Heartwarming: Raiders defensive back reaches out to Camp Taylor
FEBRUARY 06, 2017 4:12 PM
TJ Carrie’s workouts were interrupted by dizziness and drowsiness, even fainting.
It didn’t make any sense. He was a high school freshman who loved football and everything in life that comes with being young and vibrant. Kids his age are supposed to feel immortal. Bullet-proof.
Instead, Carrie underwent open-heart surgery a year later as a De La Salle sophomore. His life was in jeopardy, much less a career in football.
Today, Carrie is a professional athlete, an up-and-coming defensive back for the Oakland Raiders. He doesn’t need to be told he’s one of the lucky ones. Better still, Carrie can relate in a personal way to the plight of children with heart disease.
“The biggest thing for me is for children to not lose their imagination and ability to dream. They have to dream,” Carrie said.
Carrie, 26, will be the guest speaker at Camp Taylor’s 15th annual Valentine Hearts dinner and auction Saturday night at the DoubleTree Hotel. His support for Camp Taylor, the locally based and medically supervised free camp for children with heart disease, stems from his own struggle.
16TJ Carrie’s age when he underwent open-heart surgery
Carrie’s surgeons discovered a faulty coronary valve and corrected it, a probable life-saving procedure. From there, Carrie’s life blossomed. His long rehab finally led to the football field for his senior year at De La Salle and a collegiate career at the University of Ohio.
Predictably, he was an NFL long shot, a seventh-round draft pick by the Raiders and the 219th selection in the 2014 draft. From there, he’s become a versatile contributor to the Raider defense the last three seasons.
Carrie’s experience makes him a natural advocate for children. He has shown his support over the years via visits to Children’s Hospital Oakland, which led to his connection with Camp Taylor. He has trained during the offseason with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose work with Camp Taylor is well-documented.
Carrie’s hookup with Camp Taylor, however, is easy to understand. He thinks his story can make a difference.
“Camp Taylor is so good in that they bring kids together who are going through the same process,” he said. “If a kid is afraid to be who they are because of a scar on their body, they lose that spirit. No matter what kind of surgery you have, I’m living proof that you can continue to have that dream and be great. And then they can reach back and grab other kids in the same way.”
THE BIGGEST THING FOR ME IS FOR CHILDREN TO NOT LOSE THEIR IMAGINATION AND ABILITY TO DREAM. THEY HAVE TO DREAM.
TJ Carrie, Raiders defensive back
The difficult rehab couldn’t have been accomplished, Carrie explained, without faith, family and more than a little determination.
“There is nothing different between me and those kids. We’re all the same,” he said. “They’ll have days where they’ll feel OK and others when you ask, ‘Why me?’ One of the things I struggled with is seeing my life after the surgery. I want the kids to know they can be whatever they want to be in spite of the trouble they’re going through.”
The Valentine Hearts event is open to the public, and tickets can be purchased by visiting www.KidsHeartCamp.org/valentinehearts or calling 545-4715.