When Derek Carr became a member of the Oakland Raiders in 2014, he had to compete for the starting gig, it wasn't handed to him on a silver platter.
He had to earn it.
In his rookie season the team started 0-10, and No. 4 has stated over and over, how those first 10 weeks in the NFL were difficult, and a challenge to say the least. Regardless of the team's struggles, it was clear the former Fresno State Bulldog had the potential to be special, but he had to prove it. Carr would go on to finish the 2014 campaign with 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.
After a disappointing season, and with a new head coach (former Head Coach Jack Del Rio) to guide him in 2015, Carr took a big step forward in Year Two, throwing a career-high 32 touchdowns, 3,987 yards, and 13 interceptions. Later that season, he would be selected to his first NFL Pro Bowl.
Fast forward two years; Carr has been named to his third consecutive Pro Bowl, and perhaps more importantly to him, he has something else on his résumé.
The respect of his peers.
Like I said earlier, Carr had to earn the starting job as a rookie, but in order to be respected as a quality player in the league, he had to establish himself, and he's earned the respect of some of the NFL's best in the process.
"He's special man," said Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. "It's been an honor catching the ball from him. I've got a couple from him already, but tell him I need the ball more (laughter). I mean he's a great young quarterback, young champion, and [has] all the fundamentals to be one of the greatest."
One of the coolest aspects of the Pro Bowl is getting the opportunity to see guys who normally don't play on the same team pair up, and show off their skill set, which is something Carr's been doing with many of the Pro Bowl wide receivers this year.
Brown, who's highly regarded as the best receiver in football, offered some high praise for the fourth-year signal-caller, and he wasn't the only one to do so.
"He's a great quarterback, a guy that I respect, admire; you guys have a great one in y'all hands," said Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry. "Make sure you take care of him, keep taking care of him."
The connection Carr has shown with players like Brown and Landry has even made Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill a little jealous.
"It's amazing," said Hill on playing with Carr. "Before we broke down the huddle I told Derek, 'I need one of those' because as you saw, he launched the ball about 70 yards to 'AB' [Antonio Brown], I was like, 'just throw it as far as you can man, and I'll make us look good, baby.' I'm real excited about that [opportunity]."
Carr was just a kid from Bakersfield, Calif., but has earned all he's worked for, and it's that reason he's earned the respect of those around him, even players who don't wear the same uniform as him.
Through two days in Orlando, Carr's connected with several talented players; watching him take the field Sunday at Camping World Stadium should be fun.