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Originally published April 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 2, 2007 at 9:04 PM

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NFL Draft | Former Kennewick High star exceeds all expectations

Dad's not much taller than 5 feet 10 and Mom's only 5-6. Yet Adam Carriker measured 6-2 on his 14th birthday, his size just the first sign...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Dad's not much taller than 5 feet 10 and Mom's only 5-6.

Yet Adam Carriker measured 6-2 on his 14th birthday, his size just the first sign he would be exceeding everyone's expectations.

He's 6-6 now, weighs about 305 pounds and he's a defensive end from Nebraska expected to be a first-round pick in this weekend's NFL draft. Not bad considering he didn't play the position until his senior year at Kennewick High School in 2001.

Carriker was a quarterback then, a pretty promising one in fact. His father has seen him take a single step and throw a ball 80 yards in the air, but Adam was on a team that didn't win a game his senior season.

He was a compelling prospect, though. One Oregon State would have given a chance to play quarterback, but he was also an athlete so versatile his high-school coach told Dennis Erickson he would need to watch Carriker for five plays at defensive end before offering him a scholarship to Oregon State.

"He watched him for six snaps and then offered," said Warren Hull, Carriker's coach at Kennewick.

Nebraska offered one, too, but just to play defense, and Carriker was never heavily recruited by Washington.

Hard to believe he was overlooked. At 15, he was 6-4, 190.

In Hull's first summer at Kennewick, Carriker asked a favor of him. Could the weight room get opened in the morning? Carriker also played basketball and baseball in the summers and the only opening in his schedule was in the morning. The early morning.

"True to his word, he came in every single day at 5 minutes to 6," Hull said. "Not 6 o'clock. Five to 6."

That work ethic helped shape a physique that fit his nickname: Ivan Drago. You know, the Russian boxer from Rocky IV.

"I've heard it ever since I can remember," Carriker said.

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He doesn't mind. In fact, it's part of his e-mail address now.

That size was kind of a surprise. There aren't too many folks in his father's family much taller than 6 feet. His mother was adopted, and while she never met her biological father, she was told he was very tall, which explains how all that height was hardwired into Adam's genes.

Carriker weighed 243 pounds when he arrived at Nebraska and he played last season at 295. He's big enough to play defensive tackle in some schemes, has sufficient speed to rush from the edge and so much potential he has drawn comparisons to New England's Richard Seymour.

It may seem silly now, but up until his senior of high school there was a question whether Carriker had the mentality to play defense. He played some safety as a sophomore, but was a quarterback exclusively as junior. He was a good enough prospect BYU wanted him to throw passes and Oregon was also willing to let him try the position.

But his father correctly figured Adam's future was on defense and in 2001, Dad took him to Nebraska's summer football camp and he played on the line.

"He was black and blue all over being taught some defensive stuff," said Dave, his father.

Adam may have been playing a new position but the three-day camp at Nebraska was kind of a homecoming. Dad lived in Hastings, Neb., until 1987, when he moved to Washington to work for Chevron. Adam was born in Nebraska, but until it came time to choose a college his father didn't realize the affection for the Cornhuskers had been handed down a generation.

"If Nebraska lost, my whole week was just ruined," Adam said.

After he accepted a scholarship from Nebraska, a reporter called Carriker's high-school coach to ask about this pass-rushing prospect the Cornhuskers had fished out of the upper-left corner of the country.

"You're going to call me in two years and ask if I'm surprised Adam Carriker is a starter," Hull recalled saying. "I'll tell you, 'No.' "

Carriker started eight games as a sophomore, was chosen the team's defensive MVP as a junior and had 16.5 sacks over his final two years of college. But Hull's predictions didn't stop with college success.

"You're going to call me in April of 2007 and ask me if I'm surprised Adam is a first-round draft pick," Hull said. "I'll tell you, 'No.' "

The difference now is that Hull is far from alone in those expectations.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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