Originally created 08/16/97

Andy Johnston: Carman's big, but can he play with the big boys?

ATLANTA - There's just no other way to put it.

Jon Carman is big. No, wait a minute. He's just downright huge. Real huge. So large in fact that he was cast as an extra in The Lost World. You might have recognized him. He was the T-Rex who pushed Jeff Goldblum's RV over the cliff.

Sorry, just kidding about that, but not about the first part. Carman, Georgia Tech's newest freak show, er, offensive tackle is a walking, talking eclipse. When he's near, it's instantly dark, the sun reappearing only when he lumbers away.

"Man, when I first saw him, I thought he was a wrestler," said former Josey High star Troy Tolbert, a hopeful at strong safety. "He's so big. I've never seen anybody that big."

Neither has anybody else at Tech. At 6-foot-8, 355 pounds, Carman, a sophomore transfer from Nassau (N.Y.) Community College, is the biggest player in school history. He's easily recognizable, even on a team full of sub-compacts.

So on Friday, when reporters could have been interviewing starting quarterback Joe Hamilton or talking to receiver Derrick Steagall about his return from knee surgery or chatting with that terrific tackling tandem of linebackers Ron Rogers and Keith Brooking, they were huddled around a big oak masquerading as a man.

"How much did you weigh when you were born?" one writer asked.

"About 12 pounds," Carman said. "I was 333 pounds when I was a freshman in high school. Boy, was my coach happy to see me."

"How much did you weigh when you reported (to Tech)?" another inquired.

"Oh, I was about 387 pounds," responded Carman, who has been affectionally labeled "Big Hoss" by his teammates. "I've lost a few pounds in two-a-days, and I hope to get down to about 340 by the first game. I'm eating a lot better than I used to."

"What's the most you've ever eaten at one meal?" still another reporter asked.

"Well, when I was a senior in high school, one guy bet me that I couldn't eat 10 Big Macs. I won that bet," Carman said. "A whole large pizza isn't really much of a problem. Or a box of pasta. They've got their nutritionists looking out after me here, you know, a lot of fish and healthy stuff. I miss those Big Macs, though."

Carman tells more stories. There's the time he sawed the top off an old Buick because he didn't fit. "I don't fit in Fords, either," he said. "They're built tough, just not big."

And when Eastern Kentucky booked him a coach seat on a recruiting trip, he ended up sitting in the flight attendant's seat because he didn't fit anywhere else. "It means I always have to fly first class," Carman said. "Not a bad deal."

The inquisition continued, and Carman gobbled up every bit of it. He stood patiently, often grinning. It's easy to see this guy is used to the attention, to the questioning.

"Hey, I look at my size as a blessing," he said. "I'm getting a free education out of it."

So it's not too bad being Jupiter in Tech's part of the solar system. Except for one thing.

When Carman first arrived, the school didn't have shoes or shoulder pads that would fit him. So the order was given: shoes, size 17EEE; shoulder pads, size 6XL.

His new equipment came in, and now he's ready to open the season at Notre Dame on Sept. 6. Currently, Carman is No. 2 at right tackle, behind former Butler High player Chris Brown, who at 6-6, 306 pounds, isn't exactly Pee Wee Herman, but still noticeably smaller than Carman.

"Oh, he's way bigger than me," said Brown, a redshirt freshman. "There aren't many people around who are bigger than me, but he's one of them. That's for sure."

Now Carman just has to prove he can play with the big boys.


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