GREEN BAY -- The first thing everyone wants to know about is the nickname.
After all, it has come to define him. When the University of Arkansas was recruiting him, one of the coaches was driving a Batmobile. He has the Batsignal tattooed on his arm. Even his own mother calls him Batman, or Bat for short.
But ask Ahmad "Batman" Carroll for the story behind the superhero moniker, and it also leads to a snapshot of the family life that's allowed him to be where he is today.
"I started playing football when I was 5," the 20-year-old cornerback said Sunday, one day after the Green Bay Packers selected him in the first round of the NFL draft. "And I was forced to play by my dad.
"I didn't want to play, so I thought if I jumped offside they'd take me out of the game. One time, I jumped over the center (and into the quarterback), and everybody just said, 'You think you're Batman, huh?' So they just started calling me that."
Arthur Carroll remembers it a bit differently.
He recalls Ahmad watching his older brother, Ayinde, play football and begging to play, too. After Arthur and his wife, Carolyn, bought all of Ahmad's equipment, the boy changed his mind, in clear violation of a Carroll family rule.
"He wanted to try it. We never forced him," Arthur said from the family's home in Atlanta. "But I also told him, 'Once you start something, you finish it. After this year, if you don't want to play anymore, that's fine, but let's stick it out for a while.'
"The second or third game, he made a big play, and all the people started clapping. And that's all it took."
And Ahmad's parents, who are flight attendants for Northwest Airlines, have been there every step of the way since. Carolyn has never missed one of Ahmad's games, in high school or college, and Arthur has only missed one. They're already planning to use their Northwest flying privileges to attend all of his games this year.
When their three kids were young -- Ayinde is 26 now, while their daughter Lakeysha, who lives in Milwaukee, is 31 -- Arthur and Carolyn would coordinate their flight schedules to maximize their time at home, fostering the family environment they felt was vital.
"I'm not Ward Cleaver or anything," said Arthur, who met Carolyn when they were both enrolled at Metropolitan Community College in Minneapolis. "It's just something that we wanted to do. I just wish all families were like that."
That's why Carolyn would provide Ahmad's daily 6:30 a.m. wake-up call for his early-morning workouts in college. That's why there were 80 people at the Carroll's house Saturday to hear Ahmad's name called on ESPN. That's why Arthur, who grew up in Minneapolis and still has two brothers and a sister there, has already circled the Packers' Christmas Eve game with the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome on his calendar.
And that's why Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman liked Carroll enough to make him the 25th pick in the draft.
"One of the first things I asked him in the interview was, 'Tell me how you got to this point in your life. Who's important in your life?' "Sherman said of his conversation with Carroll at the NFL scouting combine in February. "You try to cut through the B.S., and this kid didn't have any B.S. to him. If my gut was right, we got a good player."
There's more to succeeding in the NFL than good character, however, and with disgruntled cornerback Mike McKenzie having demanded a trade and expected to miss this week's post-draft minicamp -- as well as the June camp and perhaps training camp, too -- Carroll will have to be ready to start if called upon.
He'll also have to prove the Packers right by playing bigger than his 5-foot-10 height when he matches up against taller receivers like Minnesota's Randy Moss and Detroit Lions' first-round pick Roy Williams.
But Sherman is confident Carroll will succeed because of what he's learned about his work ethic and family values -- abstractions that Sherman holds dear even though they cannot be measured like Carroll's 4.37-second 40-yard dash time.
"There are a lot of guys that have talent but not character. If you said to me, 'Identify character,' I would say it means that you're honest, you do what you're supposed to do when you're supposed to do it, you give an honest day's work for an honest day's pay," Sherman said. "That doesn't mean they always go to church on Sunday, it means they work. And they get it. People with character usually get it, and people who don't have character usually don't.
"So is it important to me? Yeah, it's important to me. Is it more important than talent? No. You draft talent, talent finds character and it's a pretty damn good combination."
Sherman: Sander was worth the sacrifice
Mike Sherman knows his decision to take Ohio State punter B.J. Sander in the third round of the NFL draft late Saturday won't be a popular one, at least in the short term.
But Sherman doesn't care, especially if Sander turns out to be the punter that the Green Bay Packers coach and general manager thinks he will.
"I know (the decision to draft) the punter will be criticized, but he's a hell of a punter, and I couldn't care less," Sherman said after the seven-round draft concluded Sunday with the Packers taking just two players -- Arkansas State defensive tackle Corey Williams in the sixth round and Tennessee center Scott Wells in the seventh.
"If he ends up being the guy, then you go get him. You can sit back and be conservative and let things fall your way and hope it works out, but if I like a guy, if there's a guy there that I think can help our team, I'll do something to push that along."
Even if it costs Sherman the chance to draft other players.
The Packers not only had to give Miami their fourth- and fifth-round picks (Nos. 102 and 153) to move up to take Sander, but taking him so high also meant passing on other positions of need -- namely a tight end and a pass-rushing defensive end.
The pick hearkened back to then-GM Ron Wolf's decision to draft Penn State kicker Brett Conway in the third round of the 1997 draft. Conway was a bust, and if not for the emergence of undrafted rookie free agent Ryan Longwell, who is now the club's all-time leading scorer, the Conway selection could have been a disaster.
Asked if a punter merited such a high pick, Sherman replied, "When we open up the season, (if) we don't have a punter we feel like we can trust, there's a tremendous amount of value there at that time. I think this punter has the ability to be a special punter. … I felt pretty (sure) that he would be gone when we were picking in the fourth round."
John Dorsey, who was in his first year as the Packers' college scouting director in 1997, remembered the Conway pick but said Sander was worth giving up the two other picks, which meant the Packers didn't draft a player until the 83rd pick Sunday.
Williams went with that pick, and the Packers traded up to get him, too.
They traded the sixth-round pick (No. 188) that they received from Dallas for Terry Glenn and their own seventh-round pick (No. 226) to San Francisco to take Williams, who battled through ankle injuries during an unproductive senior year.
That left the Packers with just one pick in the final round, which Sherman used on Wells, an overachieving but undersized lineman who Sherman hopes can play both center and guard. Wells was the only offensive player of the Packers' six selections on the weekend.
"I wasn't bound and determined (to take an offensive player), but I certainly wanted to help our offensive line," Sherman said.
Quarterback pool isn't deep enough
Another year of talking about possibly drafting a successor to quarterback Brett Favre, another NFL draft without actually picking one for the Green Bay Packers.
After watching Saturday as Mississippi's Eli Manning, North Carolina State's Philip Rivers, Miami of Ohio's Ben Roethlisberger and Tulane's J.P. Losman went in the first round and Virginia's Matt Schaub went in the third, the Packers had little interest in any of the remaining quarterbacks on the board Sunday.
"There were five quarterbacks there" that interested the Packers, college scouting director John Dorsey said. "We had four of them (rated) in the first round, and the fifth one we had down in the third round."
That's exactly where they went, and while Louisiana Tech's Luke McCown (fourth round to Cleveland) and Ohio State's Craig Krenzel (fifth round to Chicago) were gone before the Packers picked Sunday, they weren't interested in any of the 10 quarterbacks who went in the last two rounds.
"I did not want to just throw away a draft pick," Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman said.
Sherman said the team would sign undrafted rookie Scott McBrien, who started 27 games for Maryland the past two years and led the Terrapins to 21 victories, the most in school history. However, McBrien is undersized (6-foot, 188 pounds) and is a project.
"He really was an effective quarterback in (Maryland's) system," Sherman said.
Sherman reported no progress in the club's pursuit of a trade for Cleveland Browns quarterback Tim Couch, who has yet to agree to a contract with the Packers.
Sherman said it wasn't vital that a deal get done before the start of the post-draft minicamp Wednesday, but he did admit that he's concerned that Couch could have other suitors now that the draft is over.
Sherman also said veteran backup Doug Pederson, who is an unrestricted free agent, could be re-signed in time for Wednesday's practice.
The funniest moment of the day came when Sherman introduced first-round pick Ahmad Carroll at an afternoon news conference.
As the two held Carroll's No. 28 jersey and posed for photos, the 6-3 Sherman towered over the 5-10 Carroll, so Sherman scrunched down until he was the same height as his team's No. 1 pick.
Later, Carroll said he wasn't concerned about going up against much taller receivers such as Minnesota's Randy Moss (6-4) and Detroit first-round pick Roy Williams (6-3).
"No problem," said Carroll, who has a 41-inch vertical leap.