Elijah Carey looks like his brother, sounds like his brother, smiles like his brother and even plays running back like his brother.
When your last name is Carey and your brother is Ka’Deem, that comes with some weight and expectation.
Canyon del Oro (3-3) is in the midst of a two-game losing streak heading into Friday night’s game at Pueblo. The Dorados will rely on Carey to break them out of the slump.
It’s familiar strategy: CDO relied on Ka’Deem Carey before he began a stellar college career at the UA. It’s different now, though. In a lot of ways, Elijah Carey is like Ka’Deem, just without the attention, hullaballoo and college interest.
Elijah Carey, listed at 5 feet 11 inches and 199 pounds, is actually stronger than his brother — he power-cleaned 320 pounds last year, besting the previous record set by CDO alum Blake Martinez, who’s now playing for the Green Bay Packers.
His brother says it’s a natural strength.
“He had a six-pack at the age of six, just like me,” Ka’Deem said with a laugh. “My family’s genes is just something that, it’s in the blood.”
Elijah has the numbers, too: He rushed for 1,007 yards and scored nine total touchdowns as a junior, and has already surpassed those numbers through six games as a senior, managing 1,173 rushing yards and nine total scores.
Those aren’t quite Ka’Deem-at-CDO numbers — he rushed for more than 2,700 yards and 43 touchdowns in 2009 — but there’s a few reasons for that.
For one, Ka’Deem was one of the most prolific performers in Tucson football history, both at CDO and at Arizona.
Two, Elijah is young for his grade — he turned 17 in July.
“I think right now you’re seeing the blossom from last year to this year,” CDO coach Dusty Peace said. “If he would’ve had this year his junior year, people would be freaking out.”
Elijah is carrying a full workload, and not just at running back. The senior also starts at middle linebacker for the Dorados and leads the team in tackles, as he did last year. In a close loss to rival Ironwood Ridge, Carey rushed for 229 yards and a touchdown while also leading the team with 12 tackles and a forced fumble.
With such a small roster — Peace says only about 25 players dress each week — the double duty is out of necessity. Plus, Peace said, Carey is simply too good to keep off the field.
“That’s the big difference. Even Ka’Deem didn’t play defense when he was here,” Peace said. “It’s taxing on him. Every week we’re nervous because we’re thinking, ‘Is he going to be good for the next week?’ We’re just riding this horse, trying to balance it out the best we can.”
Elijah Carey’s late development could eventually lead to college offers.
He’s communicated with coaches at Arizona, but the Wildcats have scholarship offers out to eight running backs in the 2018 class, with one already committed. Carey has talked to Wyoming too, but so far, there’s been no offers.
“I watch film from last year and I think I’m way better than I was. My speed and my vision are better,” Carey said. “I want to play in college a lot, so it motivates me.”
Even if he doesn’t talk about it much, or show it, Carey has been frustrated by the lack of college interest so far. Ka’Deem has helped his brother through the process. The former UA star is back in Tucson rehabbing a wrist injury suffered this summer with the Chicago Bears. The NFL team cut him at the start of the season.
Ka’Deem’s advice to his brother: Just keep doing your thing.
“Every player wants to go to college and play at the college level, but I just tell him: ‘Just do you,’” Ka’Deem Carey said. “The colleges will come as long as you keep doing what you’re doing.”
Elijay Carey appreciates his brother’s help.
“I always go to him for advice,” he said. “Awesome having somebody like him who’s been through it and can help me go through it.”