Carson offers his services in 2-for-1 deal

RECRUITING: Lake City athlete wants to play baseball, football in college

 jhoke@thestate.com August 31, 2010 

Package deals are commonplace in recruiting these days, with college programs routinely offering scholarships to high school teammates.

Sometimes both are worthy, but often college coaches are willing to gamble on a lesser player in an attempt to land his high-profile teammate.

A package deal will be the only way to land Lake City tailback Shon Carson. Yet, his situation is different. Instead of signing one of his teammates, the program he chooses must accept Carson’s alter ego — the top-flight baseball prospect.

Carson said this weekend he isn’t ready to focus on football or baseball exclusively and plans to play both in college. Of course, the status quo could change by June if he’s drafted as high in the MLB Draft as many observers expect, giving him the option of turning pro immediately and bypassing college.

Carson named South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida State, Alabama and Georgia as the schools he’s considering for football, with USC and UNC believed to have a slight edge. However, he hasn’t put much thought into recruiting recently.

“I’ve put everything on hold while the season is going on,” Carson said. “I just know that I’m going to do both.”

Carson wouldn’t necessarily have to quit football to pursue a professional baseball career.

Even if he’s drafted high enough to consider turning pro, he could sign a deal that would allow him to play football each fall. However, he would figure to earn a larger signing bonus if he were to focus solely on baseball. His situation is comparable to that of Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, who stood to earn much more from the Colorado Rockies had he called it quits in football.

There are many college coaches hoping Carson decides to pursue both sports at the collegiate level. He has more than 5,000 rushing yards, 67 touchdowns, 38 home runs, 100-plus RBIs and more than 160 steals in his two-sport prep career.

He is a versatile weapon on the gridiron, where the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder has speed and deceptive strength. In baseball, he’s a power-hitting center fielder with the ability to hit for average.

Carson participated this month in the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. More than 80 percent of the players who participated in the event in 2008 and ’09 were drafted the following summer.

“He hasn’t focused on one sport yet,” Lake City baseball coach Matt Apicella said. “He hasn’t had the reps he needs in the batting cage yet. The sky is the limit. Same thing with football. He’s always playing other sports on the weekend. When he really settles into one, something special is going to happen.”

Both Apicella and Lake City football coach Jim Rowell rave about Carson’s attitude and work ethic.

“Shon has tremendous speed and can run with power,” Rowell said. “I think what makes him special is that he works extremely hard as well. That’s not a combination you see a lot. He’s one of the strongest kids on the team. The fact that he doesn’t rest on his talent and keeps getting better is what makes him different from a lot of young men.”

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