Four years into a football odyssey that shows no signs of ending anytime soon, Cornellius Carradine has learned a very important lesson.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Carradine said. “I didn’t want to go to a junior college, but that ended being absolutely the best thing for me. Without that, I’m not in the position I’m in right now.”
That position is among college football’s elite — starting at defensive end for No. 12 Florida State (5-1). The 6-foot-5, 265-pound senior and Butler Community College product leads the Seminoles with 41 tackles and 7 sacks headed into Saturday night’s game against Miami, which will be nationally televised on ABC.
“When I think about (Carradine), the first thing that always comes to mind is his work ethic, which was just unbelievable,” Butler coach Troy Morrell said. “His focus was so intense, on the weight room, on academics … on just turning himself into an elite player. I’m really happy for him and how well he’s doing.”
Carradine committed to Illinois out of Taft High in Cincinnati, but academic issues led him to Butler, where he racked up 209 tackles and 26 sacks in two seasons.
In 2010, as a sophomore, Carradine was the top junior-college prospect in the nation and named the NJCAA defensive player of the year as the Grizzlies went 11-1 and lost in the national championship game. That team also featured LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger and Texas Tech wide receiver Marcus Kennard.
Carradine graduated early from Butler, transferring to Florida State in January 2011, and became the second Grizzly in three years to play for the Seminoles, following Washington Redskins outside linebacker Markus White.
“Having to move to El Dorado out of high school, I kind of knew what it was going to take to adapt to a new place,” Carradine said. “Tallahassee is obviously a lot different from El Dorado, but everything that happened to me at Butler made me ready for this.”
As a junior, Carradine had 38 tackles, 5 1/2 sacks and 8 tackles for loss while rotating in at defensive end, good enough numbers that he was projected as a mid-round draft pick in next year’s NFL Draft headed into this season.
As a full-time starter, he’s blossomed, and is now being projected as a possible first-round pick and drawing comparisons to another former Jayhawk Conference standout, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.
Pierre-Paul played for Fort Scott in 2009 and was a first-round pick by the Giants in 2010 after one season at South Florida.
“I like the attention, of course, but that’s something I can worry about more after I’m done at Florida State,” Carradine said. “Everyone on our team feels like we’ve still got something to prove. I can put the (NFL) stuff out of my mind.”
Carradine said he’s on track to graduate in December with a double major in business and social science.
“We, literally, would have to back him off in order for him to get some rest,” Morrell said. “It was because he would just keep grinding, keep working until he was completely spent. He’s a machine.”