Even while proudly wearing an Oregon baseball cap at Butte High’s basketball game against Missoula Hellgate on Friday, the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Cody Carriger didn’t stand out in the crowd.
The 2012 Butte High graduate watched his old team play without being interrupted too much by well wishers or autograph seekers.
Carriger knows full well that probably won’t be the case the next time he watches his beloved Bulldogs.
After a season playing football for the Oregon Ducks, Carriger is on the verge of becoming a household name in the Mining City.
“We have Colt Anderson,” Carriger says of the Butte High graduate who plays for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. “I’d like to be the next guy Butte looks at. I want to put Butte on the map.”
Carriger’s name was already pretty well known before he even walked the hallways at Butte High School.
After a solid career at Butte High, Carriger’s older brother, Jaison, played football at Utah State before transferring to the University of Montana. His sister, Shelby, was a standout athlete at Butte High as well.
Carriger’s father, Rick, is a former head football coach for the Bulldogs.
So, needless to say, Cody Carriger entered Butte High at 6-foot-5 and with some lofty expectations laid upon him.
Carriger went on to earn 10 letters in high school — four in basketball and three each in football and track. He started four years for the Bulldogs’ varsity basketball team.
After receiving interest from Washington, Army, Wyoming, Montana and Montana State, Carriger committed to Oregon in June of 2011. He officially signed on National Signing Day in February of 2012.
Carriger redshirted during his first season at the University of Oregon. He appeared in eight games at outside linebacker this past season for the Ducks, who finished with a 11-2 record and ranked No. 9 in the country.
The Ducks were ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation before losing 26-20 at Stanford on Nov. 7.
“It was power vs. speed, and power got the best of us that day,” Carriger says.
Oregon also suffered a tough loss to Arizona before rebounding to close out the season with a 30-7 beating of Texas in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
“Mack Brown’s last game,” Carriger says, referring to the long-time Longhorns coach who announced his retirement before the bowl game. “We’ll go down in history. It was a really good experience. I traveled to every game and just got the feel of everything.”
Carriger, who is 30 pounds heavier than when he graduated from high school, says his redshirt year was also a great experience.
His mentor, or “big brother,” that year was offensive lineman Kyle Long, the 2013 first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears and the son of NFL Famer Howie Long.
“I was really good friends with him,” Carriger says of Kyle Long. “I still am. Over the summer I went up to Flathead lake with him, his dad and his mom. It was really nice.”
Playing for Oregon, Carriger, No. 42 for the Ducks, wore a different uniform combination each week, too.
“I think we have seven different tops, six different pairs of pants and eight different helmets,” Carriger says. “You’ll never see the same combination of uniform at Oregon. As long as you’re at Oregon, you’ll wear a new combination every game.”
That, of course, comes from Oregon’s No. 1 fan, Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight, who works just down the street.
“We’re spoiled. It’s a little overboard sometimes,” Carriger says. “You should see the new athletic complex. That thing is unreal.”
Carriger saw most of his time rushing the passer off the edge in Oregon’s 3-4 defense. He says it is very similar to the defensive end position he played at Butte High, except he is always in a two-point stance.
“Most of the time that’s what I did,” Carriger says of rushing on the edge. “I probably had about 12 tackles and a half a sack.”
The Ducks defense could change a little bit next season with coordinator Nick Aliotti retiring at the end of the season. Head coach Mark Helfrich hasn’t yet named a replacement.
Whether he’s playing outside linebacker or defensive end next season, though, Carriger says he will be happy as long as he gets to rush the quarterback.
“If it is a 3-4, 4-3 it doesn’t matter, as long as I’m coming off the edge,” he says.
Carriger has always lived a bit on the edge.
By the time he was 14, Carriger earned a black belt in taekwondo at Rocky Mountain Martial Arts in Butte. He started studying under Master Jim Miller when he was 6.
Carriger says martial arts is the key to success in his athletic career.
“I don’t know what I’d be doing today if it wasn’t for martial arts,” Carriger says pointing out that coordination was something he struggled with being so tall at such a young game. Martial arts fixed that.
“When I was in fifth grade I’d trip over one of those lines on the court,” Carriger says. “I did martial arts and stuck with it. In sixth grade I started getting better. By the time seventh and eighth grade came, I had more control of my body.”
He adds that martial arts is much more than physical, and Carriger says he would recommend taekwondo and Rocky Mountain Martial Arts to any young boy or girl.
“He teaches the art, but he teaches you so much more like life skills, etiquette, manors, be respectful,” Carriger says of Miller. “He really helped me to be the man that I am today. I thank him a lot. He’s a great guy, Mr. Miller.”
Carriger’s prep career wasn’t quite as decorated as you might expect of an Oregon recruit. He was picked as an alternate at for the Montana East-West Shrine Game.
Carriger, who saw consistent double and triple teams on the defensive line in high school, was second-team All-State.
Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly, however, didn’t see Carriger as a second-team player. That’s why he was in Carriger’s living room offering him a full-ride scholarship to Oregon.
What did Kelly, who is now Anderson’s head coach with the Eagles, see in Carriger that others might not have? It was Carriger’s pure athletic ability.
“The thing that helped me were those Nike combines,” Carriger says. “I went down to Dallas, I went to Portland and I did well.”
Carriger scored a 102 SPARQ rating. SPARQ is an acronym for speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness. It is a sport-specific way to assess athleticism.
As a comparison, Detroit Lions running back and former USC star Reggie Bush scored a 93. Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, regarded as one of the best college football players of all time, scored a 97.
That is why Carriger was Montana’s lone representative in the Gridiron University Prep Stars Classic in Las Vegas. In Vegas, Carriger played tight end and outside linebacker for a squad coached by former NFL All-Pro running back Ickey Woods.
Carriger’s high school coach, Arie Grey, has long raved about Carriger’s ability and work ethic.
“Cody is a very hard-working player,” Grey says. “He is always working to make himself a better person and player. He is Butte tough and is making us proud. His future is very bright.”
That future, Carriger hopes, will include an opportunity to play in the National Football League after his days at Oregon.
“That’s always the goal,” Carriger says. “It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of strain and struggle until that time, but it would be nice.”
If he doesn’t play in the NFL — or maybe even after a career in the league — Carriger says he wants to be a U.S. Marshal. His major is criminolog, and he was selected to Segma Alapha Pi this year for academic excellence and leadership
“I want a job that keeps me on the edge. I want to push myself,” Carriger says. “When a lot of people get done with football they stop working out and get out of shape. I want a job that keeps me going, keeps me pushing to that edge.”
In the meantime, Carriger is just enjoying his career with the high-powered Ducks.
“Our style of play, I love it,” Carriger says. “We practice against the fastest team in America every day. It makes a regular game look slow, to tell you the truth.”
Carriger is also making sure everybody knows exactly where he is from.
“We had a snow storm down there and it was about 28 degrees, and all the guys down there were like, ‘It’s freezing,'” Carriger says. “I was like, ‘You guys are babies, man. You wouldn’t last two days where I grew up.’
“Trust me, everybody knows where Butte, Mont., is down there. I let them know where we are.”
Carriger, who was only in town for a few days over the holidays, is also ready for the day when he won’t be able to blend into the crowd at a basketball game in his hometown.
When that day comes, he says he will welcome well wishers and autograph seekers.
“I’m a Butte boy,” Carriger says. “Anybody who wants to come up and talk, I’ll talk to them.” 2 comments