Plain Dealing senior Keldrick Carper is an outstanding athlete, a great football player.
But that’s not the first thing you hear when you talk to others about him.
“He’s a great kid,” Haughton first-year coach Jason Brotherton said before the Bucs played the Lions in the season opener. “I’ll see Keldrick at a track meet and he’ll jog across the field to shake my hand. You don’t find that much in high school kids.”
Plain Dealing second-year coach James Thurman puts it this way.
“He’s the kind of kid that you want your daughter to marry. That’s just the kind of kid he is.”
The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Carper is that rare athlete these days who is a star in three sports — football, basketball and track and field.
As a sophomore, he was named the Class 1A MVP at the state track meet. Last season, he was a first-team selection on The Press-Tribune’s All-Parish basketball team.
He has been a football starter at Plain Dealing since his freshman year. In 2015, he was named first-team Class 1A All-State at wide receiver.
Carper still has half of the football regular season left plus the playoffs. But his high school basketball and track careers are over.
He’s graduating at mid-term and will enroll at Texas A&M in the spring to get a head start on his college football career.
Carper has played multiple positions over the years at Plain Dealing, but his primary spot in college will likely be wide receiver.
Thurman calls Carper “mature beyond his years,” a young man with his eye on the future.
“I know football is not my main focus,” Carper said. “Football is going to take care of itself. My main focus is trying to master this thing we call life. I like to try to make my time outside of sports be very productive.”
Said Thurman: “He’s more thoughtful than a lot of your normal teenage kids are. He kind of carries himself more like an adult than a 17-year-old. He’s very well-spoken. He’s very worldly. There’s a lot of issues throughout the world that he takes an interest in that maybe some of the kids don’t know even exist at this point. He’s one of those kids who has goals in mind. He’s not just sitting back waiting on them coming to him.”
According to recruiting website 247Sports.com, Carper has offers from over 30 universities ranging from SEC and Big 12 schools to Notre Dame. He was methodical in his decision to commit to Texas A&M.
“They checked off my list of requirements for a college — academically checked off, athletically checked off. Another checkoff was having a family atmosphere. That was very big for me.”
With his size and speed, Carper would likely be a star at any school in the state regardless of class.
At Class 1A Plain Dealing he rarely leaves the field. On offense, he’ll line up at quarterback, running back and receiver. He’s also a defensive back and kick returner.
With his ability, at a Class 4A or 5A school there’s a chance Carper would still have played some on both sides of the ball. But he also may have just played receiver.
Carper believes he’s benefited from playing multiple positions and getting on the field early in his high school career.
“It taught me at an early age how to be a leader,” he said. “Coach (Coy) Brotherton, my first coach, threw me into the fire as a freshman. It taught me early on to respond when your number is called.
“When I was a freshman I don’t think I would’ve started for any of the bigger programs. That helped me develop a lot quicker than some other guys who don’t get to play until their sophomore or junior years. I don’t regret choosing to come to Plain Dealing.”
Thurman also believes that playing at Plain Dealing has helped Carper develop his skills faster.
“It affords him an opportunity to do so many things, playing at a 1A school,” he said. “He’s kind of the guy we built everything around.”
Carper went to Rusheon Middle School, a feeder for Bossier High. Going to Plain Dealing gave him a chance to play for his father, John Johnson, an assistant coach for 16 years.
“Your father gets a chance to watch you and he gets a chance to coach you,” Carper said. “It’s helped a lot in ways I really couldn’t explain.”
As good as he is, Carper said he’s always working to get better on the football field as he prepares for his college career.
“The number one thing is technique,” he said. “They’re going to apply that strength and power and speed once I get there. Just coming in with a sound technique and everything like that and knowledge of the game.”
Thurman believes Carper hasn’t come close to reaching his potential.
“As far as my opinion, he’s way better offensively than he is defensively, not to take away from him defensively,” he said. “I just think he’s special with the ball in his hands — his vision, his strength, especially the way he runs routes and catches the ball. To me that’s Sunday special. That’s not just a Saturday thing.”
Thurman considers Texas A&M to be very lucky to get him.
“I can’t wait to see how much better he is this time next year,” he said. “On many fronts he’s going to be a great player for them, not just on the field but the things that he does, how he carries himself within the program. I think he’s one of those kind of kids that can be the face of the program.”
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com