Carson Bobo is taking his prowess in school and football to Princeton University.
When he was cut from his eighth grade basketball team, Carson Bobo had every reason to doubt his athletic ability. He was underweight, still growing into his body and in need of developing more skills.
Fast forward five years and that underweight eighth grader is headed off to one of the world’s most prestigious universities to play college football.
Having gone from 170 pounds back then up to 235 pounds less than a month after graduating, Bobo will be suiting up in Princeton orange and black as a tight end for the Tigers during the 2018 football season.
The path to joining the No. 1 school in America according to Usnews.com is one filled with plenty of ups and downs, but one filled with fight and determination.
Where it all began
While Carson’s, dad David Bobo, tried to keep the sport of football hidden from him as long as possible, it was only a matter of time before the sport Carson was meant to play came calling.
“I remember when Carson brought a flyer home about the youth football league,” David said. “He gave it to me at the kitchen table and was right over my shoulder looking at the flyer with me. It said something about the age or grade level and he read that and he goes, ‘I can play!’”
Carson’s entrance into sports came at age 5 when he started playing baseball, which was followed shortly after by basketball, but it was at age 8 when he first stepped onto a football field that his true love came to fruition.
Carson’s excitement toward the sports he played was second to none, but the size and athleticism was still something he was searching for during his late middle school years and throughout his first two years of high school.
As a seventh grader, he made the middle school basketball team, but was then cut a year later in eighth grade.
“I said back then, ‘I hate cutting this kid because he was all over the place and battling hard at everything we asked him to do,’” Oak Mountain boys basketball coach Chris Love said. “He was still growing into his body and developing his skills as a basketball player.”
Carson admitted that he was torn after that, but he handled the difficult situation with maturity.
“When he came out as a ninth grader it was a no-brainer,” Love said. “You could see the work he put in and that he was a keeper. That just shows the kind of kid he is. He didn’t blame us, he put the work in that he needed to in order to come back a year later and make the team.”
“Looking back at that and being able to push through and handle it the way I did at such a young age made me really proud,” Carson said. “That really helped propel me through different things moving through high school because things didn’t always go my way.”
That maturity level and process of being cut was part of Carson breaking through to become the athlete he was on the football field as well.
In seventh grade, he was the quarterback of the middle school team, which is something he hoped to continue throughout high school.
That all changed on the first day of eighth grade when his good friend to this day and future Samford baseball player Gene Hurst moved in.
Carson was his mentor that first day of eighth grade and found out Hurst, who was as big then as he is now, was going to play quarterback, which caused Carson to say “Oh no.”
Hurst ended up being named the starter, while Carson was his backup over the next couple of years.
That gave Carson a chance to figure out what position he was more suited to play in order to help his team.
“At the end of my ninth grade year, I tried out for tight end,” he said. “I still tried to be a quarterback my sophomore year, but then I realized that tight end was my best option and took that role over permanently moving forward.”
Oak Mountain head coach Cris Bell said that at the time he wasn’t fast enough to be a receiver nor big enough to be a tight end, but you could just tell once he hit his growth spurt that tight end was going to be the perfect fit.
While he had earned a starting role as Oak Mountain’s tight end heading into his junior season, there was still plenty of unknown.
Carson was on a team that ran the triple option and didn’t know if the tight end would even be utilized very much. During that year, the Eagles also had two quarterbacks break their collarbone.
“It was just like ‘Are you kidding me?’” David said. “We were already in the triple option and down two quarterbacks; we didn’t think they would ever throw the ball after that.’”
Carson still went on to have a decent junior year, but really made his progress at the end of that school year from the spring of 2017 into the summer workouts.
“The light switch really came on last spring,” Bell said. “He did absolutely everything he had to do to put himself in the position he needed to be in. The great thing about Carson is that when he began to elevate himself he began to bring the rest of our guys up with him.”
He showed true tight end skills as both a receiver and a blocker during his senior season and had gained weight while catching 42 balls for 612 yards, which led to a strong late recruiting push.
Carson had less than a month to handle what most people have two years to handle in his recruitment thanks to being such a late bloomer.
With his impressive senior season at Oak Mountain and finally growing into his frame, schools started making their pitch and Carson ended up getting eight offers late in the signing period.
“It was very stressful,” David said. “I remember Carson telling me, ‘Dad, I literally am thinking about this every minute’ while he was trying to make the grades and continue his focus on school as well.”
It was a time-consuming process that could have easily seen him slip academically and athletically, but Carson went on to finish out the school year with a 4.29 GPA.
His academic standing as well as his breakthrough athletic career were big reasons why Princeton became one of those eight schools extremely interested. It took some time for the offer to come, but eventually the call came.
“They offered me a couple of days before signing day,” Carson said. “We were hoping for the offer, but he was always giving mixed signals and just saying he was excited, so I was nervous. Then he finally called to offer me and I told them I would think about it, but as soon as I got off the phone, I thought to myself ‘This is where I want to go.’”
All the pieces to the puzzle
With that offer from Princeton, all of the puzzle pieces in Carson’s life fit together perfectly and without one piece along the way, it could have been an incomplete puzzle with an unkown ending.
His being cut from the basketball team, not starting as a quarterback, being underweight, not having Webb as a quarterback his senior year, taking a heavy load academically as well as many other things were all key factors in his journey.
“It was like if one piece to the puzzle was missing, then it wouldn’t have worked out,” David said.
It was those small pieces to the puzzle that all came together to create the opportunity of a lifetime.
The future is bright
Now that he’s attending one of the best universities in the world, Carson has all of his goals in front of him ready to be achieved.
Sitting at 235 pounds, he’s up to a great size for a tight end and will have chances to be an impressive football player.
With his academic standing coming out of high school, he’ll also have the chance to earn a degree from a college that will look impressive on a resume as he attempts a career in engineering.
“He was such a leader for our school in so many different facets and now he’ll go off to Princeton and continue to do those amazing things,” Love said.
It’s a transition that Carson isn’t really nervous about anymore, but instead one that excites him as a grin comes across his face and a different tone comes from his voice when he talks about getting started.
“He’s going to be a good one moving forward,” Bell said. “A lot of different things go into it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we turn on our TV one day and see him playing on Sundays. No matter what he does, he’s one of those that is going to be successful.”
It’s an emotional time for Carson and his family as he prepares to leave, but with the completion of one puzzle comes the beginning of another.