'It felt like home': Oak Park four-star receiver Maliq Carr picks Purdue

David Goricki
The Detroit News
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Maliq Carr

Oak Park — Four-star receiver Maliq Carr made his 18th birthday extra special Friday afternoon when he announced he will be playing football … and basketball at Purdue during a ceremony at Oak Park High School.

Oh, and it was Maliq’s little brother, 5-year-old William McMichael II, who Maliq refers to as “Man Man,” who stood with him and yelled out “Purdue!”

Carr, 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, had 29 offers, including Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Auburn, Penn State and Michigan State, but narrowed it down to Georgia and Purdue last week.

Carr plans to enroll at Purdue in January so he can possibly play basketball while also getting a head start on football, attending spring ball.

“It felt like home,” said Carr of his decision to play at Purdue. “They treated me right and I’m going to get the ball early and often so it’s just perfect. I talk to them every day now. They are just like my coaches here, cool and close.”

Carr is ranked the No. 4 player in Michigan and the No. 5 tight end nationally for 2020 by the 247Sports Composite. He was recruited to play receiver at Purdue and Georgia.

And, on playing both sports?

“I will, trust me,” Carr said. “I’m taking the scholarship for football and I’m going to be a preferred walk-on for basketball.”

When asked how Purdue head basketball coach Matt Painter felt about the situation, Carr replied: “He was happy, real happy. We were talking about coming in January, coming in early because at first that wasn’t the plan, the plan was to come in the fall, but now I’m coming in early in January.”

So, Carr could possibly be playing in the state championship football game for Oak Park at Ford Field during Thanksgiving weekend and then playing Big Ten basketball for Purdue this winter?

“Man, you never know,” Carr said. “I doubt I’d be playing right away, possibly February would be the earliest, you know to know all the plays and defenses.”

Carr’s father, Cornell Mann is an assistant basketball coach at Missouri. He also had stops at Central Michigan when the Chippewas won the MAC title in 2003, at Western Michigan when the Broncos won the MAC championship in 2004, at Dayton, Iowa State when the Cyclones reached the Sweet 16 in 2014 and at Oakland.

His father has faith his son can play football and basketball at the Big Ten level.

“He definitely has the ability to do both,” Mann said. “What I really like about my own son is that I like him to do what he wants to do. He got enough guidance that he can make up his mind and do what he wants to do, so when it came to do whatever college or university that’s on him completely. The kid worked hard, and he deserves everything that he’s getting and I’m proud of him and happy for him.”

The dual-sport task will be grueling, the father said.

“Extremely difficult and you have to find a place that’s OK with that and both Georgia and Purdue was OK with that,” Mann said. “I think for the most part Maliq has to do a great job of communicating between the sports to make it work. And, obviously academically, he has to be on top of his game, which he will.”

Carr said Missouri was near the top of his list a year ago as was Michigan.

“Last year that’s where I thought I was going honestly, going to Missouri,” said Carr.

And, on Michigan?

“They were there when I made my top five, but a couple of months after that it just went down,” said Carr of Michigan. “I felt as if they don’t pass the ball as much as Purdue does and I wouldn’t play as early and I might be built up to be a tight end and that’s not what I want to be, and at Purdue the plan is for me to lose weight and become a receiver and stay a receiver.”

Carr’s teammates — four-star tackle Justin Rogers (Kentucky) and four-star cornerback Enzo Jennings (Penn State) — have already made their decisions.

Carr joins a number of other elite area receivers who will be playing at Big Ten schools, including Detroit King’s Rashawn Williams (Indiana) and Walled Lake Western’s Abdur-Rahmaan Yaseen (Northwestern).

Carr said Purdue jumped high on his list last October. He will join Marvin Grant (Detroit King) and Jalen Graham (Detroit Cass Tech) — both freshmen — at Purdue.

“Actually, I went up there one time and spent the night with them,” said Carr of Grant and Graham. “They are roommates.”

Carr says he models his game after former Detroit Lions great Calvin Johnson.

“Getting in and out of breaks, learning how to read defenses and getting faster and stronger, those are my biggest improvements,” Carr said this summer. “I’m a receiver, want to be like Calvin (Johnson). I just have to improve my speed because he was pretty fast. I’m a 4.64 guy right now. I want to improve on that.”

“He’s a good player, the best thing I could say about Maliq is he’s always been a hard worker,” Oak Park head coach Greg Carter said. “He works really hard to improve on his craft, nobody is going to outwork him, and that along with his talent is a big plus. He’s getting better as a route runner, has exceptional hands and he’ll fight for the ball. He’s a competitor who wants to be the best.”

Carter is not surprised that Carr plans to play both football and basketball.

“He’s that kind of guy,” Carter said. “He wants to take on all the challenges and he wants to do things that other people haven’t been able to do so it doesn’t surprise me at all.”

Peggy (Evans) Carr — Maliq's mother and one of the best basketball players to come out of the state — wasn’t shocked Maliq is headed to West Lafayette, Indiana but she was somewhat surprised he’s heading there in January.

“It’s a nice day, I’m glad he finally made his decision, so he can focus on this last part before he goes, he’s trying to leave in January, so he has three additional classes,” Peggy said. “I didn’t think he was going to leave in January. It’s going to be tough since he’s my first one going.”

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