TUCSON, Ariz. -- Every college football fan knows Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey was an All-American in 2012. They know this because he was named as such after he led the nation in rushing. They also know it because he notoriously proclaimed it when he was having a verbal altercation with a security guard at an Arizona-UCLA basketball game this spring.
According to the police report, he asked arena officials, “Do you know who I am? I’m an All-American.”
That became a punchline for opposing fans and the capper of a horrible offseason for Carey. Before his unfortunate proclamation at the McKale Center, he'd been involved in a domestic incident with his pregnant ex-girlfriend, which led to misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges. He also was ticketed for driving with expired registration and no proof of insurance.
Suffice it to say, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was unhappy with that behavioral troika. Part his unhappiness was reflected in Carey not talking to the media since his offseason splattered against the wall. Of course, that meant everyone else talked for him, and it rarely was flattering.
Carey has resolved his legal issues -- the assault charges were dropped in January -- and he's trying to return focus to his on-field exploits. He took another step toward rehabilitating his image Sunday by talking to reporters for the first time.
"I feel like every man has a growing-up point, no matter if it's a bad thing that happened or a good thing that happened," he said. "I feel like that was my growing-up point. It's just realizing the bigger picture instead of the little picture. You have to look at the future and where you want to go and how you want people to think of you and how you present yourself. That's big."
A big part of that is embracing fatherhood, which he said he is doing with his now no-longer ex-girlfriend.
"We're actually back together," he said. "We want to raise our kid and give him a great life. We're 100 percent raising this kid and are happy."
The domestic incident was a complicated he-said-she-said. For folks looking on from the outside, however, the arena altercation was not. Carey came off as arrogant and entitled. It was widely viewed as revealing of his true character.
Carey said that he knew the moment the words came out -- “Do you know who I am? I’m an All-American" -- he'd made a big mistake. The question is what provoked him to exclaim such a thing?
"I was just looking for a seat to watch the basketball game," he said. "It was going to be a good game, it was a white-out against UCLA. When I couldn't get a seat, I started getting really frustrated. It really started to get to me, really biting me. I was like, 'Man, I just want to sit down.' And then they said I couldn't sit there. Emotions were flaring at the time."
It is easy to roll eyes at Carey's explanation, and he seems aware that many won't forget the incident for a long while. Yet perhaps there's some space for at least partial understanding. For one, Carey is an All-American. He's done a lot for his school. It's not unreasonable to wonder if, yes, maybe Carey is due some special accommodation at a basketball game.
When this is noted to Carey, he nods his head.
"We put a lot of work in, in the season and offseason, for Arizona," he said. "The hard work we put in is unbelievable. So when you want to go enjoy a basketball team and cheer on your school, and then you can't do that, things get frustrating."
As for Carey moving forward, Rodriguez wasn't ready to say whether he will miss any games or portion of games as part of his punishment. He did say Carey has done everything his coaches have asked of him to redeem himself.
"It's been good but it's not over from our standpoint," Rodriguez said. "He's still got things he's got to do, but he's met everything so far."
Carey knows his reputation has taken an embarrassing blow. But he also probably knows everyone loves a good redemption story.
Said Rodriguez, "I've always said this: Ka'Deem is a good guy who made a couple of bad decisions. If he was a bad guy, he wouldn't be with us."