A rangy former college basketball player, Fred Carr was blessed with almost freakish raw talent. He was physical at the point of attack, had an eye-catching burst when it came to chasing plays down in pursuit, and was fast and rangy enough to run with just about any back or tight end in coverage. His natural skills were limitless. Unfortunately, Carr joined the Packers the season after Vince Lombardi stepped down as coach and played on two winning teams and one playoff team in his 10 seasons.
While he might have relied too much on his athletic ability, Carr could outrun most of his mental mistakes and played at a level lesser talented linebackers simply couldn’t match. “He was a great, gifted athlete,” said former cornerback and fellow Packers Hall of Famer Willie Buchanon. Fellow cornerback and Packers Hall of Famer Ken Ellis was just as effusive in his praise. “Oh, Freddie Carr. Big. Fast. Athletic. He was a good one,” said Ellis.
In 10 seasons, Carr never missed a game and in his final eight never missed a start. Statistically, Carr intercepted eight passes and recovered 15 fumbles during his career. His biggest play might have been his 26-yard return of a fumble that set up the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter when the Packers clinched the NFC Central Division championship by beating Minnesota in the second-to-last game in 1972. Sacks were not yet tabulated as an official stat when Carr played, although he certainly had the size and speed to be an effective pass rusher. In 1976, Carr blocked five kicks: three field goals and two extra points. The next year, he forced 6½ fumbles.
Carr also served as defensive captain of the Packers from 1975 to 1977. Following the 1970 season, he was voted the outstanding lineman in the Pro Bowl.
“He was something,” said Pat Peppler, who ran the Packers’ personnel department from 1963 to 1972. “We had a heck of a time talking Phil (Bengtson) into playing him. Phil wasn’t real comfortable that Fred would make mistakes. But we said, ‘Phil, he runs down all his mistakes.’ In practice, he would go out and play corner and cover receivers all over. He was all over the field. Could jump. He’d play that weak-side linebacker and knock down passes to the corner. We knew he wasn’t a rocket scientist. But, boy, he was a good athlete. He could run like a deer.”
The Packers drafted Carr in the first round with the fifth overall pick in 1968. “We, as well as many others, had him rated as the top player in the country,” Lombardi said at the time. In fact, he said Carr could potentially play linebacker, defensive end, strong safety or tight end. Lombardi also claimed Carr could run a 4.7 40-yard dash in full gear, exceptional speed for someone that big and especially at that time.
Along with lettering in football for three years, Carr also played in five games and lettered as a junior on Texas Western’s basketball team. The previous season, Texas Western made history by becoming the first school to win the NCAA basketball championship with an all-African American starting five. Five of the top seven players on that team returned and played with Carr the next year, but the Miners were eliminated in the second game of the tournament. Following that season and before Carr’s final year of football, Texas Western College became the University of Texas-El Paso.
Acquired with the draft choice the Packers received from New Orleans as payment for Jim Taylor, Carr was given a look at tight end early in his first training camp and at defensive end late in his second year. In fact, Bengtson hinted at that point that Carr might be the heir to Willie Davis at left defensive end. But, as it turned out, Carr played mostly special teams and backed up Lee Roy Caffey at right linebacker for two seasons while he learned Bengtson’s defensive scheme. Carr replaced Caffey in 1970. Early in training camp in 1972, the Packers took another look at Carr as a defensive end, but moved him back to linebacker by early August. In all, Carr played in 140 games and started 112, plus a postseason game in 1972.
The Packers informed Carr on Aug. 14, 1978, that they were placing him on waivers following a bitter, weeklong dispute over the treatment of his injured knee. A year later, Carr and the Packers settled his grievance and he signed with San Diego as a free agent, but never played there.
Born Aug. 19, 1946, in Phoenix, Ariz. Given name Freddie Alton Carr. Died Feb. 19, 2018, at age 71.
- Linebacker: 1968-77
- Height: 6-5; Weight: 238
- College: Texas-El Paso, 1965-67
- Pro Bowl Selection (game played since 1950): 1970, 1972, 1975
- Packers All-Modern Era Team: 1976
- Press-Gazette All-Century Team: 1999