NEW ORLEANS — There was never any doubt in Richard Carthon’s mind that he was a baseball player. He also knew he was a football player. And from a very young age, he says, he was determined to do both if he could find a couple of college coaches willing to let him.
That’s where Tulane came in.
Last spring, Carthon, a standout dual-sport athlete and a stellar student at Byrd High School in Shreveport, was set to attend Cornell University, where he planned to play football and baseball. But a change in the football office, an agreement between the new football coach and the longtime baseball coach and a chance to play both sports a little closer to home lured Carthon to Tulane instead.
Now Carthon has become somewhat of a rarity in college sports — a two-sport athlete with both coaches’ blessings.
“I’m a football player in football season and a baseball player in baseball season,” Carthon said. “It’s always been my goal to play both.”
Carthon led Byrd to its best season in decades in 2011, culminating in a trip to the Class 5A semifinals and a 12-1 record. An option-style quarterback, who also saw time at running back and safety, he completed 42 of 72 passes for 802 yards and 10 touchdowns with two interceptions. He also rushed for 1,316 yards and 26 touchdowns on 150 carries.
On the baseball field, Carthon was a four-year letterman as an outfielder and first-team All-State selection who helped the Yellow Jackets to four consecutive playoff appearances.
And in the classroom, Carthon was a member of the National Honor Society.
Tulane baseball coach Rick Jones said it didn’t take much convincing to let Carthon realize his dream of playing both sports in his home state.
Football coach Curtis Johnson was very cooperative, Jones said.
“Of course, any time you can get an athlete of the caliber he is, it didn’t take much to convince him,” Jones added.
And Carthon is making his presence felt.
It’s been a big week for the freshman. Last Sunday against High Point, Carthon had what Jones called a “coming-out party,” going 5-for-6 in the Green Wave’s dramatic 11-10 victory in 12 innings. But for a quick defensive glove, he might have tied a school record with six hits.
“It was just one of those days, I guess,” Carthon said. “I was seeing the ball really well. I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team win.”
Carthon had more heroics Wednesday, going 2-for-5 with a double and single to help the Green Wave to a 3-2 win over Southeastern Louisiana in extra innings.
Jones will be counting on Carthon even more this weekend as the Green Wave (10-9) takes on Texas-San Antonio for a three-game series at Turchin Stadium. It’s Tulane’s final weekend series before beginning Conference USA play next week. Friday’s game will begin at 6:30 p.m., and Saturday’s start is at 2 p.m. The series finale is at 1 p.m. Sunday.
There’s a lot on the line for his team, which has battled injuries and is still trying to find its groove with a young roster. The Green Wave is coming off a week in which they lost to Southeastern Louisiana 7-4 in Hammond, then returned home to beat the Lions 3-2 in 10 innings on Wednesday. Combined with Sunday’s marathon against High Point, the Wave has played 31 innings of baseball in its last three games.
UTSA (12-5) went 3-1 against Washington State last weekend. The team is fourth in the nation in hitting with an average of .338, and second overall in hits with 205. The Roadrunners are led by Daniel Rockett (.553), who was leading the nation in batting average last week, but was not eligible to be listed in the nation’s leaders because he has played in only 12 of the team’s 17 games. He has since added three home runs and 15 RBIs.
Jones said his team knows what’s at stake.
“We just have to get our veteran guys to play and try to get something going while we give our (pitchers) some time to heal,” he said. “We need to have a good weekend.”