Please join me and the entire staff of The Curly R in wishing Roderick Rashaun also known as Rock Cartwright a happy birthday, Rock turns 30, the big three oh today.
Rock attended Conroe High School in his home town of Conroe Texas where he was a four sport letterman, in his senior season in 1997 Rock had over 2000 yards rushing and was named a Parade All-American. Rock attended Trinity Valley Community College in Texas for two seasons, helping carry the Cardinals to the Southwest Junior College Conference title his sophomore year in 1999.
Moving on to Kansas State for his final two years in 2000 and 2001, Rock was never higher than the third leading rusher for the Wildcats, playing mainly fullback and catching passes out of the backfield.
Rock was also a terrific special teams contributor, a factor in attracting Washington's attention in the 2002 draft, Washington used a seventh round pick to select Rock, and he appeared in all sixteen games that season on special teams, even returning ten kicks.
The following season, 2003 saw Rock's first serious action in the Redskins backfield. For most of the season Rock was way down the tailback depth chart, Trung Candidate having won the starting job in Steve Spurrier's second and final year as head coach. Top reserve Ladell Betts suffered a freak forearm fracture seven weeks into the season and missed four games before re injuring the arm and factoring out of the season.
When Trung suffered a foot sprain in game thirteen at the Giants, primary kick and punt returner Chad Morton filled in, complicating Chad's 2.3 yards per carry average was a case of the flu that week, and the door opened for Rock, just as they would six years later in the second half of a season all the guys ahead of him would go down and he would be there ready to step in, Rock started the final three games of the 2003 season, rushing for 178 of his 411 yards for the year.
In the 2004 offseason the Redskins pulled off their big trade with the Denver Broncos, bringing tailback Clinton Portis into town. Rock carried the ball all of two yards, had no catches and returned no kicks of any kind.
The following season, 2005, Rock began to see some spot duty in the backfield, though still solidly behind Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts as the Redskins won their final five games on the way to their first playoff berth in five seasons. That was also the season Rock changed his jersey number from 40 to 31 to honor his mother who had died unexpectedly that offseason.
It was in 2006 that the team finally figured out where Rock Cartwright could best help the team. With Clinton Portis ailing due to a shoulder separation suffered in the preseason, Ladell Betts was the team's primary back for the majority of the season, and Rock still saw almost no time on first, second or third down. No, 2006 was the season Rock emerged as a premier kickoff returner, fielding 64 kicks for over 1500 yards and a 24.1 yards per return, only two players returned more kicks than Rock in 2006, and only one had more kick return yards. Rock's greatest moment in 2006 without question was the one hundred yard kickoff return for a touchdown in game two against the Cowboys, it was the Redskins only touchdown of the game.
Two thousand seven continued the trend in Rock's utilization, virtually no appearances in the backfield and returning 52 kicks for over 1300 yards, Rock was again top ten in total kickoff returns and in yards. No change in 2008 which is to say no backfield action and another top ten season in both total kickoff returns and return yards.
This season, 2009, seemed to be on pace for the same treatment for Rock, no backfield action and lots of kickoff returns, though total number and yards are down so far as the defense has improved and held teams to fewer points and therefore fewer kickoffs, Washington may still be the number one passing defense in the league right now as measured by passing yards per game, the most important statistic though is scoring and the Washington defense currently rank tenth in the league, or in other words only nine teams have allowed fewer points so far this season than the Redskins.
Curly R aside: Wouldn't it be great if we had an offense that could score? With that defense?
Then Atlanta happened. Clinton Portis took two helmets to the head and went out with a concussion in game eight, in support of new primary back Ladell Betts Rock had seven carries. In game nine against the Broncos Rock had nine carries and Ladell appeared to cement his argument as feature back with 114 yards on 26 carries.
Then Dallas happened, on the road the next week against the Cowboys, Ladell tore an ACL and MCL, Rock stepped up and thirteen times in a 7-6 loss. With Ladell lost for the season Rock assumed the position for game eleven at the Eagles, carrying the ball fifteen times.
Rock is set to be a primary option in the backfield for the rest of the season, ready and waiting for the call, just like he was back in his second season of 2003. Rock has been a great player for Washington and spent his career doing whatever the team needed him to do. I hope he sticks around Washington for the rest of his career.
Happy birthday Rock!
Other Curly R Rock Cartwright birthday wishes: 2008
Other Rock Cartwright Happy 30th Birthday wishes: Fatpickled.
Rock Cartwright against the Broncos: Getty Images from here.