Former Wood Strong star eagerly awaits NFL draft call
VACAVILLE — When the NFL Draft kicks off on April 28, Vacaville native Carson Strong will be tuning in to an Airbnb in Lake Tahoe with his family.
Nerves will likely be a little frayed in the first round, but it’s Friday’s second and third rounds when Nevada’s stellar quarterback expects to hear his name. Strong is expected to be the first home pick since Vacaville’s Mykal Walker was picked by the Atlanta Falcons in the fourth round of the 2020 draft with the No. 119 pick.
“There’s a lot of excitement,” Strong said by phone with the Daily Republic Friday morning. “I can’t wait to get drafted and get started. I’m over the pre-draft process and ready for football.
The pre-draft training sessions were thorough. Strong played in Reece’s Senior Bowl in January. He made several visits to NFL teams, and several came to see him in Reno.
He noted two recent visits with the Las Vegas Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers. He returned late from his trip to Pittsburgh one night, only to be back in the field throwing for Washington commanders by 8 a.m. the next morning.
“If I told my kid I was going to be drafted into the NFL, I’d be excited and happy,” Strong said, “but now it’s become more normal. I’m sure once it gets closer , I will be excited again.
Strong is likely the area’s third-highest draft pick of all time. Cornerback Jason Verrett of Rodriguez High and Texas Christian University was picked as the 25th player in the first round by the San Diego Chargers in 2014. Surprisingly, two picks later, Deon Bucannon of Vanden and Texas State Washington, went to No. 27 as a safety. / Arizona Cardinals linebacker.
The Will C. Wood High graduate’s three-year career as a QB-1 in Nevada has been one for the ages. He was the Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year in both his sophomore (2020) and junior (2021) seasons. As a junior, Strong earned national honors as a semi-finalist for the prestigious United Golden Arm Award, Manning Award, and Davey O’Brien Award.
Strong finished his career with 852 of 1,251 passes (68.1 competitive percentage) for 9,368 yards and 74 touchdowns. He had 2,335 as a redshirt rookie with 11 touchdowns in 2019, 2,858 yards and 27 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2020 and exploded to 4,175 yards and 36 touchdowns as a junior last season. He decided to forgo a senior season and make himself eligible for the draft.
Nine times during his junior year he threw for over 300 yards and twice for 400. He had a game six touchdowns and five throws for four scores.
What makes his career even more notable is the devastating injury he suffered to his right knee which cost him his senior year of high school. He signed up at Nevada in early 2018 and worked his way into one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
“I enjoyed my time in Nevada,” he said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go to another school. They stayed with me and gave me the only scholarship offer.
Strong said he felt his emergence as a top quarterback ahead of late fall 2020 practice. Most teams at the time weren’t sure there would even be a football season because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He decided to take the “train like you play” mantra and made it pay.
“That first game (in 2020) I thought ‘train like you play’ and I went out in that game against Wyoming and threw for 420 yards and four touchdowns,” he said. .
Most NFL scouts consider Strong a true pocket passer. He has a strong, precise arm, but not the mobility of the modern running and throwing quarterback, especially on his reconstructed right knee. But he’s beaten the odds before and probably will again.
This call from an NFL executive can’t come soon enough.