FRESNO -- They were kids when they first saw the dream nearly materialize.
On the sidelines during the 2001 season, Derek Carr and Travis Brown followed Fresno State as it ascended as high as No. 8 in the national rankings and became the nation's Cinderella story -- only to later fall from the spotlight.
Eight years full of different Bulldogs heartaches later, Carr and Brown hope to return Fresno State to an elite national level again and offer promise at a time the program desperately needs hope of a better future.
Carr -- the ex-Bakersfield Christian High quarterback and younger brother of Bulldogs great David Carr, who led that 2001 charge -- and Brown -- the ferocious Clovis West linebacker and son of Bulldogs defensive coordinator Dan Brown -- anchor Fresno State's 2009 signing class of 17 players that was announced Wednesday on national signing day.
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"I saw what David did and how close he got," Carr said. "There has always been some part of me, a little chip on my shoulder, wanting to finish it for him."
In Carr and Brown, who were both rated four-star recruits by Scout.com's five-star system, Fresno State appears to have solidified its offensive and defensive pillars of the future.
Perhaps as soon as next season.
Carr already is enrolled at Fresno State this semester and will participate in spring camp to challenge for the starting quarterback spot.
"Absolutely," coach Pat Hill said when asked if Carr had a shot to start next season. "It's wide open."
Brown, who remains at Clovis West, will join the Bulldogs during summer camp but still might have a good chance of playing considering the linebacker position was Fresno State's shallowest position last year.
"This guy is a special, special player," Hill said as he watched and narrated Brown's highlight footage. "Sometimes you just got to let the young lions eat. ... I think he will be an impact player for us early in his career."