PRATTVILLE, Ala. — All that is missing is the Imperial March.
There have been boos and name-calling, accusations of nefarious tactics, complaints of gluttonous scoring and social-media tirades questioning and lampooning his reputation.
With the reactions Autauga Academy football and its head coach cause, perhaps the Imperial March might be an appropriate fight song.
The Galactic Empire and Darth Vader, at least in relation to the rest of the AISA, are fitting analogies.
“I won’t say it bothers me,” Bobby Carr says of how he’s viewed by opposing coaches and fans, from the reactions he’s both witnessed and heard of.
“Just tell them to get in line,” he said. “All the years I’ve coached football and baseball, sometimes even our own parents question my decisions. As long as the players understand, that’s what matters.”
Call it both the spoils and the price of having ultra-successful programs, according to Carr, his players, his assistant coaches and his coaching friends.
“Bobby is awfully, awfully misunderstood by so many people,” said Kyle Glover, a longtime friend who was Carr’s boss in 2016 at Autauga Academy.
“I don’t think it’s different than a (Nick) Saban or Jerry Jones or any manager of the New York Yankees,” Glover said. “Anybody who wins and wins a lot becomes a villain.”
By winning at the rate that the Generals do — and the Edgewood Wildcats before them did — players will seek you out. It doesn’t take phone calls and other solicitation.
Still, when talented players transfer in — and Carr asks for no forgiveness when they do — the complaints begin.
He’s recruiting. He cheats.
“They talk crap because they’re not him,” said Carson Tate, a senior linebacker at Autauga this year who first played for Carr in the Edgewood days.
“They always hate a winner.”
The odd part is that, at least publicly, Carr seems more concerned his players’ future, well beyond the football field, and — to a lesser degree — his golf game.
He’s had coaching friendships end over the last several years. Past opponents will no longer schedule him unless required — and, he says, have campaigned to others that they shouldn’t play him, either.
“Everybody maybe has the question, ‘How do guys win a lot?’” said Thompson coach Mark Freeman, who is still friends with Carr and is a past ultra-successful AISA coach. “Winning a lot produces anxiety among other people.”
Freeman drew controversy after he built a moribund Bessemer Academy program into the AISA’s elite.
The Rebels, who had never won an AISA playoff game before he arrived, won four championships under him. The second was in 2004, on a mud-bogged field against Edgewood and Carr.
“To be successful, you have to have a thick skin,” said Freeman, who left Bessemer after the 2007 season and more than 100 wins.
Freeman was the AISA’s Darth Vader before Carr was the AISA’s Darth Vader, a term that Glover agreed in Carr’s case was “very appropriate.”
“I gladly hand that mantle over to Bobby,” Freeman said, laughing.
“You just have to live with it,” he said. “As long as you can lay your head down at night and know you did your best and taught your kids how to be successful, that’s what really matters.”
Carr says he does and he has, scoffing at allegations that he recruits.
This summer, he said a player saying he was from Montgomery walked into his office and said he wanted to join — and start for — the Generals.
OK, Carr said.
When the player left, Carr still hadn’t heard the kid’s name.
He’s recruiting. He cheats.
“He’s like the Nick Saban of high school football,” said Bucky Mansmann, a longtime Carr assistant. “When you get that kind of name, they look for you.”
John Sullivan had never met Carr before his son enrolled at Edgewood, but the family wanted to be part of a successful program. Today, they remain friends.
“We had never heard of him,” Sullivan said. “It was 36 miles, one-way, from Pike Road to Edgewood, but we did it.”
He’s recruiting. He cheats.
“A guy like Bobby, he doesn’t have to recruit those kids,” Glover said. “You know why? Those kids want to win. Wherever he could go, there would be kids coming out of the hallways, who would move to that community, to have that opportunity to win.”
Carr said he has never contacted a player about joining his team without the player first contacting him, no matter what others may believe.
Private schools, where he has always been a head coach, derive income from tuition. By definition, private schools want to add students and should welcome the business.
“I’m not going to apologize for a kid wanting to go to our school,” Carr said. “We don’t go around and beg kids to play for us. If you put a good product out there, people are going to buy it.”
Mansmann first met Carr when Carr was first hired as the head coach at Millbrook’s New Life, not too long after Carr stopped getting outs as a left-handed pitcher in professional baseball.
Mansmann had previously been an assistant coach and had a son who was playing football at the school. However, he had stopped coaching more than a year before Carr was hired.
Someone suggested they meet and, 22 years later, they’re close friends.
“One thing I’ve told him and I know he believes,” Mansmann said, “it’s not about building championship teams. It’s about building championship people.”
Another of Bucky’s sons, Chad, first started “playing” for Carr when he was 7 years old. He was a waterboy whose early habits still cause Carr to laugh.
Chad, if thrown a ball way back then, would do pushups if he dropped it. (In 2006, Mansmann was an honorable mention All-State receiver as a senior at Edgewood.)
But Carr said it goes well beyond that. The biggest upcoming date for Autauga Academy football, bigger than the Aug. 16 season opener against Bessemer Academy, is Aug. 19.
The Generals will have a team baptism. Carr’s son Tripp, a returning All-State quarterback, is on the list.
“If you coach for trophies, you’re coaching for the wrong reason,” Carr said. “You coach for building men.
“If you’re not in this business for that, you’re in it for the wrong reason. Now, when it comes to competing, I am going to try to beat you.”
Such emotion even goes toward his offspring.
Carr, 46, soon gloats about he and Tripp’s latest showdown in one-on-one basketball. Afterward, Bobby took certain measures to ensure his victory would be remembered.
“The last time we played, he did win, but he threw the goal away. He couldn’t beat me anymore,” Tripp said.
It was two years ago, and “I wanted to go out on top,” Bobby said. He has diligently avoided any rematch.
“He couldn’t take me now,” Tripp said. “Back in the day, he could take me, but he’s too old now.”
Carr’s record — at least as a coach — can’t be argued, only besmirched.
In football, he’s entering his 22nd year as a head coach and has a 218-44 record that includes seven AISA championships and three runner-up finishes.
When he was at Edgewood from 2001-15, the Wildcats had just two seasons with more than two losses and enjoyed a state-record 71-game win streak.
Carr was also Edgewood’s baseball coach from 2002-16. The Wildcats went 488-117 with 11 AISA titles.
“Nobody likes him because he wins so much,” said Autauga senior defensive tackle Elijah Elmore, another former Edgewood player under Carr. “For a long time, he’s been winning and nobody likes him because all he knows is to win.”
Besmirch Carr, they have.
When he left New Life for Edgewood in 2001, 11 players followed him. New Life, after joining the AISA just the year before, withdrew its membership.
In his final few years at Edgewood, the Wildcats added several senior transfers who drew NCAA Division I interest.
When he and Edgewood acrimoniously parted ways in the summer of 2016, his players left in droves. Just four of the 42 underclassmen on the roster at the end of 2015 returned for 2016.
“When all of that went down at Edgewood, No. 1, I called him to make sure he was OK. I told him, ‘You’ll always have a spot with me,’” Glover said. “During that conversation, we started talking about what we could do offensively, just the things that could be possible. It was instant magic.”
Glover hired Carr as an assistant, and the Generals — with Tripp and other transfers filling the roster — went unbeaten. (One win was by forfeit over Edgewood, which said Autauga players had threatened to intentionally injure its players and canceled the game.)
Glover said it “was the best year for me, personally, to be around a friend,” but he stepped aside to focus on his private business. Carr was promoted.
Last year, Autauga won its first 12 games before an upset loss in the AISA Class AA championship game.
“If people knew the side of Bobby that I know, he’d be the most-popular coach around,” Glover said. “The majority of the people who have lost to Bobby Carr and criticized Bobby Carr don’t know Bobby.”
Carr still remembers his first team at New Life in 1996. He was two years removed from a three-year professional baseball playing career that topped out in the Rookie-level Appalachian League and ended with the independent Amarillo Dillas.
Before New Life’s first game, a 14-8 loss to Kingwood, there was New Life’s first practice.
“We had seven players show up and three quit after we ran a few sprints,” Carr said. “The four left went through the halls begging people to play. We ended up with 13 players and won four games.
“That may have been the best coaching job me and my staff have done.”
When he took over at Edgewood in 2001, the Wildcats hadn’t won more than six games in almost 20 years. They went 9-2 in his first season.
Over his 15 years, one stands out, a sore-thumb exception to the gaudy number of wins Edgewood racked up.
A 3-7 finish in 2007.
In the 10 years since, the teams Carr has been a part of have suffered just five losses.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask, ‘What happened, what changed?’” Carr said. “To be honest, it was me. I changed.
“We didn’t have the personnel to run the same offense, but I was so stubborn. That ’07 group probably made me the coach I am today.”
Carr now even has the paperwork to prove he has the ability to learn.
When he left Edgewood, Stanhope Elmore — his alma mater — was seeking a coach, but Stanhope’s required qualifications eliminated Carr from even being considered.
Over the next year, he was Glover’s offensive coordinator and not a head coach. With less responsibility, he took classes at Faulkner, despite his — relative to his classmates — advanced age.
His first day in a math class, Carr admits he was feeling anxiety before the professor put a problem on the board and asked Carr to solve it.
“I said, ‘If you draw a 4-3, cover 4 defense, I’ll show you how to score a touchdown, but there’s no way I can solve X to the Nth power divided by I over R,” Carr said.
“He says, ‘Relax, Old School, you’re going to get it.’ So, that was my nickname.”
Carr apparently did and made an A in the class.
The nickname stuck, too, all the way through his graduation with a business degree in August 2017.
“Did he finally get it?” Freeman said. “Great. That’s great for him.”
Carr did not go to his graduation ceremony and received his diploma in the mail. Carr has a picture of his diploma saved on his phone.
“Wouldn’t you if you were 108 like me?” he said.
Other schools tried to woo him both before graduation and have tried since, but he didn’t want Tripp, who is now a senior, to have to change schools again.
Carr won’t talk about the possibility, only saying that he’s committed to “continuing to develop young men to be great U.S. citizens.”
But, a degree in hand makes for opportunity.
“He would definitely be able to win, wherever he is,” Glover said. “I’m often asked if Bobby would have the same success if he were in public school.
“Unequivocally, the answer is yes. Unequivocally.”
Will he step down from his role as the AISA’s most-hated coach? Will Vader, at least this version, choose to end his reign?
“I kind of wonder what his next step will be,” Tripp said.
“I guess that’s what everyone is thinking.”