Sports mind: Carson Bobo combines brains and sports

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

When he was cut from his eighth grade basketball team, Carson Bobo had every reason to doubt his athletic ability. He was underweight, still growing into his body and in need of developing more skills.

Fast forward five years and that underweight eighth grader is headed off to one of the world’s most prestigious universities to play college football.

Having gone from 170 pounds back then up to 235 pounds less than a month after graduating, Bobo will be suiting up in Princeton orange and black as a tight end for the Tigers during the 2018 football season.

The path to joining the No. 1 school in America according to Usnews.com is one filled with plenty of ups and downs, but one filled with fight and determination.

Where it all began

While Carson’s dad David Bobo tried to keep the sport of football hidden from him as long as possible, it was only a matter of time before the sport Carson was meant to play came calling.

“As soon as I figured out I was allowed to play, I was begging him and begging him saying ‘Please let me play,’” Carson said. “I knew I loved the sport before I even started playing.”

“I remember when Carson brought a flyer home about the youth football league,” David said. “He gave it to me at the kitchen table and was right over my shoulder looking at the flyer with me. It said something about the age or grade level and he read that and he goes, ‘I can play!’”

Carson’s entrance into sports came at age 5 when he started playing baseball, which was followed shortly after by basketball, but it was at age 8 when he first stepped onto a football field that his true love came to fruition.

Late bloomer

Carson’s excitement toward the sports he played was second to none, but the size and athleticism was still something he was searching for during his late middle school years and throughout his first two years of high school.

As a seventh grader, he made the middle school basketball team, but was then cut a year later in eighth grade.

“I said back then, ‘I hate cutting this kid because he was all over the place and battling hard at everything we asked him to do,’” Oak Mountain boys basketball coach Chris Love said. “He was still growing into his body and developing his skills as a basketball player.”

Carson admitted that he was torn after that, but he handled the difficult situation with maturity.

He went on to put in the work over the next year by joining a developmental basketball team and putting an emphasis on being the role player he knew he could be by focusing on defense, hustle and rebounding.

“When he came out as a ninth grader it was a no brainer,” Love said. “You could see the work he put in and that he was a keeper. That just shows the kind of kid he is. He didn’t blame us, he put the work in that he needed to in order to come back a year later and make the team.”

“Looking back at that and being able to push through and handle it the way I did at such a young age made me really proud,” Carson said. “That really helped propel me through different things moving through high school because things didn’t always go my way.”

That maturity level and process of being cut was part of Carson breaking through to become the athlete he was on the football field as well.

In seventh grade, he was the quarterback of the middle school team, which is something he hoped to continue playing moving forward throughout high school.

That all changed on the first day of eighth grade when his good friend to this day and future Samford baseball player Gene Hurst moved in.

Carson was his mentor that first day of eighth grade and found out Hurst, who was as big then as he is now, was going to play quarterback, which caused Carson to say “Oh no.”

Hurst ended up being named the starter, while Carson was his backup over the next couple of years.

That gave Carson a chance to figure out what position he was more suited to play in order to help his team.

“At the end of my ninth grade year, I tried out for tight end,” he said. “I still tried to be a quarterback my sophomore year, but then I realized that tight end was my best option and took that role over permanently moving forward.”

Oak Mountain head coach Cris Bell said that at the time he wasn’t fast enough to be a receiver nor big enough to be a tight end, but you could just tell once he hit his growth spurt that tight end was going to be the perfect fit.

The unknown

While he had earned a starting role as Oak Mountain’s tight end heading into his junior season, there was still plenty of unknown.

Carson was on a team that ran the triple option and didn’t know if the tight end would even be utilized very much. During that year, the Eagles also had two quarterbacks break their collarbone.

“It was just like ‘Are you kidding me?’” David Bobo said. “We were already in the triple option and down two quarterbacks, we didn’t think they would ever throw the ball after that.’”

Carson still went on to have a decent junior year, but really made his progress at the end of that school year from the spring of 2017 into the summer workouts.

“The light switch really came on last spring,” Bell said. “He did absolutely everything he had to do to put himself in the position he needed to be in. The great thing about Carson is that when he began to elevate himself he began to bring the rest of our guys up with him.”

Carson went from the lanky 185-pound kid to a 210-pound nightmare for opposing defenses during that short time span.

With the help of a key quarterback in Connor Webb, Carson went on to have 612 receiving yards on 42 receptions during his senior season, including a two-week stretch where he posted five combined touchdowns.

He showed true tight end skills as both a receiver and a blocker, which led to a strong late recruiting push.

Passionate and hard worker

From his coaches testimony to his parents, Carson exhibits one of the hardest work ethics any of them have ever seen as well as a level of maturity unseen at his age, which is one of the biggest keys to him making it to where he is.

“He was definitely one of the toughest most hard-nosed competitors that I’ve coached,” Love said. “He hated to lose and would do whatever it took to help his team be successful.

“Never had to ask him to play harder or be tougher. You knew that’s exactly what you were going to get from him. You just don’t see that all the time anymore. It’s fun to coach that.”

One story in particular speaks to that praise.

As a kid, Carson was used to being one of the better guys on his team and contributing each season in every sport.

That all changed in one middle school game against Spain Park where Oak Mountain picked up a big rivalry win, but Carson – who was playing quarterback at the time – saw just two plays the entire game, one on special teams and one on defense.

While he was happy for the team’s win, it was obviously a conflicting feeling for Carson after the game, but his response was that of a mature Carson we’ve come to know today.

“On the car ride home, his mom asked him how he was doing knowing that there was a huge elephant in the room having only played two plays,” an emotional David Bobo said. “She asked him what he was thinking and his comment to mom was ‘Maybe God is trying to tell me something. I think he’s trying to tell me that I need to work harder.’”

David Bobo admitted he was ready to have a conversation with the coach and ask him why the game unfolded the way it did, but instead he said it was funny how he learned from his seventh grade son about being more mature in that moment.

“At that age, I was just so proud of that,” David said.

It’s those kind of characteristics that led to him being a great teammate over the next six years, being a leader in his school and earning a spot at one of the best colleges in the world.

Last-minute frenzy

What most people have two years to handle, Carson had less than a month to handle all of his recruitment thanks to being such a late bloomer.

With his impressive senior season at Oak Mountain and finally growing into his frame, school’s started making their pitch and Carson ended up getting eight offers late in the signing period.

“It was very stressful,” David Bobo said. “I remember Carson telling me, ‘Dad, I literally am thinking about this every minute’ while he was trying to make the grades and continue his focus on school as well.”

Carson recalled a night where he had two tests the next day, but also had calls with coaches set up the night before the tests.

He also recalled a visit to Richmond University where Carson and his dad drove through the night after an Oak Mountain basketball game against Huffman to make their visit because he didn’t want to leave on Friday night and let his teammates down.

It was a time consuming process that could have easily seen him slip academically and athletically, but Carson went on to finish out the school year with a 4.29 GPA.

His academic standing as well as his breakthrough athletic career were big reasons why Princeton became one of those eight schools extremely interested. It took some time for the offer to come, but eventually the call came.

“They offered me a couple of days before signing day,” Carson said. “We were hoping for the offer, but he was always giving mixed signals and just saying he was excited, so I was nervous. Then he finally called to offer me and I told them I would think about it, but as soon as I got off the phone, I thought to myself ‘This is where I want to go.’” 

All the pieces to the puzzle

With that offer from Princeton, all of the puzzle pieces in Carson’s life fit together perfectly and without one piece along the way, it could have been an incomplete puzzle with an unkown ending.

Carson and his dad both eluded to every little thing along the way as being an important piece, saying “Without it, this probably doesn’t happen.”

Talking about him being cut from the basketball team, not starting as a quarterback, being underweight, not having Webb as a quarterback his senior year, taking a heavy load academically as well as many other things.

One final piece to the puzzle actually came on the basketball court in a blowout loss to Class 7A state champion Mountain Brook during Carson’s senior year.

Princeton’s head coach came down for that game to see Carson play, which was a big deal because head coaches didn’t make a lot of trips like that.

“We were sitting there talking and I was trying to get focus off of the game,” David Bobo said. “But he eventually said, ‘Let me just tell you, look at the scoreboard. You’re getting beat by 50, but look at your soon. He’s still boxing out, diving for the ball, fighting and was the first person up encouraging players from the bench. That’s leadership and that’s one thing we want and look for.’”

It’s those kind of moments where he could’ve just gone about his business and let tough circumstances get him down, but instead he remained upbeat and positive, which led to more and more people and coaches being impressed with him.

It was those small pieces to the puzzle that all came together to create the opportunity of a lifetime.

The future is bright

Now that he’s attending one of the best universities in the world, Carson has all of his goals in front of him ready to be achieved.

Sitting at 235 pounds, he’s up to a great size for a tight end and will have chances to be an impressive football player.

With his academic standing coming out of high school, he’ll also have the chance to earn a degree from a college that will look impressive on a resume as he attempts a career in engineering.

“He was such a leader for our school in so many different facets and now he’ll go off to Princeton and continue to do those amazing things,” Love said.

It’s a transition that Carson isn’t really nervous about anymore, but instead one that excites him as a grin comes across his face and a different tone comes from his voice when he talks about getting started.

“He’s going to be a good one moving forward,” Bell said. “A lot of different things go into it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we turn on our TV one day and see playing him on Sundays. No matter what he does though, he’s one of those that is going to be successful.”

It’s an emotional time for Carson and his family as he prepares to leave, but with the completion of one puzzle comes the beginning of another.