After tough offseason, Carey has found 'balance'
AUG 18, 2013 2:45p ET
For a running back, it's a good thing. For a person trying to live the right way, it's an even better thing.
Life, as Carey has found out the last nine months, hits harder than any opposing linebacker. If you get knocked down, you get up -- and move on.
"I did find that balance on and off the field," Carey said in speaking to the media for the first time since his off-the-field troubles that started soon after Arizona's season ended in a 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl in December. "It's knowing what to do and what not to do on and off the field. I've learned to be a good role model."
It took some bad publicity for Carey to arrive at that revelation — namely, a spat with the mother of his child, and later an altercation with campus police at an Arizona basketball game. During the latter incident, Carey pulled the, "Don't you know who I am?" card.
Carey said that as soon as the words came out of his mouth, he knew he was wrong.
"I just knew it was going in a bad direction," he said.
Since the domestic dispute -- charges have since been dropped -- the media hasn't seen much of the All-American, who emerged as a sophomore last season with one of Arizona all-time best performances. At the time, Carey led the country in rushing with a school-record 1,929 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns. He returns as one of the top running backs in the country and a Heisman Trophy hopeful.
And yes, he said, the offseason has humbled him. More so now than ever before, he's learning to take the good with the bad and the bad with the good.
"Ka'Deem is doing the right things, and he's always been a good guy to coach," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "He just a couple of issues he had to straighten out."
What Rodriguez wants to make clear is that there is no sense of entitlement at Arizona. And there won't be.
"We don't believe in star treatment," he said.
Carey, for his part, seems to be the same guy he was when he first arrived at Arizona after a standout career at Tucson's Canyon Del Oro High. He still has that mile-wide smile and affable personality.
"If he wasn't, he wouldn't be playing, he wouldn't be on the team," Rodriguez said. "He's the same guy."
And the fans still love him. At the annual Meet the Team function after Arizona's scrimmage on Saturday, Carey had a line "a mile long" with fans wanting an autograph.
"He's had to learn how to handle that," Rodriguez said. "As far as the football, practice and expectations, that's unyielding and doesn't change."
Along with a growing maturity has come the realization that being a highly visible athlete comes with a price: a spotlight that beams bright and doesn't fade.
"It's just (realizing) that all eyes are always on you," he said. "You have to show people who you are at all times and can never go out of your element. You can't ever be full of yourself. You have to be humble and great on and off the field.
"You learn from your mistakes, obviously. Growing up and being a father now, it's important."
And being a father is of huge importance.
"You have to be there to support him, and that's no matter if it's a changed diaper or buying him a new Lexus when he's older," he said. "I'm just here to support him. You look at his face and you feel so great."
With the future in mind, Carey says he's ready to move on from a challenging few months.
"You can't drop your head about it; you have to stay motivated," he said. "You have to be humbled and you have to survive. Everything caught me off-guard. You get better and look to the future."
Exactly how Carey's immediate future plays out is anyone's guess. He certainly doesn't lack the talent to put up huge numbers, although it's often harder to repeat greatness than to establish it. With the quarterback situation in flux after the graduation of Matt Scott, it's unclear whether the passing game will be able to loosen up opposing defenses, and there is some question as to how many carries senior running back Daniel Jenkins will take away. Rodriguez had said that he has two starting tailbacks, with Jenkins having impressed in camp.
"Will it be hard to have more than 1,900 yards?" Rodriguez said. "Yup, because you don't have Matt Scott throwing it and some of those seniors (at the wide receiver spots)."
Just another thing Carey will have to overcome.