Jason Krause, who loves Jackson Carman like he’s one of his own, called the text message thread with his other family “Road Trip To Arrowhead.”
But his old head coach knows more than anyone that the path his blue-chip player took from Fairfield High School to Sunday’s AFC title game (6:30 p.m. – Cincinnati’s Local 12) in Kansas City wasn’t it was as smooth as the journey it made. He brought along with Carman’s cousins at last Sunday’s AFC Divisional in Orchard Park, NY, to witness his first NFL start at left tackle.
“He had faith. He kept doing his job and working hard,” Krause says of that stretch. Carman didn’t play a scrimmage snap until the last game of the season. “That’s exactly why I’m so proud of him. He didn’t go (in the tank). His mindset was incredible throughout the whole thing. That’s probably what I’m most proud of.”
Since it’s the playoffs, things are screeching fast and loud. Carman says that since it’s the NFL, all the stadiums turn to “white noise” anyway. With Jonah Williams (knee) not yet practicing, it looks like he could be up against one of the NFL’s most reputable pass rushers, Frank Clark, a three-time Pro Bowler whose rookie year in 2015 saw Carman start helping defining Krause’s program in the Cincinnati suburbs.
“Great player. One of my favorite players when I went out to watch him,” Carman said after training this week. “I remember watching him head spin in slow motion. Great player. Great coach.”
But this is not an autograph session. Carman grabbed 35 snaps in this game last year, the most in the second half, and helped the Bengals into the Super Bowl with a stunning cutthroat drive that featured Joe Mixon’s powerful run behind a grooved O-Line.
Carman wasn’t lined up against Clark that day, but he got a taste of him and dangerous tackle Chris Jones, another perennial Pro Bowler now coming off a massive 15.5 sack season.
However, that was at the right guard. Across the world from points Carman played left side for Krause and then at Clemson blocking Trevor Lawrence’s blindside.
“At that level, having to flip slides changes everything you do,” says Krause. “Muscle memory. The hand that was your strong hand (it’s not). Your position. All of that changes in your mind and body.”