It might surprise a few TCU fans that Tank Carder's fondest memory as a Horned Frog, or at least the one that recently leapt to his mind first, was not the moment he stuck his left arm toward the California sky and knocked down Wisconsin's game-tying pass attempt in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
Instead, Carder reminisced about a moment a few weeks prior to the Frogs' historic Rose Bowl win. The day he attempted a 45-yard field goal at the end of practice.
"I always joked with special teams coach Dan Sharp about kicking field goals and how they never let me kick," Carder said. "So Coach P [Gary Patterson] put it [down] and said, 'OK, kick it.' And I punched it right through."
Carder is hoping his prowess as an all-conference TCU linebacker the past three years made enough of an impression on NFL scouts. Among Frogs prospects, his name has garnered the most heat from draft experts, but others, such as return specialist and defensive back Greg McCoy and defensive end Braylon Broughton could find homes in later rounds.
Next to Andy Dalton and Jerry Hughes (both currently in the NFL), Carder was the face of TCU football as the Frogs rose in prominence over the past five years. If you saw him play, you'd expect he'd have an NFL career.
"It's all about exposure," Carder said. "Some guys don't get as much as others. They just need an opportunity. It's just one of those things. Sometimes you have flash players and other times guys are under the radar."
He gained 18 pounds of muscle and lost 5 pounds of fat after two months of training with Todd Durkin at Fitness Quest in San Diego early this year. Carder and fiancee Jessi Farris took a week's vacation in Mexico after TCU's Poinsettia Bowl win and returned to San Diego to prepare for the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I went from 12 percent body fat to no percent," said Carder, who was on a strict diet of pre-packaged meals for breakfast and dinner. "It was ridiculous. I was forcing them down. I don't like frozen food. I prefer fresh food, so it was a mental thing. But most of them were pretty good."
The training transformed Carder's body and put him in the best shape of his life. "It was amazing," said Carder, who weighs 240 after gaining 20 pounds. "It was one of the best experiences I've ever had."
Another landmark experience is just around the corner. He and Jessi plan to marry in a destination wedding with family on July 14 in Costa Rica. Of course, getting drafted next week would be momentous, too. He has heard anywhere from the third round to the seventh round.
"You never know," he said. "You just kind of sit back at this point and impress who you can impress, and make the best out of every opportunity during the process."
Carder's colorful life has been written about in this newspaper and countless other places -- his BMX championship at age 10, the car wreck that nearly killed him a few years later, and the delayed football career because of said wreck.
The NFL wasn't on Carder's mind until he saw himself on postgame highlights after TCU's big win over Utah in November 2009.
Carder returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half that buried the Utes in a big hole. Even with former TCU linebackers Jason Phillips, David Hawthorne and Robert Henson having gone on to the NFL, it didn't click until that night for Carder.
"I saw myself on the tube and I kind of was like, 'I can play this game,'" Carder said. "So the possibility of maybe playing in the NFL was there and I started trying to make the best of my opportunities at hand."
His fellow linebacker that season was current Arizona Cardinal Daryl Washington. Another person to inspire his dreams.
"It just gives you a little bit more confidence about yourself and about your game after playing right next to those guys," he said. "Hopefully, it'll work out."