TJ Carrie grew up in the Bay Area, and moved to the Midwest for four years for college; but then he received a phone call that allowed one of his wildest dreams to come true – he was coming home.
After playing prep football at powerhouse high school De La Salle in Concord, Calif., Carrie was recruited to Ohio University where he spent the next four years as a Bobcat, collecting accolades as both a cornerback and punt returner.
However, a meniscus injury forced the Antioch-native to miss the NFL Scouting Combine and East-West Shrine Game, and also cast his NFL future in doubt.
His agent informed him that he was slated to go from anywhere between the fifth round and the end of the draft, but as the end of the sixth round approached, Carrie began to get nervous.
Then his phone rang and he was informed that the Oakland Raiders would select him in the seventh round at No. 219 overall, and the emotion of the moment overwhelmed the 24-year-old.
"I started crying," said Carrie, who watched the draft at a hotel in Ohio with his family. "You just don't know how to feel at that period of time, when you've worked so hard and you've dedicated so much of your craft to live this dream and then this dream comes true."
Carrie's family had relocated from Northern California to Ohio to watch his senior year of college football, so hearing that TJ would be a member of the Raiders was equally emotional for them.
"All of my family was crying and jumping up and running out of the building," Carrie recalls. "The excitement was so real. We enjoyed that night. We really did."
His selection by General Manager Reggie McKenzie proved gratifying in multiple ways – not only was he going to live out his NFL dream, but he would have the opportunity to do so in front of his closest friends and family.
"That feeling is even better since I was away from home for so long, and to just be able to come back and be around aunts, uncles, cousins, good friends – it's a feeling of security that every game you know you're playing on Sundays, you're going to have fans there, on top of family there supporting you and that is the best feeling in the world," he said.
Carrie enjoyed a solid rookie campaign in Silver and Black, appearing in 13 games, both as a cornerback and a return man.
Entering his second season in the NFL, Carrie is a year older and wiser, and after reflecting back on his draft day experience, now has some advice for college prospects waiting to hear their name called this weekend.
"Just be patient, because the unknown and having to wait is what kills you," he said. "Be calm and collected and understand the work that you've put in to this point is going to showcase itself and the team that likes you the most is definitely going to pick you and they're going to pick you for a reason. Be patient."
Getting the phone call telling him he would be an Oakland Raider was a dream come true, but even a year later, Carrie's excitement hasn't faded in the slightest.
"I'm still living in that excitement that every day I walk in the building," Carrie said. "I walk in and see the shield and I'm seeing the colors, and I'm seeing the history, and I'm seeing the Hall of Famers. It never gets old to me."