Spartan QB still on mission
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
|CARLSON: Led offense to 746 yards last week|
Carlson, a 25-year-old senior whose football team plays Hawai'i tomorrow, developed perseverance not on the sidelines but on doorsteps.
In 1996, while serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remembered the hardships of trying to share his faith in downtown Portland, Ore.
"You'd get spit on or doors slammed in your face," he said. "It took a while to learn to not take it personally, to realize they weren't rejecting you, they were rejecting your message."
Still, it saddened him. "The hardest thing is they're rejecting a message you know can bring happiness to people's lives," he said. "It's like you have the antidote for a certain disease, and that disease is unhappiness."
During his mission, he was limited to writing one letter a week to his family in Arizona.
"It takes a lot of discipline not to call home," said Carlson, who used his life savings of $8,000 to subsidize his two-year mission. "You have to do the things you need to do to stay focused on your mission. I guess it paid off. It takes a lot of focus to play quarterback."
After his mission, he attended Scottsdale College during the 1998-99 academic year, then waited for a Division I offer that would not come.
He eventually joined the Spartans as a nonscholarship player. But the Silicon Valley is not for the financially modest, and Carlson took out several student loans, lived with six roommates and joined Costco.
"The key was to buy in bulk," said Carlson, who estimated spending $18,000 for food, non-resident tuition, books and housing during his first year at San Jose State. "Fast food definitely wasn't a choice."
Carlson redshirted in 1999. Last year, he threw two passes both completions as the No. 3 quarterback. His highlight was retrieving an errant extra-point snap and scrambling into the end zone for a two-point conversion against Hawai'i. He also earned a scholarship.
After the Spartans lost their first five games this year, first-year head coach Fitz Hill summoned Carlson three days before the game at Texas-El Paso.
"I was told I would be the starter," he recalled. "They told me, 'As long as you do well, you'll stay in.' "
Carlson played horribly in the first half against UTEP. Still, he was allowed to start the second half. He responded by rallying the Spartans to victory.
Last week, the Spartans rolled up a school-record 746 yards in offense in a victory over Tulsa. Suddenly, Carlson, the second-oldest Spartan behind 27-year-old safety Larry Thompson, was an overnight sensation.
"If you want to be successful in any part of your life, you have to be prepared," Carlson said.
Carlson said he found a way to stay fresh when quarterback Marcus Arroyo was getting all of the snaps in practice.
"When Marcus was out there, I would take mental reps," Carlson said. "I tried to go through the same reads, the same progressions, that he was going through, only I would do it in my mind. That's something nobody can take away from you. You can take as many mental reps as you want."
For a boost, Carlson often thinks back to his mission.
"In football, like anything else, you have to have tremendous faith," Carlson said. "I have faith."