2019-2020 Male Athlete of the Year

Zach Carr was the new kid.

It was December, the middle of his freshman year and the middle of the basketball season in Glenwood when Carr transferred in from West Des Moines Valley.

Glenwood boys basketball coach Curt Schulte had never seen Carr play.

But Schulte gave the mature-looking 15- year-old scrimmaging with the freshmen a look. The coach was struck almost immediately by two things: Carr isn’t going to be relegated to the freshman team long and….

“He’s pretty special,” Schulte recalled saying at that January 2017 practice.

Fast forward to three years later and Schulte’s words come off as prophetic. Carr leaves Glenwood as a basketball state champion, a multiple sport record-holder,  one of the school’s all-time most decorated football and basketball players and now The Opinion-Tribune’s 2019-2020 Male Athlete of the Year.

“He’s such a tremendous competitor,” Schulte said of Carr, a two-year starter at point guard for the Rams. “When he stepped on the court he has a great will to win. He was really fun to coach. I feel honored to have coached him. He wants to win. He wants to win all the time.”

Carr admits that is his personality. Winning, he says, is a result of simply working the hardest.

“I always want to be first,” he said. “I think a little bit of it comes from my dad but I really just always try and do my best and if I do that I have a chance to come out on top or be first.”

The Carrs moved to Glenwood to be closer to family but Zach had never set foot in Glenwood prior to the move. However, he did watch Glenwood’s heartbreaking, Class 3A, Substate basketball finals loss to Perry the previous year.

The transition during the middle of the school year is never easy but Carr made the best of it. Basketball made it easier to fit in and make friends.

Carr was far from a wide-eyed freshman when he joined Glenwood. He had played high level grass roots basketball extensively for one of the premiere AAU club teams in Iowa – Des Moines-based Pure Prep Academy – for the previous five years. He’d played with and seen great competition playing in hostile environments all over the country. Coming to Glenwood and cracking the varsity lineup was the goal. He saw his first varsity action in early January.

“I was pretty nervous that first game at home against Denison,” Carr said. “I think I scored two points on free throws.”

By the end of the season Carr’s minutes were going up every game. But it wasn’t until the following season Carr became a major contributor for the Rams.

Playing on a senior laden roster that included the top two leading scorers in schools history in Nate Mohr and Andrew Blum, Carr, then a sophomore, knew he wasn’t going to be the team’s first option.

And he was fine with that. He was confident he could find a role.

“I knew I had to do all the little things to help us win. Fight for a rebound, get a steal, whatever was needed. It didn’t bother me at all. Whatever I could do to help us win I was ok with it.”

Carr was a big reason why the Rams made their historic run to a state title that season. As the first guard off the bench, defensively he often drew the opponents best offensive perimeter player. When Glenwood went to its pace and space game that mismatched opponents and defined that season, he was often on the floor.

“He had a big role for us,” Schulte said. “He was a great on-ball defender and when he came in, he got the other team’s top scorer. He was a big part of our success on that run to a state championship.”
In the championship game upset of Oskaloosa, Carr scored four points and grabbed two steals but he was on the floor as the final seconds ticked off the clock in Wells Fargo Arena.

“It was an amazing moment,” Carr said. “It’s not something I’m ever going to forget. There’s so much emotion. I can’t even explain it. Just looking up at the packed crowd and the fans going crazy, it was an insane feeling.”

That sophomore season was big for Carr. He had become a starter on the Rams football team – at cornerback – that fall and the basketball season cemented him as fiery athlete to be reckoned with.

The following season, Carr’s junior year, he joined Schulte’s starting lineup and started the next 44 games. He averaged better than 15 points and led the teams in both assists and steals over his final two seasons and was a first team All-Hawkeye 10 Conference point guard both seasons.

Schulte watched firsthand Carr’s evolution on the court from a dribble-drive first guard to a reliable outside shooter capable of scoring on all three levels. He got there by working hard, the coach said.

“He was always a good ball handler, he was always a great driver who could get to the rim, he was always a good defender,” Schulte said. “He worked really hard at it and he became a very good shooter from the perimeter by his senior year.”

Carr hoisted 500 jump shots a day each summer between his junior and senior years. He rarely missed an open gym or a shootaround.

“Those off-seasons I worked a lot of my shot – the mid-range, the pullup – I knew it would help me for the season,” he said.

Carr’s worth ethic paid on the gridiron too.

After starting as a sophomore at cornerback, Carr made the move to QB1 for his junior year. A young, inexperienced Rams’ squad limped to a disappointing 4-5 record and missed the playoffs that year. No one was more disappointed than Carr, whose numbers weren’t bad but definitely not up to his standards.

This past football season, Carr – and the Ram offense – returned with a new look. He was bigger, stronger and faster. And the offense, re-tooled to a shotgun spread, was perfectly suited to Carr’s scrambling and playmaking abilities.

Both moves paid off.

Carr guided a Ram offense that scored 36 points per game while he broke several school records – including a 518 total yard, five touchdown game that smashed school records in a season-opening win over Carroll – and made a return trip to the state playoffs. Glenwood’s run ended in a heartbreaking 42-28 loss at Norwalk after the Rams had led 21-0 in the first half.

For the season, Carr earned first team All-Hawkeye 10 Conference honors as a quarterback.
Carr concedes he was far more comfortable under center in his second year as a starter but he credits the coaches’ dynamic changes to the offense for much of the success.

“They basically changed their entire offense and made it all spread,” Carr said. “My junior year I was under center all the time. My senior year I don’t think I took a snap under center unless we were taking a knee. It fit my skills better I think.”

Carr can’t pin down which sport he prefers the most. If winning a state title was Carr’s basketball apex then his senior football season was the most gratifying.

“I don’t really have one,” Carr said when asked which sport is his favorite. “It’s either basketball or football because those are the two sports I’ve loved the most growing up. If I had to choose one season I had the most fun playing, I’d say my senior season in football. We had a great season.”

The latter half of Carr’s senior year – and most every senior’s – was less than ideal. The coronavirus pandemic robbed everything from sports seasons to prom to traditional graduation ceremonies.

It’s also what compelled Carr to go out for baseball – a sport he hadn’t played since seventh grade – this summer. He had planned to run track this spring but when the pandemic cancelled the season he got bored. When he heard baseball was likely to get a shortened season in, he took his shot at wearing the Ram colors one last time.

After shaking off some rust, which included throwing a baseball a little more like a football than he liked, he wound up starting all 14 games at third base for the Rams and hit a respectable .244.

“I played baseball my whole life and I didn’t really have anything else to do this summer but workout for football so I decided I had nothing to lose,” he said. “It was pretty easy to get back into after a little while.”

Carr took a pragmatic approach to losing half his senior year – “It was tough but you have to live with it. There’s nothing you can do to change it.” – but he has far more consternation about the upcoming season. He signed with Grand View University in the spring to play both football and basketball for the Vikings. The upcoming season remains a question mark.

“They told us there might not be playoffs this year and if that’s the case they’ll play them in the spring,” he said. “So that’s interesting.”

The choice of which sport to play in college was so difficult Carr decided not to choose.

“I’ve just loved playing both sports so much I didn’t want to give one up yet,” he said.

Carr chose Grand View from a host of Division II offers that included Midland University to Morningside, Midland University and Graceland. All but Morningside welcomed him playing both sports.

Carr still doesn’t know if he’ll play offense or defense on the Grandview football team and claims to not have a preference.

“Whichever (position) puts me on the field fastest.”

He does know he will major in business and minor in sports management.

Carr isn’t sure where or how his career would have ended up had he remained at West Des Moines Valley, a Class 4A power in most every sport. He just knows he likes it right where he is.

“I’m glad I came to Glenwood,” he said. “I got a state championship out of it, new friends and new relationships. I’m very happy I came here.”

 

The Opinion-Tribune

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