do with good blocking up front. I find a crease, get through and use my speed to break away."
For now, Carey said he will continue to look for other ways to score, most notably via the interception return. At cornerback, Carey has two interceptions this year (nine for his career), but none have been returned.
"You're going to see him step up and make more plays." Luther said. "He'll continue to get better. I've talked to him about continuing to get stronger. If he can put on just another five pounds, it'll help him be even more dominating as a football player."
Carey said his involvement at three different positions has been tiring at times.
"But I don't want anybody else to be out there," he said. "To me, it's fun, and I just like to do it."
He also dreams of the game where, in three consecutive plays, he can make a big tackle on a third-down, return the ensuing punt and then line up on offense and catch a pass.
"I've talked about it with a lot of people," Carey said. "That would be a big thing."