DALLAS – Thursday morning, exactly one week away from entering free agency, Brandon Carr was nervous.
The nine-year veteran cornerback wasn't nervous thinking about the enormous career decision that awaits him, though. He sat in the auditorium of Guzick Elementary School in Dallas where he prepared to read to first grade students. No stranger to the spotlight, Carr was dealing with a whole new audience.
"Oh man, first graders are a trough crowd," Carr joked. "They're hard to gauge sometimes. Definitely [performing] with the helmet off is way more nerve wrecking than with the helmet on."
His thoughts about impending free agency were more relaxed. "It's another exciting time," Carr said after getting through a few books with the kids. "It's another part of the journey. I'm going to sit down and make the best-informed decision we can make and just have fun with it."
Carr wasn't afraid to admit that he holds at least some preference to working out a deal that keeps him with the Cowboys after five seasons in Dallas. But he admitted that there's a business side to these types of situations.
"Of course. This is my childhood team," he said. "I love defending The Star. I love everything that comes with the Dallas Cowboys organization."
As Carr prepares to become an unrestricted free agent on March 9, he was hardly obligated to represent the Cowboys at a community event. But the notion of missing the appearance, which also included Cowboys legend Roger Staubach and his daughter Michelle Staubach Grimes, author of a recent children's book, never even occurred to Carr.
"Off the field I can't let anything business related affect what I do with the community," Carr said. "My first passion and my first love is to get out here with these kids and to give back first and foremost, so it doesn't matter where I'm suiting up or where duty calls."
If the reading does indeed turn out to be Carr's last appearance as a Dallas Cowboy it would be a fitting image of him. Carr's character and commitment to community work has put him in high regard in the Cowboys organization and the North Texas area, and it's no small part of why he is so respected and well liked across the league.
That same commitment is why Carr could confidently claim that Dallas-Fort Worth hasn't seen the last of him, even if he doesn't continue his NFL career in Dallas.
"I'm always going to be in the community giving back," Carr assured. "I've already said many times the Dallas community and the community of Flint, Michigan, are two communities where my foundations are going to implement themselves in strongly and are going to do a lot of great things for years to come. Regardless of what happens down the road I'm always going to be in the Dallas and DFW community with my foundation."
Last season Carr led a surprisingly formidable secondary that dealt with injuries as he completed a fifth straight season of 16 starts with the Cowboys. Dallas will have to make a decision when it comes to their continued investment in him. Likewise, Carr will likely gauge the market and weigh a number of factors.
"Community is big," Carr said of how he will prioritize his decision. "My family. Making sure we're comfortable. Just being in a great environment and a great community to play some football. Just keep it simple at that."
Regardless of what comes next, the first five years of Carr's time in Dallas will be associated with a certain level of professionalism.
"I just think that duty called and I accepted the challenge and did my job," he said. "It's a situation and environment that I actually liked. Some people don't like the environments they're called to go in."