His grandfather coached Michigan, but he’s chosen Notre Dame for football
SALINE, Mich. (AP) — CJ Carr was standing in his kitchen, searching for an after-school snack, when his grandfather sent a verbal jab over the kitchen island.
“You wearing that sweatshirt?” former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr asked his grandson with a smirk.
“Yeah,” he said to his grandfather, grinning and wearing a green sweatshirt with Notre Dame in white.
CJ Carr will be among hundreds of prospects to sign a national letter of intent with college football programs on Wednesday, sealing his commitment to join the Fighting Irish.
No one on Signing Day has a story quite the same.
The former Saline High School star quarterback has two College Football Hall of Fame grandfathers, Lloyd Carr and Tom Curtis, with ties to the Wolverines and a late brother, whose battle with brain cancer inspired a foundation that has funded $27 million in research.
CJ Carr caused a stir last year when he chose to attend Notre Dame, rather than play five miles from his house at Michigan, where his father, Jason, was a backup quarterback and met his future wife, Tammi.
“It was time for me to spread my wings a little bit and get a little further from home,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press before leaving for South Bend, Indiana, to join Notre Dame for its Sun Bowl practices.
CJ Carr felt so at home after his final recruiting trip to Notre Dame that the fifth-ranked high school quarterback in the country called off planned visits to Alabama, Georgia and LSU, and broke the news to his family back at home.
“I said, `C.J., what do you think?,’” Lloyd Carr recalled asking. “And he said, ‘Papa, I’m going to Notre Dame. His dad was standing there and his dad said, ’Hey, wait a minute. You got a lot of things to look at and think about.’”
The decision, though, was done and those closet to him gave their blessing.
“I told everybody, ‘If he’s happy, I’m happy,’” Lloyd Carr said.
Carr led the Wolverines to their last national title in 1997, and retired with a 122-40 record in 2008. Curtis had 25 career interceptions from 1967 to 1969 at Michigan, where he still holds the career record and Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson is second with 18 interceptions.
Some Michigan fans, especially those with anonymity on social media, were not pleased that CJ Carr didn’t follow his family’s legacy with the maize and blue.
“People would say, ‘Oh, how could he not go to Michigan because his name is Carr? What a traitor,’” Tammi Carr said. “He is in a no-win situation. So unfair. And that kid keeps his head up high. He doesn’t listen to anything anyone says. He follows what he feels is right. And as his mother, I am beyond proud of him for that.”
CJ Carr is an upbeat person and player, with a strong arm, but he has lived with a heavy heart since 2015 when his youngest brother, Chad, died from a rare, inoperable form of brain cancer.
Tammi and Jason Carr along with their sons, CJ and Tommy, have made it their mission to make a difference through the the ChadTough Foundation, which has provided funding for 65 researchers at 35 institutions and offers assistance for families affected by diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.
“We started the ChadTough Foundation to change the future for kids who come next because the chance that Chad got wasn’t the chance that these kids should get,” Tammi said. “We’re moving the needle, and Chad’s moving the needle.”
Each time Carr takes snaps at Notre Dame, he will see Chad and a cross tattooed on the inside of his right wrist.
But will Lloyd Carr be wearing Fighting Irish gear when his grandson plays for one of Michigan’s historic rivals?
“What kind of question is that?,” he asked, laughing, before pausing and answering. “Well, I’ll be cheering for Notre Dame when C.J. Carr’s on the team.
“I’m proud of him. I’m proud of the choice he made.”