Derek Carrier's football career may start a new chapter Saturday.
Or it could be a final closing of the books.
His head coach at Beloit College, Chris Brann doesn't think so.
"I think Derek will have the opportunity to play again," said Brann, noting that he was recently in contact with both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. "I think Derek will be invited to a pro day somewhere, perhaps in Madison with the Badgers, and he'll perform well. After that, it will be up to him."
One thing is for certain. Carrier will add to the receiving records he already holds when the Bucs play their finale at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill.
No Midwest Conference team has been able to shut down the 6-foot-4, 230-pound wide receiver, no matter what defense they've employed.
"Derek has been very dominating," Brann said. "He has done a great job catching the ball and his yards after catch are terrific. We've tried to get him the ball in various ways, both throwing it to him and handing it off. You can see it through games how opponents are often intimidated by just how physical he is and how fast."
Carrier has a rare combination of strength, size and speed for a Division III receiver, particularly a small college like Beloit. That he ended up playing at Strong Stadium in the first place is a rather long story and fortuitous if you happen to be a Buccaneer fan.
As a junior at Edgerton High School, the multi-sport standout received football recruiting letters from such Division I schools as Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan State. But the interest dried up, perhaps in response to his concentrating on basketball the summer of his senior year.
Carrier considered playing basketball at Division III UW-Whitewater, but then decided he wanted to also play football as well. When Warhawk coaches advised him to pick one or the other, Beloit College entered the picture. Brann and basketball coach Brian Vraney were more than willing to share.
Carrier has no regrets.
"I wouldn't trade the experience I've had here for anything," Carrier said. "Being able to come in and play two sports immediately, along with getting the kind of education you get here was tremendous."
Ironically, Carrier chose not to play basketball as a junior, but remained a two-sport athlete as a member of the track and field team.
Through it all, he has maintained a high proficiency in the classroom. He is carrying a 3.8 grade point average majoring in Health and Society. He plans on attending graduate school for physical therapy, probably at the University of Wisconsin.
Pro football aspirations could put that on hold, however.
"We'll see," Carrier said. "I'd love to play football more than anything. It the opportunity presents itself, I hope I can take it and run with it. If not, there are plenty of other things I can do, including grad school."
After catching a modest 16 passes as a freshman, Carrier caught 34 as a sophomore. Despite quarterback Brian Maughn having loads of options last year with Julian Ross, Andrew Christensen and Odin Grina still in the mix, Carrier saw his production as a junior rise to 64 receptions for 1,044 yards and 12 touchdowns, He earned First Team All-MWC honors.
This year has been even better.
After a nine-catch, 151-yard effort against Lawrence last week, Carrier now has 70 receptions for 1,152 yards and 11 TDs. He broke his own season records for the first two and needs just one TD to tie last year's season mark. His career totals of 184 receptions for 3,013 yards and 28 touchdowns are all Beloit career records.
"Every team doubles him, playing one high and one low," Brann said. "At the end of the game Saturday, Lawrence had three guys on him. But Derek is such a great player that you always can find a way to get him the ball.
We moved him around in the trip sets and he knew all three positions.
"Looking back, I always thought he would be very good because he had the tools, but I didn't know he would turn out this great."
Carrier said it's been disappointing to see the Bucs slip to 2-7 overall this season, but there have been bright spots.
"I'm pretty much like everyone else," he said. "I'm not happy with the wins and losses. We had high expectations and when that doesn't go as planned it's hard to be happy. But as far as team progression, seeing the younger guys get better and feeling like you're part of that, that does make the season more enjoyable."
Carrier said playing his last college game "hasn't hit me yet. It probably won't until after the game."
While he hopes to be invited to try out for the pros, Carrier said he's also looking forward to taking a little rest from football.
"I'm really beat up," he said with a chuckle. "I'd like to give my body a chance to heal."
• Brann said he wouldn't be surprised by another shootout against IC on Saturday.
"We've gotten into shootouts with them in the past," the coach said. "They have a freshman quarterback who is very good. I saw him in the Shriner's game with (current Beloit freshman linebacker) Darth Winkler. They're a very good football team. There's a reason they are 8-1."
Cornerback Kenny Williams, who injured an ankle in last week's win over Lawrence, is expected to be ready to play in the finale.