Seth Carnahan still gets chills thinking about that December day during school when Sumner High football coach Keith Ross came calling for him.
It was in the middle of the day, and Ross was cautiously beaming as he pulled the Spartans’ 6-foot-7, 265-pound left tackle out of class. Sumner’s coach had a certainty in his voice that Carnahan had heard before — one that convinced the soon-to-be senior to come out to play for the football team while he was a sophomore on the basketball team.
It was crazy because I didn’t think — before I got my offer from Idaho — I didn’t think that just in one year that would already have (an offer). I thought it was going to take a lot longer and that it wasn’t going to be that quick.
It was with the same certainty Ross declared to Carnahan that following June that he was going to be Sumner’s starting left tackle, despite never logging one minute of organized football in his life.
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“ (Idaho assistant head coach Kris Cinkovich) was in Ross’ office, and coach met me right outside my classroom, and told me, ‘Okay, here’s the thing — coach Cink’s there and he’s going to offer you right now,’” Carnahan recalled. “It was crazy because I didn’t think — before I got my offer from Idaho — I didn’t think that just in one year that would already have (an offer). I thought it was going to take a lot longer and that it wasn’t going to be that quick.”
All morning, the pair had been discussing Carnahan and the potential he still had left in his game.
“I was in shock,” Carnahan said.
After playing in just 11 games in his career, Carnahan has now proved his coach’s belief right, as Idaho made an offer to the Spartans’ left tackle, making him the second Sumner player from the Class of 2017 to get a Division-I offer.
“(Coach Ross) was always telling to me to come out. He was always ... football, football, football,” Carnahan said with a laugh about the times the Sumner coach tried to convince him to try out at a spring camp. “But I think the deciding factor was that I needed a break from basketball.”
After years of playing AAU basketball and for the Sumner boys basketball team, it was time for Carnahan to try something new, even though he knew he was going to be a work in progress.
“I also didn’t want to finish high school thinking, ‘What if I played football?’” Carnahan admitted.
The transformation Carnahan made from June to September, and then to the end of Sumner’s season, was astonishing for Ross, who hoped to work some magic in turning Carnahan into an acceptable tackle in year one. His growth has been almost laughable to the coach since Carnahan came out to camp last year.
He didn’t even know how to get down into a stance (at the June camps). He didn’t even know how to stand or how to use his hands or where to go. None of it.
Sumner Coach Keith Ross
“He didn’t even know how to get down into a stance (at the June camps). He didn’t even know how to stand or how to use his hands or where to go. None of it,” Ross said. “Seth had zero knowledge for the game when he first came to camp. But as soon as he turned out, we’re like, ‘You’re our left-tackle no matter what.’ We knew he would be more than average last year, and we trusted him.”
That summer was frustrating for Carnahan as he fumbled his way through Sumner’s camps. Time after time, Carnahan was in the wrong spot during a run, or displayed hands of a basketball player instead of a tackle. And time and again, Ross was undeterred by his decision in June in making Carnahan his starter.
By the time of Sumner’s opening-night win over Franklin Pierce, Carnahan became serviceable, if not still raw.
“Last year, I was playing like I was scared to mess up,” Carnahan said. “But I feel by the Auburn (Oct. 9) game and the Lakes (Oct. 16) game, I made a turning point. I felt I prepared for those games harder than I did before. I felt confident that I knew what to do and I was (more focused) while I trained.”
Then as the weeks went by, the light switch came on as Carnahan helped Sumner pick up key wins over Auburn Mountainview and Peninsula. The Spartans found big plays from rushers in Connor Wedington and Josh Riley; both found success running behind the big left tackle.
My football IQ is a lot higher than it was last year, because last year was my first year ever. So now I know what to expect going into it — it should be a good year.
“I’m feeling going into next season because I know what to expect,” Carnahan said. “My football IQ is a lot higher than it was last year, because last year was my first year ever. So now I know what to expect going into it — it should be a good year.”
Now, after attending Northwest Elite Camp (June 3), Oregon State camp (June 17) and Washington camp (July 16), Carnahan’s name is out there.
“It’s Idaho (right now). He’s had lots of interest, but most of them want to wait and evaluate him after the first three games of the year,” Ross said. “They’re enamored with length, his height and his footwork. But they’re just weary since he hasn’t had the time playing in the games. They really want to see the improvement he’s made from last year.”
In those first games of the new season, Carnahan believes he’ll continue to prove his coach right.