Retirement would probably still be a long way off for Carson Palmer had he moved with his family to Connecticut back in 1996.
Instead, he pleaded with his parents to remain at Santa Margarita High School and continue developing as a quarterback in one of the premier training grounds in the nation.
Fast forward 22 years and Palmer is retiring as a 15-year veteran of the NFL, a former Heisman Trophy winner at USC and a proud family man.
“When I entered the league, I was a 23-year-old kid. I’m leaving it as a 38-year-old husband and father of four with memories and experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life,” he wrote in a statement upon announcing his retirement on Jan. 2. “And like most things in life, it feels like it passed in the blink of an eye.”
Palmer compiled a 92-88-1 record with the Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. He finished his career with 46,247 passing yards, 294 touchdowns and completion percentage of 62.5.
Palmer had his best season while playing for the Cardinals in 2015, passing for 4,671 yards and 35 touchdowns. He won his only postseason game that season.
“My family and I are grateful for everything this game has given us, as well as the love and support we’ve felt from fans everywhere we’ve been,” he wrote. “That’s been especially true in Arizona, where we never expected to end up, but has become such a special place for us.”
Palmer likely had no idea where he’d end up going to high school while growing up.
He was born in Fresno, lived in Colorado Springs for a stretch and then moved back to Fresno, where he began playing tackle football in the fifth grade.
The Palmers moved to Orange County when Carson was in seventh grade and his father, Bill, sought out former Mission Viejo High School coach Bob Johnson to train him as a quarterback.
“He said he usually only worked with high schoolers, but he was willing to take a look at Carson,” Bill Palmer told the OC Register back in 2002. “When we got to a workout they had, I think he was surprised by how big Carson already was and what he could do.”
Palmer’s size and strong arm already were so magnetic, varsity players would come watch him play for the freshman team at Santa Margarita.
After leading the Eagles to a 13-1 record and the CIF-SS Division V title as a junior in 1996, Bill Palmer received a financial planning job opportunity in New York.
The Palmers bought a house in Connecticut and began scouting high schools in the area. Carson even attended a football camp with his potential new teammates at Boston College.
“When I went to pick him up, I hoped he’d be excited about it and gung-ho about the move,” Bill Palmer said. “He was miserable. He said, ‘Dad, I’m the biggest guy on the team and they’re going to make me an offensive lineman. And the linemen don’t even lift. They just sit around and eat candy.’ “
Bill Palmer made the decision to take the new job, but sell the home in Connecticut and keep his family in Orange County. He made the long commute home on weekends to be with his family.
Palmer went on to win another section title his senior year and put together a strong career at USC, culminated by his Heisman-Trophy winning season in 2002.