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Storied past just part of Carder's tale

When you're reading Tank Carder's resume and you come to: "Selected by the Buffalo Bills, fifth round, 2012 NFL Draft," how can you help but react: "How boring."

How does being drafted by an NFL team compare with being nicknamed "Tank" because you're tipping the scales at 33 pounds at 18 months? How does it rate next to being BMX world champion at age 10?

Drafted by the Bills? Doesn't that belong a ways down the page from "Walked Again," which Carder was told he might never do after he suffered a broken back, a punctured lung and diaphragm to go with seven fractured ribs in a seventh-grade auto accident?

And how about when they let Carder on the Sweeny (Texas) High School team as a sophomore, telling him he could punt and kick so long as he ran to sideline safety once the task was completed? But then the holder dropped the snap one day and Tank scooped it up and ran for two and his coach, furious, said it would never happen again. And it didn't. Because the next year Carder was a linebacker.

Colleges shied away except for TCU, the only school to offer him a scholarship. And in the biggest game in school history? Carder broke up the tying two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter as the Horned Frogs beat Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl. They named him the defensive MVP, as if the story could have ended any other way.

"After that I saw myself on ESPN for the first time and that was kind of when it clicked that I could maybe play at the next level," Carder said. "Up until that point it was just football. It's still just football, but as far as going on to the next level, it never really clicked until 2009 which was my first year to start."

Carder goes 6-foot-3, 237 and projects as a weakside linebacker, at least at the beginning.

"Probably going to start [there] because of the athletic skills, his movement and those types of things," Bills scout Shawn Heinlen said. "As he gets bigger and stronger, as he fills out, he can move over to [strong side] to do those types of things and be stronger at the point.

"He is a competitor in everything he does from what he has come through from the accident in high school, being a BMX kid, and football. Everything he does he is very good at and he competes at a high level. That is kind of the way he is made up. He is just a really competitive guy that likes to excel at whatever he is doing."

Carder distances himself from the past. His life has been a whirlwind that's spun him through the highest highs and lowest lows, but he's not given to reflection.

"I kind of live life in the moment, I don't really dwell on the past," he said. "I feel like everything I have done up to this point has got me here, but I can't say things in the past have got me here and changed different things. All I can do is just worry about the now and plan for the future. I'm just excited to be at the point I'm at right now and make the best of every opportunity. I'm excited to come up there and show ya'll what I can do.

"Coach, he called me. He asked me if I wanted to be a Bill and said get ready to come up there and play some football. I was excited as could be, man. I couldn't even hold my emotions in, it was the most awesome experience I have ever been a part of to this point."

Who would have thought?

***

The Bills selected Florida State offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders (6-5, 308) with the first of their two fifth-round selections (144th overall). He played right tackle for the Seminoles until the final eight games of his career, when he filled in for injured Andrew Danko on the more challenging left side.

"I feel like I am good at the right or left," Sanders said. "I am ready to give my all for every lineup position that [they] put me in."

"When he played at left tackle he looked more athletic at right tackle to me than he did at left tackle," said Bills national scout Darrell Moody. "Now that could be because he had played right tackle all the time prior to that. Because all a sudden now you're stepping with a completely different foot and everything's backwards to you. But he's a guy that has the size that we're looking for. I think he's got good athletic ability, not great. He's got good length. He's a guy that's going to take a while to develop."

There's more to Sanders than football. He's an Eagle Scout and an accomplished violist. The influences?

"My parents always telling me to try new things and get involved everywhere and in every aspect," Sanders said. "Never give up, just go through it and fight through it. That is what helped develop me into the man I am today."

***

Although teammates at Florida State, it wasn't until they roomed together at the Senior Bowl that Sanders and Seminoles linebacker Nigel Bradham (Buffalo's first fourth-round pick) really got to know each other.

"We have been together for a long time, but we were not really roommates in college," Sanders said. "So I feel like just having a little more time to talk, we connected a lot more. He was always a good friend but we connected a little bit more because now we were roommates and talking. After every practice talking about what we did and what we can get better on."

***

Sixth-round pick Mark Asper, a 6-foot-7, 325-pound tackle out of Oregon, earned a measure of fame when he performed the Heimlich maneuver on the father of a Oregon student during Rose Bowl week. A couple days later Asper was told that Wisconsin fans had started referring to him as the Heimlich Guy.

"That's better than being known as the speeding ticket guy, or the marijuana guy," Asper deadpanned Saturday.

Asper is 26. He embarked on a Mormon mission to Barcelona after high school. He's been married four years (Michelle) and they have two daughters.

email: bdicesare@buffnews.com