Mason Carr is a three-sport athlete at Pekin and the starting quarterback this season for the football team.
He also has type 1 diabetes. He tests his blood sugar four or five times a day, as many as six times on game day. He gives himself an insulin shot after each meal.
An emergency kit is available every time Carr plays in a football or basketball game or competes in a track meet. Thankfully, he hasn’t had to use it.
Carr is proof that diabetes doesn’t have to be a game-changer when it comes to participating in sports. He doesn’t mind being a role model for others with the disease.
“You can’t be afraid of diabetes. You need to embrace it and own it because it’s part of your life,” he said.
Diabetes has been a part of Carr’s life since his diagnosis when he was a second-grader at Jefferson Primary School. He was having troubles staying awake and going to be bathroom too often, classic symptoms of diabetes.
Heredity often is a cause of the disease, but Carr’s parents don’t have diabetes. Neither does his sister.
Carr will be a four-year football letter-winner by the end of this season. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound senior was a standout safety on defense the past two seasons, but he won’t be playing much defense this year.
“Mason is a competitor. He wants to be a two-way guy,” said Pekin coach Doug Nutter. “But our quarterback takes a lot of hits because we want him to run a lot, so we don’t want Mason playing defense a lot. Guys will step up on defense in Mason’s absence. We won’t skip a beat.”
Carr wouldn’t complain about getting some snaps on defense.
“I love playing defense,” he said. “I’m sure the coaches get ticked at me every time I ask in practice to play defense.”
The last Pekin starting QB to also play defense was Caleb Huss in 2011.
Playing on special teams also probably is going to be a rare experience for Carr. He was on all of them except kickoff coverage last year.
Carr is a solid runner and passer and he has some experience playing quarterback on his resume. He took over for the injured Nick Campbell in the Dragons’ regular-season finale against Limestone in 2015 and he started in the state playoff game against Batavia.
“Mason has a new role this year. He’s the leader of our offense after being a leader of our defense,” Nutter said.
Julian Hill gives Carr a great weapon. The speedy senior caught 29 passes for 342 yards and five touchdowns and he ran 29 times for 219 yards and one touchdown last season, earning All-Mid-Illini Conference honors.
Cameron Whitford (19 catches, 201 yards) is a sure-handed receiver. Michael Dickey, Sam McClain and Tylor Pearson also will be passing targets.
“I trust all those guys to make plays, but it is nice having a track star (Hill) to get the ball to,” Carr said.
Garrett Liggett, Ian Stubblefield, Hill and Dickey will share the running load with Carr.
“We’ll have a running game by committee this season,” Nutter said.
Sebastian Fuller was the Dragons’ main guy on the ground the past 2 1/2 seasons. He rushed for 1,141 yards and 11 touchdowns last year, averaging 126.8 yards per game, and is now playing collegiately at Eureka College.
About half of Pekin’s linemen are returnees.
Nutter tries to avoid having two-way players (“if we had 22 different starters, that would be great,” he said) but he’ll have a handful again this fall.
They are linemen Cody Hunt and Ryan Salazar, Hill and Dickey. The latter two will be in the defensive secondary. Linebacker Cole Gianessi also is expected to be a strength on defense.
Pekin made the state playoffs last year after missing the post-season in 2014, but it was a short stay. The Dragons went on the road and lost 56-7 to eventual quarterfinalist Batavia.
Two excruciating three-point losses caused mainly by self-inflected wounds — 10-7 to Dunlap and 25-22 to Metamora — left Pekin with a final 5-4 regular-season record instead of 7-2 last year and probably cost the Dragons a first-round home playoff game.
Pekin will open this season with two tough non-conference opponents before it dives into Mid-Illini Conference competition. Oak Forest (9-2) and Sterling (8-3) were playoff qualifiers last year.
Four of the eight Mid-Illini teams made the playoffs last year including conference champion and state quarterfinal Washington.