In 2008, for the first time in four seasons, Shaun Carney won’t be playing quarterback for Air Force.
But Carney, who graduated in May, still will be a part of the program this season. He and recently graduated inside linebacker Drew Fowler will be serving as graduate assistants for the Falcons. Classmate Blaine Guenther, who started at center last season, is serving as a graduate assistant for the prep school team.
“It’s going to be fun to be on the other side of it,” said Carney, who hopes to make coaching his career at some point in the future. “I’m looking forward to seeing what goes on behind the scenes.”
Carney, who started 44 games for Air Force and is the academy’s all-time leading passer, still is recovering from the gruesome knee injury that prematurely ended his career late in the third quarter of the Armed Forces Bowl last December. Carney dislocated his knee cap, damaged the ligaments in the knee cap and tore his ACL, MCL and PCL in his right knee. He had surgery a couple months after the season, spent time in a wheel chair and began walking in May. He still is rehabbing and cannot yet run.
“All the ligaments are strong now, I’ve just got to get the muscle back all around it so I can start doing some things,” Carney said. “I’ve been playing golf for a little while, so that’s all that matters.”
Carney will spend much of his time as a graduate assistant putting together “cut-ups” – DVDs that coaches use to scout opponents and identify tendencies. During practices he’ll be helping organize the scout team defense that faces the first-team offense. And during games he’ll be on the sideline and will be able to give Falcon quarterbacks some guidance.
Asked what advice he’d give the players vying to replace him, Carney said he’d emphasize taking advantage of every chance to make a play.
“I think the first thing you learn is how little of an opportunity you have – you only get so many plays,” Carney said. “You think that you’re going to be on varsity for the whole season, but really you’re up there as a tryout. You’ve got to make an impression early. So it’s play hard and let loose and hopefully you make a good enough impression they keep you for the next day.”
Carney said one play he made in a scrimmage early in his freshman year made a name for him and helped key his winning the starting job.
“We’d only been out there for like a week,” Carney said. “It was a scrimmage on Saturday, and I escaped from the pocket and ran to my left and the wide receiver came with me about 40 yards down field. And I turned to my left and threw a good ball, and it was like a 50-yard gain. It was just something I don’t think they’d seen in a while from an Air Force quarterback.”
With Carney’s guidance, perhaps the new Falcon quarterbacks will continue to make such plays.