Friday, April 25, 2003

Dad sacrificed so Palmer could be No. 1

This is what you do to make your son the No. 1 pick in the entire NFL draft:

You fly. You pack more briefcases than Perry Mason. You rack up frequent-flyer miles like a migrating bird. Coast to coast isn't a 90-foot layup. It's five hours in an upgraded first-class seat - more leg room, free drinks - 45 times a year for four years, so your son, Carson Palmer, can play high school football in Southern California while you're spending the work week in New York and Boston.

Man, think of all the peanuts.

"My parents loved me so much, they made that sacrifice," Carson Palmer said Thursday.

Bill Palmer at the news conference announcing his son's signing Thursday afternoon.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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"You do what you have to do," said Bill Palmer, Carson's father. "That's what a family's all about."

Bill Palmer worked for an insurance company when the company told him he'd be moving to Connecticut from Laguna Hills, Calif., about an hour south of Los Angeles. Carson was just entering high school. Carson was already a prodigious kid, bigger than anyone else, with a singular talent for throwing a football.

One thing everyone knew: Compared to California prep football, Connecticut prep football was the '62 Mets. "Just not comparable," Bill decided.

So, Bill could move his family to Connecticut and let his oldest son dominate an unremarkable state for high school ball, or Bill could be bicoastal and get home on Fridays to watch his kid be the big fish in the big pond. It wasn't much of a decision.

"Carson's dream was to go to (Southern Cal)," Bill said. "If we took him to Connecticut, SC would never know where he was."

And that's how Bill ended up with more frequent-flyer miles than Neil Armstrong. He never missed a game. Not in four years. The things we do for our children.

The Bengals signed Carson Palmer on Thursday, meaning they'll pick him first Saturday in the draft, the most anti-climactic moment since 5:00 became 5:01. Signing Palmer in advance was a very Marvin Lewis, we-mean-business thing to do, and typical of the Marvin Bengals who, Palmer himself decided - California dude-like - "have a new vibe."

Palmer was as polished and poised as a movie star Thursday. There wasn't a question he hadn't heard or anticipated. If he plays like he talks, he'll be Troy Aikman. Palmer even suggested Cincinnati was the right, boring place for him, because "I don't really do a whole lot." Yeah, well, you should see us at Oktoberfest, dude. We rock.

Carson Palmer was being tutored as a QB in seventh grade. Bob Johnson, father of NFL QB Rob, who has been helping draft hopefuls for seven years, taught Carson "every fundamental he knows," Bill Palmer said.

OK. But seventh grade? Is Bill Palmer the new Marv Marinovich?

"Carson asked to go" to Johnson's camp, Bill said. "I never pushed him. He was always pushing. It just seemed reasonable. If he was a soccer player, I'd have sent him to soccer camp. Carson's gifted. We were able to develop it."

The airlines thank you.

"I committed to being home every weekend," Bill said. "I didn't want my wife to be a single parent. It was expensive, it was difficult, but so what? It worked."

Can't argue that. If the Bengals are lucky, Carson Palmer's career will take off, too.


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