It’s a defensive coordinator’s worst nightmare—the opposing quarterback hanging out in the pocket cool as a cucumber, casually waiting for routes to develop before he tosses completion after completion. Nothing is more frustrating. That’s exactly why the men who specialize in terrorizing quarterbacks have become so valuable.
This year’s NFL Draft class is absolutely loaded with quality pass rushers, and Joshua Carraway is one of them. A 6-foot-3, 242-pound physical specimen, Carraway was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection at TCU. His extreme athleticism allows him to bend under offensive tackles and wreak havoc in the backfield. From his NFL.com scouting profile: “Outstanding athlete. Explosive with plenty of twitch. Has sudden, bouncy feet…Flexibility creates ability to dip and corner the edge sharply. Has breathtaking closing burst to the quarterback as a rusher.”
Not bad for a kid who was rated as a two-star recruit by Rivals coming out of high school. STACK caught up with Carraway at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida to find out more about one of the best sleeper prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft.
STACK: How’d you first get into football?
Joshua Caraway: I got into football mainly because a lot of my friends were in it. I didn’t start playing until seventh grade, and I just thought it was a neat way to hang out with the guys and be around a lot of good friends of mine. I didn’t really start to get good until my junior year. Then I was like, “oh, this football stuff is pretty fun when you’re good at it.”
What pro athletes did you idolize growing up?
Dirk Nowitzki. I’m from Dallas, so I’ve always been a huge Dirk fan. I’ve been going to Mavericks games since I was a little kid. Also, DeMarcus Ware. He was on the Cowboys throughout most of my life. Those two players, being able to watch them throughout their careers and both get championship rings, it’s been awesome.
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Have you always been a competitive person?
I’ve always been a competitive person. It’s just something that was in my house from my dad. We’re always playing games. My family did a lot of family activities together growing up, including playing Wii, playing pool, going bowling. Everyone wanted to win. You don’t want to be, as my dad would call it, “stuck in Loserville.” You didn’t want to be stuck in Loserville.
Do you have any unique training memories from your younger years?
I remember in 2011, they played the Super Bowl that year in Dallas. My group of friends and I decided to go get a lift in during the second half. So we ate and watched the first half. Then we got a lift in during the Super Bowl, because it was on a Sunday. No matter what, we were lifting on Sunday. Or else it would throw off the whole week.
Do you have a favorite play from your time at Marcus High School?
One of my favorite sports memories was my senior year. I ended up blocking a punt against Flower Mound, our rival high school, which caused a safety. We ended up winning by like 2 points. [Marcus defeated Flower Mound 38-37 in overtime]
You were a late-bloomer in high school, not playing on varsity until your junior year. You were also a two-star recruit. How did your recruiting experience play out so you landed at TCU?
My recruiting experience was probably a lot different than most other guys. [When it started picking up], I only had one year on varsity, so I was a really late bloomer. One of the first schools I met [with] was Indiana. I went up there on a visit, but they didn’t offer. The funny thing about TCU is I was so involved with Indiana at that time. So I came down on a Monday morning dressed in all my Indiana gear, and my head coach tells me TCU is in his office and wants to talk to me. I kinda felt stupid because I was in all Indiana gear. They ended up offering me a scholarship, and all the other schools didn’t have anything on TCU. They play in the Big 12, they have head coach Gary Patterson. I figured he’d be there the next 20 years, so I didn’t have to worry about a coaching change. I felt like academic-wise, that was also the best school out of all of them.
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Did being largely overlooked during recruiting affect your mindset coming into TCU?
I definitely think getting overlooked helped me in college. It kept a chip on my shoulder. I was always out to prove people wrong and to prove to myself that I could play on that level.
Was there a player or coach who really helped you grow at TCU?
When I got there my freshman year, there were three defensive ends I looked up to: Ross Forrest, John Koontz and Stansly Maponga. They were all the older guys. Listening to them, seeing how they acted each week, asking them questions about the defense—why’d you do this or why’d you do that? Those three guys really helped me learn the TCU defense and what it means to be a TCU football player.
What was the craziest game you played in at TCU?
The 2016 Alamo Bowl against Oregon. We were down 31 at halftime. Everyone was kinda shook. We weren’t really sure if it was really happening. We’d only lost twice that season, and we’re in a bowl game where we’re down 31-0. But coach Patterson told us to keep fighting, I think there were a couple cuss words from a few players to get people riled up. We ended up coming back and winning in triple overtime. Just being able to come back and fight through that. Everyone was exhausted at the end of the day. I had lost my voice. I couldn’t talk for the next 24 hours.
You were a First-Team All-Big 12 selection as well as a First-Team Academic All-Big 12 selection last season. Has school always been important to you?
I think academics were always the first thing on my mind. Even when I was looking at colleges, that was something my dad and I paid attention to. What school had the best academics? My dad always told me, “no matter what, you have to get your degree.” And I did end up getting my degree, so that was the biggest part of going to TCU. I got my degree in Criminal Justice. A lot of my family are lawyers, so the criminal justice side is always something that’s been real fascinating to me. I like watching crime shows. I was really into The People vs. O.J. Simpson. So it’s just something that’s been fun and engrossing for me.
How is Josh Carraway a different player now compared to when he arrived at TCU?
I think Josh Carraway in high school wasn’t as aggressive. He didn’t really have the confidence that he could play at that level. He knew there were a couple things to work on. Now, I’d just go back and tell him to keep working. You’ll get where you want to be.
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What’s your favorite pass rush move and what’s the key to executing it?
My favorite pass rush move is the wipe move. The key to executing it is first getting a great get-off. Once you get around the corner, you make sure you’re swiping the lineman’s hands off you and ripping through. You have to dip that inside shoulder down so he can’t push you out wide.
What’s the experience here at IMG been like for you so far?
I’ve enjoyed it out here. The facilities, the coaches, the trainers. It’s been really helpful to me. And the nutritionists. The biggest thing about me coming out here was knowing that I could eat right. And the schedule they have us on, it’s an NFL schedule. Every day, I’m up early. So I think getting used to that, being able to get up at whatever time since I’ve been getting up at IMG at 6 a.m., I’m used to it.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced with your nutrition here at IMG?
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned about nutrition here is that you can’t eat the fast food every day. I’ve also been eating way more brown rice than I’ve ever eaten in my life. Making sure you eat vegetables with your meals, too. After every meal, I eat a salad. That’s something I’ve never done before. So after every meal, no matter what, I go in and make a little salad. I think that’s something I’m going to carry on after I leave IMG so I make sure I get certain vegetables in.
If you had to compare yourself to an animal, what type of animal are you?
A lion. When you’re on that football field, you gotta be like a lion. A lion, excuse me, but he doesn’t take shit from nobody. So I think when you’re out on that field, you’ve gotta be a lion. Be an animal. Be a savage. Don’t take nothing from nobody.
What advice would you give to high school athletes?
Stay self-motivated. Don’t get too down on yourself. Because at the end of the day, only you can push yourself as far as you want to go. I think that’s something I learned. Only you can make yourself better. No one else is going to push you, no one else is going to make you go do extra stuff. Stay self-motivated and stay hungry.