CINCINNATI — Jackson Carman's journey with the Cincinnati Bengals began when he joyously saw the '513' area code appear on an incoming phone call from the team during the NFL Draft.
Nearly nine months later, the rookie offensive lineman and Fairfield High School graduate lifted rookie kicker Evan McPherson off the Paul Brown Stadium turf Jan. 2 to celebrate the AFC North title and a playoff berth.
"Most emotion I've ever felt from Cincinnati or anything honestly," Carman said. "It's, like, incredible to watch. Just everyone just buzzing and cheering, just like the good vibes."
Carman has felt those vibes in a whirlwind season of sorts as the Bengals attempt to win their first playoff game on Saturday since 1991.
"Man, it's been awesome," Carman said. "It's just been a tremendous learning experience. For us to be able to do this especially in my first year is just awesome. So I'm really blessed to be in the position that I'm in."
Carman, a 2021 second-round pick from Clemson, has appeared in all 17 games for the Bengals including six starts.
Carman started the regular-season finale at Cleveland in what was a primer for the Bengals' Wild Card playoff matchup against visiting Las Vegas this Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m. kickoff).
"Our young players have really come on," Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. "Jackson played well at left guard the other day in the game against Cleveland. I thought he did some nice things."
Carman said he's improved in every area on the offensive line, including getting acclimated to the significant amount of work it takes to succeed throughout 17-plus weeks.
"Coming into the NFL there is a lot of information and a lot of learning," Carman said. "And I feel like over the course of this season I've definitely progressed. I've definitely gotten better in every area."
Fairfield High School football coach Jason Krause said Carman is meticulous in studying details about his first step, hand placement and opposing defensive schemes.
"I couldn't be more proud of him," Krause said. "He's battled through some injuries. Just keeps grinding, man. We're excited that he's doing what he's doing and so proud of him and excited for the Bengals."
Carman said Krause is one of the most influential people for him, adding that the Fairfield coach has consistently helped him in football and in life.
A five-star player at Fairfield, Carman committed to Clemson in December 2017 and completed one of the most publicized college football recruiting journeys ever in Greater Cincinnati.
Carman and Krause text each other each week to stay connected throughout a football season. Krause made the trip to Cleveland this past weekend in support of his former player.
"Fairfield football is where I really started picking up liking football," Carman said. "The ball really started rolling. I was like, 'Wow, I can make a career out of this.' And so just the level of physicality I feel like we had in the GMC (Greater Miami Conference) definitely helped prepare me for anything that we were going to face beyond that because we hit down there at Fairfield. People know that."
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