Summer 2024

Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr nearly quit football to become a pastor

Derek Carr nearly abandoned his NFL playing career before it even started to become a pastor.

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Carr, the Oakland Raiders’ 36th overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, was preparing for his rookie season when a nagging thought that something was wrong, that he was on the wrong path, surfaced. According to a recent profile on Carr by the the Mercury News, he tried to push it away but the uncertainty started to consume him.

“In my heart, I’d never had this feeling where I was so overcome with my thoughts that I was like, ‘I can’t do anything right now,’” Carr said. “The thought was, ‘You need to stop playing football and preach.’ I’m thinking, ‘I’ve dreamed of being an NFL quarterback my whole life, so chill out.’”

But when Carr was unable to shake the thought, he eventually told his then-head coach Dennis Allen he was considering abandoning football altogether, sparking a carefully-hushed, behind-the-scenes crisis in a Raiders organization that believed it had landed a franchise QB in drafting Carr. After a time of praying and listening to others’ advice Carr decided to continue in the NFL, believing he had plenty of time to pursue a ministry career after his time in the NFL.

In the meantime, Carr preaches occasionally around the Bay Area — such as at Jesus Culture in Sacramento, and at Brave Church outside of Oakland. His message entitled “Holy Fire” in early July featured his current head coach, Jon Gruden, in attendance.

“Derek is what he says he is — No. 1, he’s a man of faith; No. 2, he’s a family man, and third is football.” Gruden told The Mercury News. “And he’s put forth as much effort as any man could possibly put forth in those three areas.”

Like most pro athletes, Carr is ultra-competitive, and is the first to admit this competitive drive sometimes leads to impulsive decisions he regrets. He admits challenging ESPN personality Max Kellerman wasn’t “the brightest move by me.” Still, his teammates say that while Carr might not be a pushover, he’s a man who lives his faith in a way that inspires them.

“He’s a nice model to have around you, a family man, does everything the right way,” Raiders running back and fellow Christian Jalen Richard said. “When you’ve got a guy like that, who has so much faith, no matter what’s going on, that picks up your faith and makes you start to search for faith in yourself.”

Carr and the Oakland Raiders offense enter their new season with high expectations, having surrounded Carr with tools to succeed on offense, including WR Antonio Brown and rookie RB Josh Jacobs. The open the season this week on Monday Night Football against the Denver Broncos.

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