By Jeff Zrebiec
8:00 AM EDT, April 30, 2012
As the names kept flying off the board and the 2012 draft grew later and later, James Carmon thought back to a phone call that he had gotten earlier in the day.
He was stressed and struggling to remain patient, but the words of Ravens offensive line coach Andy Moeller kept reverberating in his head. The Ravens were interested , Moeller told him.
At that moment, that’s all that mattered.
“If I didn’t get picked, I already knew that’s where I wanted to be,” said Carmon, a 6-foot-6, 330 pound offensive tackle who went to high school at Baltimore’s City College before playing college football at Mississippi State. “I was there for a workout a week before and it just felt like home.”
Not long after the draft’s conclusion on Saturday, Carmon agreed to a deal with the Ravens, becoming part of the organization’s undrafted free agent class which also includes Morgan State tight end Lamont Bryant. The Ravens will likely announce the rest of their rookie free agents this week.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” said Carmon. “That was the most exciting thing I heard since my son was born. The whole process was really stressful. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be taken, but everything happens for a reason.”
Carmon, 23, said that he got calls from a number of teams and some of them made more lucrative offers than the Ravens did. But the more he thought about it, the more it became clear that he wouldn’t want to start his professional career anywhere else than with the Ravens, the team he grew up watching.
“I spent a whole hour thinking about it and just talking and talking with my brother who is my mentor. I went with my first instinct,” Carmon said. “I even took a pay cut to be a Raven. I cut a lot of teams off because that’s where I wanted to be. Now I have to make the best of it.”
The Ravens have a history of signing undrafted free agents who not only make the team but wind up occupying key roles. Mike Flynn, Bart Scott, Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbe are all players who have followed that script, as is wide receiver LaQuan Williams. Like Carmon, Williams played his high school football in Baltimore City for Poly.
Carmon is well aware of Williams’ story and can’t wait to talk to the wide receiver and pick his brain and get some advice.
“He made it and that’s what I want to do,” Carmon said.
Carmon is considered an extremely raw prospect which is no surprise when you consider how he has gotten to this point. He didn’t qualify academically out of high school so attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two seasons.
He then moved on to Mississippi State and he played defensive tackle for the Bulldogs in 2010, starting three games. However, with one year of eligibility left, Carmon sought to improve his NFL prospects while also helping out his team so he told the Mississippi coaching staff that he wanted to move to left tackle.
“The left tackle spot was vacant. We had a freshman there and I felt like I could fill that spot to help my team out,” Carmon said. “I thought that’s a way I could take our team to the next level and that’s what I did. I had to lock in every day. I had to make sure I brought my ‘A’ game every day, and I took in the coaching. That’s what got me the opportunity. I took coaching and made sure when I went to the office, I focused at all times. It was pretty tough but it was a better thing for someone of my size. That’s where I could make it in the long run.”
Carmon, who grew up idolizing Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and said the idea of being in the same locker room as them was crazy, knows that he has a huge challenge ahead. The Ravens do have some uncertainty on the offensive line, and don’t have an established starter at left guard, the position scouts feel that Carmon would have the best chance of sticking at if he was to make it in the NFL.
However, they also drafted guards in the second round (Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele) and fourth round (Delaware’s Gino Gradkowski) while also pledging to give second-year tackle Jah Reid an opportunity to win that starting position. Carmon is also considered a project of sorts because of his limited, high-level experience on the offensive line
But he does have the necessary size and strength, and a strong desire to succeed with his hometown team.
“I’m definitely excited,” Carmon said. “I’m more than happy to be there. I know I’m a free agent, but I am going to make the best out of everything I do. I’m going to work hard and I’m going to study. My job is not guaranteed but I’m going to grind every single day.”
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