Height: 6-5 Weight: 248 Age: 32
Born: 5/12/1984 St. Cloud , MN
College: Notre Dame
Selected By: Seattle Seahawks
Pick (Overall): 7 (38)
Carlson developed into one of the elite tight ends in the country at Notre Dame, even though few people even knew of him when he arrived at the university as the "other tight end" in the 2003 recruiting class that featured Chicago Bears' 2007 first-round pick Greg Olsen. Olsen later transferred to Miami (Fla.), leaving Carlson to spend two years battling for playing time behind Anthony Fasano.
When Fasano opted to leave school early to join the Dallas Cowboys, Carlson finally got his chance to be a full-time starter. Over his last two seasons, he would grab 87 of his career 100 receptions, totaling 1,006 of the 1,093 yards he gained during his time with the Fighting Irish. He also found the end zone seven times during that span, as he scored eight career touchdowns.
At Litchfield High School, Carlson was ranked 19th on the Detroit Free-Press 20-player Best of the Midwest team and was also named to the 10-member Super Preps team by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The four-year starter at tight end was a two-time All-State and three-time All-Conference selection, playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl after his senior season.
Carlson caught 41 passes for 471 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior in 2002, and made 79 tackles and two sacks at defensive end that year. For his career, he snared 95 passes for 1,331 yards and 23 touchdowns, adding 133 rushing attempts for 493 yards and seven scores, while also returning kicks. He scored 194 points and recorded 200 career tackles, including 96 solos.
In basketball, Carlson was a McDonald's preseason All-American as a senior and earned All-Conference and All-Area honors four straight seasons. He was the conference MVP as a junior and senior and played in the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association All-Star game. The starting center helped the team compile a 114-8 record during his career while winning the Minnesota Class 2A state title three times. He finished his prep career with 1,676 points, 974 rebounds and 412 assists.
Carlson also lettered in tennis, helping his team reach the state finals as a junior. He had a career record of 106-22 playing No. 1 doubles. The three-time All-Conference selection was a two-time participant in the individual state tennis tournament, earning four letters in the sport.
In 2003, Carlson spent his first season performing on the scout team at Notre Dame. He also appeared briefly in three games with the 2003-04 Irish basketball team, scoring two points on a pair of free throws and grabbing one defensive rebound. He was part of the rotation at tight end in 2004, starting two of 12 games, but saw most of his action on special teams. He recorded five tackles (four solo) on the coverage unit and made six catches for 31 yards (5.2-yard average).
Carlson was limited in 2005 preseason drills with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, but went on to start six of 12 games with Notre Dame utilizing a double-tight end formation. He managed to grab seven passes for 56 yards (8.0-yard average) and a score. On 263 special teams appearances, he registered 13 tackles (nine solo) and returned a kickoff 14 yards.
When Fasano turned pro, Carlson started 11 games during the 2006 season. He sat out the Army and Southern California contests after he suffered a right knee medial collateral ligament sprain vs. Air Force, but was still named a finalist for the John Mackey Award. The Sports Illustrated second-team All-American and ESPN Academic All-American pick snared a career-high 47 passes for 634 yards (13.5-yard average) and four touchdowns. He also registered four tackles (three solo) while participating with the special teams coverage units.
Carlson's senior year did not turn out as expected. Rated the best tight end in college, he was one of the few bright spots for a team that finished the season with a 3-9 record. He caught a pass in all 12 games, extending his consecutive reception string to 23 contests, as he led the Irish with 40 catches for 372 yards (9.3-yard average) and three touchdowns. He also recorded six tackles (four solo).
The coaching staff noticed during his senior year that Carlson was taking well to his captaincy role. "He's become much more vocal," head coach Charlie Weis said. "He's a quiet kid by nature. He still has the fire when he drops a pass in practice. But he's (filled) a vocal leadership void. All he wants to do is to do anything he can to give us the best chance of winning."
Selected to play in the 2008 Senior Bowl, Carlson was forced to miss the game after a mysterious flu-like virus sapped him of energy and almost 10 pounds during the week prior to the practices.
Carlson played in 47 games at Notre Dame, starting 31 contests. He finished his career with 100 receptions for 1,093 yards (10.9-yard average) and eight touchdowns. On special teams, he registered 28 tackles (20 solo) and returned one kickoff for 14 yards.