All his life, Tank Carder has found a way to beat the odds.
It didn't matter if he was racing in a world-class BMX event, leading his college football team to a BCS victory, or even fighting for his life. Somehow, some way, Carder always seems to rise to the occasion.
Maybe that's why -- even as a fifth-round pick -- it shouldn't be a surprise that Carder has raised some eyebrows just days into his first training camp.
The Bills rookie linebacker has been strong in pass coverage early on at St. John Fisher. At Buffalo's first practice, he tipped a Vince Young pass right into the arms of fellow rookie Ron Brooks, who came down with the interception. Two plays later, Carder jumped a pass intended for tight end Kevin Brock and was off to the races with a pick of his own. On Friday, he continued to tip a number of balls in the air.
“He has gotten his hands on more passes defensively than maybe any other player to this point, which has been pretty impressive,” coach Chan Gailey said. “It would be hard not to notice him on the field.”
Carder readily admitted he never thought he'd be in this position.
“Not at all,” Carder said.
He was a BMX champion as a youngster, winning seven national championships and a world championship by age 10. He abruptly quit racing, hoping to focus on team sports before he was seriously injured in a car accident in seventh grade and nearly died.
He slowly made his way back, chomping at the bit to compete once again. At first, he was only allowed to serve as his team's kicker in high school as long as he immediately ran to the sideline after kicking the ball. After he ran a botched extra-point attempt into the end zone for a two-point conversion -- and dealt with his furious coach afterward -- he was later cleared for contact and became a standout at Sweeny High School.
Carder was offered only one Division I scholarship, from TCU, which he immediately accepted. He became a leader of the Horned Frogs defense, which was the No. 1 unit in the country in three of his four seasons at TCU, and was named Defensive MVP for his performance in the 2011 Rose Bowl. In that game, he broke up the game-tying two-point attempt from Wisconsin late in the fourth quarter.
He lasted until the fifth round of April's draft due to questions about his size and athleticism, but he's off to a good start. After two days in shells and shorts, performing in pads is next up on the agenda.
“He has a nose for the ball, he has some instincts,” Gailey said. “We will see when we get the pads on. Some guys do it better. Some guys do not do it as well. Some guys keep doing it just like they have been doing.”
It would hardly be shocking if he found a way to overcome the odds once again.
“All that I've been through, with the car wreck, everything, it's a blessing to even be here right now,” Carder said. “And to even get drafted ... it would have still been a blessing to be a go as a free agent but to get drafted, that's a plus too. So it's definitely a blessing to be here and I thank the Good Lord every day for letting me be able to be here and play this game.”
For more updates, follow Bills correspondent Mark Ludwiczak on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLBUF and @MarkLud12.