Nestled into the Lake Tahoe area over the past weekend the family and friends of Vacaville native Carson Strong sat and waited for over 72 hours to see him reach a childhood dream – entering the National Football League.
After three full days of waiting, minutes after the draft, that dream turned into a reality.
The quarterback agreed to sign a free agent deal to join the Philadelphia Eagles. Seeing his son bask in the moment, Carson’s dad, Chris, alongside Carson’s mom Kristine and sister Samantha couldn’t have been more proud.
“It was a lot of good emotion, it was a hug, it was a high-five,” Chris mentioned about the moment he became and Eagle, “Carson was surrounded by people that mean a lot to him, and he was able to celebrate that with them. These people stuck by him the entire three days. “
After a whirlwind that consisted of around the clock training in Los Angeles, partaking in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., Competing in the NFL combine in Indianapolis and his pro day back in Reno on his college campus, Carson knew exactly where he wanted to enjoy the three days of the draft, opting to rent a house in Lake Tahoe.
“One of his favorite places to go is not only as a kid, but as a college student is Tahoe, so he rented a house up Tahoe Vista,” Chris said.
Beginning on Thursday the first round came and went with only one quarterback drafted off the board. In day two, three more quarterbacks found their new homes, while Carson remained on the board.
Though remaining a tense situation, people like his former Will C. Wood Wildcats coach Carlos Meraz knew exactly what his former quarterback was eyeing for – a chance to play.
“He always kept a level head about that,” Meraz said. “Whether you are drafted first or seventh or you are a free agent or whatever the case may be, the amount of people that make it to the NFL is a very select group of people. I think he’s always kept that in mind and been humble about and understanding that the fact he was going to get an opportunity and kind of reason for his success his whole life. “
After Friday concluded, the last remaining three rounds remained for a chance to get drafted. As each round came and went, Carson had yet to get the call. As the draft was nearing its end, two teams reached out to express interest of not drafting Carson, yet signing him as an undrafted free agent. One was the Eagles and the other team was the Vikings.
“Knowing that he had options after that were going to come to fruition made it more celebratory,” Chris said. “Everybody was excited for him.”
NFL prospects that do get drafted by their respective teams don’t have the choice where they land, but for those that have gone undrafted their scenario is presented differently.
Teams immediately hit the phone lines to court those to compete for their roster positions in the coming months, leaving the player the choice on where to go. Once Carson made his mind to sign with the Philadelphia, a team he had met in the NFL Draft process, the celebration began.
After coaching him as his time with the Wildcats, and followed closely during his time with the Nevada Wolf Pack, Meraz knows that Philadelphia grabbed a good one.
“(Carson) has proven leadership skills, an outstanding work ethic, very hungry to learn the game, very hungry to participate in the game,” Meraz said. “I think that’s the reason why he is so successful.”
Meraz wasn’t the only coach to be proud of Carson for accomplishing his dream. Ex-Nevada coach Jay Norvell (now head coach at Colorado State) celebrated his former signal caller on social media.
“Congratulations @CarsonStrong_ !,” Norvell tweeted out. You are an incredible player. Always showed courage and leadership even when you weren’t 100%. Good luck, always pulling for you! ”
As everyone continued to celebrate at the moment, Carson’s former Wildcats head basketball coach Mark Wudel along with his wife Holly ran out and grabbed some Eagles pennants for him to sign. Watching him grow up with his son Michael, and seeing the competitor he was in everything from sports to board games, he knew they needed to jump at the chance.
“He’s going to be in the limelight, so here you are going to have an autograph sign,” Wudel laughed. “I thought it would be cool to be the first one. We brought some back to the cabin and we said we need an autograph from a Philadelphia Eagle, is there one here? ”
As he watched his son revel in the moment, Chris knows Carson is in an element he is all too familiar with. After his time with Wood, only one team wanted him in college – Nevada. Now with college in his rear view, and not hearing his name called in draft night, he has found a home in the NFL with an opportunity to compete. Carson has filled the role of underdog in his career, and Chris knows he can be up to the task again.
“Carson relishes the thought that he has to prove himself, that his journey isn’t an easy one,” Chris said. “He has to get over hurdles and prove to people and it motivates him. It motivates him a lot. “
Carson is now set to join the rest of the Eagles for rookie mini-camp, followed by voluntary organized team activities (OTA’s) which is then followed by mandatory mini-camp. After minicamp, training camp is set to follow.
Carson joins a depth chart in Philadelphia that includes Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew and Reid Sinnett.