Purdue’s commitment to football is part of Dandy Dozen


As the sound of a violin wafted through the halls of Father Ryan, teachers and students peered through the classroom doors, trying to figure out where he was coming from.

Father Ryan doesn’t have a string orchestra, so they were surprised by what they were hearing. They were even more surprised to find out where the music came from.

At the end of a hallway stood Drake Carlson, a 6-foot-4, 280-pound lineman, elegantly tuning the small instrument.

“Teachers were like, ‘He’s a big guy walking around with this little fiddle. How do you do it?'” Carlson said. “But I get good compliments on it all the time.”

Much of what Carlson does outside of football breaks the mold of what you expect from a lineman.

He’s reserved until he knows someone. He’s a violinist. He studies French at school while most of his teammates take Spanish. His pre-workout playlist includes a regular rotation of classical music.

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Cerebral with a ‘meat head mentality’

Carlson, a three-star defensive lineman and Purdue commit, also takes an analytical approach to football that many linemen don’t often use.

“He can have a guy’s mentality when he’s playing, be aggressive and put his face in it, but he’s also very cerebral,” father Ryan’s coach Brian Rector said. “He thinks when he’s there. He thinks and evolves as the game goes on.”

Carlson is No. 11 on The Tennessean’s 2022 Dandy Dozen, a collection of Nashville-area college football’s top rookies in the Nashville area. The list is chosen by the newspaper’s high school staff after consultation with recruiting editors and field observations.

He is the No. 19 ranked freshman in the state according to the 247Sports Composite and the No. 76 defensive lineman in the nation.

From Carlson’s early days at Father Ryan, Rector could tell he had an analytical reader on his hands.

In the Irish’s final game of his freshman season, Carlson was lined up against then-senior Tyler Baron, a 4-star defensive end from Knoxville Catholic. He was holding on, but Carlson knew he couldn’t keep up with Tennessee’s commitment for four full quarters.

“Without our coaching, and without our permission even, he cut the kid in a passing set, and it kind of slowed that player down for the rest of the game,” Rector said.

“I just thought ‘Wow, as a rookie he figured that out as the game went on.’ I thought it was amazing.”

Why Carlson Committed to Purdue

Carlson committed to Purdue on June 13 largely because he wanted to play at a school that would challenge him academically. He had also dreamed of playing in the Big 10, which Rector called a “linemen’s league.”

Purdue offered him the chance to play on the defensive line, rather than the offensive line, unlike some of the other schools that had offered him.

“He knows he could move to the O line, but he wanted to go to a place where they would give him 100% at least a chance on the defensive line,” Rector said.

Carlson’s older brother, Brock, also played Father Ryan. The two started together, with Drake, a freshman, at right guard and Brock, a junior, at right tackle.

“As a parent, seeing your sons play side by side like this was exciting and rewarding every time,” said their mother, Heather Carlson.

When the brothers were younger, Drake, Brock and their father, Rob, would go to the yard after school to play fetch games. When they got home in time for dinner, they often didn’t speak to each other.

“They’re definitely competitive,” Heather said. “They hustle all the time.”

Despite constantly competing with his brother and his teammates, Drake is quiet about his accomplishments.

A dual-sport athlete, he won the TSSAA Division II-AA titles in discus and shot put this season. Throughout his recruiting process, he almost never shared details of the colleges pursuing him with anyone other than his family and coaches.

“It’s good to see a really top athlete like this not only have the confidence to be able to do anything – because he feels like he can do anything a player line can do on the pitch – but also be humble to at the same time,” Rector said.

“Nobody’s even close to him, but he still works like there’s a million people chasing him.”

Emma Healy is a sports reporting intern for The Tennessean. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @_EmmaHealy_.


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