Tim DeRuyter, currently serving as Texas Tech's defensive coordinator, is just as excited as every Raider fan is for the revival of Derek Carr and Davante Adams as teammates. He knows from first-hand experience what the two are capable of accomplishing together.
DeRuyter became the Fresno State Bulldogs head coach before the start of the 2012 season. The previous year, the Bulldogs finished with a 4-9 overall record, with a 3-4 record in the Western Athletic Conference. The coach came into a less than stellar situation on paper, but had all the tools needed to succeed – starting with the quarterback.
Derek Carr threw for 26 touchdowns and over 3,500 yards in 2011 as a sophomore, with a few promising performances against Power 5 schools. Carr's new head coach instantly saw what he had to offer, realizing that the team would go the way of their emerging star quarterback.
"Derek had established himself as the captain. He was probably the most mature guy I'd been around in football as a coach and player relationship," DeRuyter told Raiders.com. "He was married that first summer I got there and had a kid the next summer, so he was a grown up. He was in the office before most of the coaches and stayed as long as a lot of the coaches. He was constantly there."
DeRuyter's mission was to develop Carr and the talent around him to get the Bulldogs, now in the Mountain West Conference, to the next level. At the time the receiving corps was led by Jalen Saunders and Josh Harper – who both went on to stints in the NFL and CFL. That summer going into the 2012 season, DeRuyter soon became aware of another skilled receiver who was a redshirt freshman.
And it began with him approaching the receiver while he was dazzling his peers with his basketball highlights.
"I first remember Davante hosting some of our recruits and I saw a bunch of them together and they were all looking at Davante's cellphone," DeRuyter recalled. "They were going 'ooh' and 'ahh,' and I go, 'What are you guys looking at?'
"Davante showed me and it was him doing dunks. And he was windmilling, doing any type of dunk you wanted him to do. It was a big time highlight tape. You saw him physically – he looked like a grown man doing that. And that was the first time I thought this guy could be special."
Going into spring football, DeRuyter had his eyes set on Adams to see what he could bring to the table. The receiver began to develop "a special chemistry" with Carr, one so prevalent that Adams became the starting X receiver in the offense, beating out Saunders, who was the team's leading receiver the year before.
DeRuyter noticed the relationship on the field was a result of the work Carr and Adams put in together off the field. The Bulldogs coach remembered the two always being around each other in practices, trained together in the offseason and were roommates on away games.
"I had the feeling that Derek saw that Davante was different, which is why he wanted to room with him and develop that relationship," he said. "Derek always had that unbelievable work ethic, spent the time studying, spent the time drilling. Davante was trying to find his way and had some really good players ahead of him, so he knew he had to work. I can still remember back early on, getting on him pretty good. And as a young player, Davante looked at me like, 'Why are getting on me Coach?'
"One day, I pulled him aside after practice and said, 'Look, you got a special talent. I'm going to coach you harder than a walk-on receiver that I'd let get away with some stuff because you got such an upside. Understand the attention you're getting from me is because I see something in you. You're going to be special.'
"And once I had that conversation with him, when we would coach him hard, he understood it. I think from there he grew and kept pushing himself and pushing himself. That chemistry between the two of them was because they were both guys that weren't going to settle for being good. They wanted to be great. They just kept pushing themselves."
Carr and Adams would help push the team to 20 wins and two Mountain West Conference Championships over the next two seasons. In that span, Carr led the nation in passing yards and Adams in receiving yards.
They were both drafted out of the second round of 2014 NFL Draft, and have been defying the odds since. The two have earned Pro Bowl nods and have been named team captains for their respective NFL teams, and with Adams now a Las Vegas Raider – the boys are back in town.
In the eight years they've been in the league, the two have still trained together in the offseason and remained in close contact. Carr was also a groomsman in Adams' wedding. DeRuyter was elated to find out that "two of my favorite players I've ever coached" would be back together, this time in Silver and Black.
And he firmly believes that they'll pick up right where they left off in Fresno.
"The sky is the limit. Those two guys have a special chemistry," said DeRutyer. "They're lifelong best buds, and now to be on that same team and train together and be able to compete at the highest level as teammates, I see them both taking their games and elevating it.
"To me, I'm really fired up to see that happen."
Take a look at exclusive photos from wide receiver Davante Adams' first day at Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center as a member of the Silver and Black.