Carr was born in Fresno, California, the youngest of three children to Rodger and Sheryl Carr. He and his family lived in Bakersfield, California before relocating to Sugar Land, Texas, in 2002 when his oldest brother, David Carr, became the first overall draft pick of the then-expansion Houston Texans. Carr and his family moved back to Bakersfield for his senior year, and he attended Bakersfield Christian High School.
Carr's high school football career began at Clements High School in Sugar Land, Texas. After playing on the freshman team his first year, he became a backup quarterback on the varsity team as a sophomore. He didn't prepare himself to become the starting quarterback, but a preseason injury to another quarterback thrust him into the role.
Carr made gradual progress as a starter with Clements High School. He passed for 1,246 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore, and 1,622 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. While a junior, Carr led his team to an undefeated 13–0 season (playoffs included) before losing in the quarterfinals of the 2007 Class 5A Division 2 State playoffs in Region 3 to the (also undefeated) Katy High School Tigers, the eventual champions. Also during his junior year, Carr was heavily recruited. His college choices included Fresno State, SMU, Boise State, the University of Southern California, UCLA, and Utah. Of these schools, only Fresno State, SMU, and Utah made a scholarship offer towards Carr. Ultimately, he verbally committed to Fresno State on May 25, 2008, at the end of his junior year. Carr was the program's first recruit of the 2009 class.
In 2008, Bakersfield Christian High School athletic director and former NFL player Doug Barnett confirmed that Carr would transfer to BCHS, amid rumors that he would have gone to nearby Stockdale High School or Bakersfield High School, two schools with historically good football programs.
As a senior, Carr led the Eagles football team to a 12–1 record and the California Interscholastic Federation Central Section Division V championship; the only blemish came at home against Oaks Christian High School, a national football powerhouse, during the team's season opener. On October 29, 2008, Carr was selected by ESPN RISE as the National Football Player of the Week after passing for 441 yards and three touchdowns in a game against Tehachapi High School five days earlier. Carr would eventually set a Central Section record by throwing 544 yards in a win against Arvin High School on November 7, 2008. Carr was also selected by The Bakersfield Californian as the 2008 All-Area Football Player of the Year. Carr also set a new school record when he passed for 6 touchdowns and ran for 2 in a blowout win against small school Fowler High at home. After the game, reporter Mark Whaler asked Derek, "How did things click so easy?" Carr replied with, "It was like playing a video game. When a person sets their attributes to 99 all the way around, you can pass and run all over the team. Today just felt like a video game against Fowler High." After his high school football career finished, Carr was named the National Player of the Year by the National Private Schools Athletic Association in 2009.
Statistics from Rivals.com
Carr enrolled as an early-entry freshman for the spring semester at Fresno State in 2009 so he could participate in spring football with the Bulldogs. Then-Fresno State head coach Pat Hill stated that Carr, a true freshman, was "in the mix" for the starting quarterback position as late as mid-July. However, days before the 2009 season began in September, Hill announced junior Ryan Colburn would start over Carr.
After redshirting his 2010 season, Carr took over the starting quarterback position for Fresno State in the fall of 2011. During his three years as a starter, he threw for 12,843 passing yards and 113 touchdowns.
Carr received the 2013 CFPA Elite QB Award for his performance over three seasons at Fresno State. He joined fellow Bakersfield native Phillip Thomas as the school's second CFPA winner.
In 2013, Carr won the Sammy Baugh Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate passer. He joined Trent Dilfer and David Carr as the only other Fresno State quarterbacks to win the trophy. He finished in 8th place in the Heisman Trophy voting.
While at Fresno State, he wore number 4 as an homage to his favorite NFL player, Brett Favre.
Carr was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the 2nd round of the 2014 NFL Draft with the 36th overall pick. On May 16, he was assigned his requested number of 4. On May 21, he was signed to a 4-year, $5.37 million contract with a $2.2 million signing bonus.
On August 28, Carr impressed the coaches and fans in the Raiders' fourth and final preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, after coming into the game as the backup to Matt Schaub and taking the Raiders down the field for three touchdowns in the first quarter, then throwing another touchdown on their next possession of the second quarter, before being relieved. For his short playing time in the game he went 11/13 for 143 yards and 3 TD's for a nearly perfect quarterback rating.
On September 1, Raiders head coach Dennis Allen announced that Carr would start over Matt Schaub in the team's opener against the New York Jets, and mentioned that the decision was not week-to-week; Carr would be the Raiders starting quarterback moving forward. Carr therefore became the first rookie quarterback in Raiders history to start a season opener, and was also the only rookie quarterback from the 2014 draft class to start in week one.
Carr made his first career regular season start against the New York Jets on September 7. During his pro debut, he passed for 151 yards and two touchdowns. The Raiders were unsuccessful during his debut and lost to the Jets 19–14. In Week 4 against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium, Carr left the game due to a high ankle sprain and MCL sprain. He was relieved by Matt McGloin but the Raiders still couldn't find their momentum, losing to the Dolphins 38-14.
On October 12, in his fifth start of his career versus division the rival San Diego Chargers, Carr made history by setting a new Oakland Raiders franchise record for the most passing touchdowns in a single regular season game by a rookie with four. This surpassed the previous record of three passing touchdowns which was set by Matt McGloin during his rookie campaign in 2013 versus the Houston Texans. Additionally, Carr set single game personal records for passing yards by throwing for 282 yards, and for total passer rating which amounted to 107.7. Although Carr had a career day, the Oakland Raiders ultimately were defeated by the San Diego Chargers by the final score of 31-28.
On November 20, Carr won his first NFL game by leading the previously winless Raiders to a 24-20 upset win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday Night Football. The Raiders trailed the Chiefs 20-17 early in the 4th quarter, but Carr led them on an 80-yard drive that lasted just over 7 minutes. The 4th quarter comeback ended with Carr throwing a game winning touchdown pass that put them up 24-20 with just under 1:40 to play. The Raiders would go on to get their first victory of the season. On December 7, Carr led the Raiders to a 24-13 victory over the visiting San Francisco 49ers. Carr posted a 140.2 rating, the highest for a Raiders quarterback since 2001.
Carr finished his rookie season with 3,270 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He became the first Raiders quarterback to start all 16 games since Rich Gannon in 2002.
On September 13, during the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, Carr exited the game early with an injury to his throwing hand. The MRI was negative and Carr returned to start in Week 2 against the Baltimore Ravens. The Raiders won 37-33 to get their first win of the season. Carr had a career day as he threw over 350 yards and three touchdowns and most importantly threw the game winning touchdown to Seth Roberts with 26 seconds remaining. Carr continued his dominance into week three against the Cleveland Browns. He threw for 314 yards as he led the Raiders to a 27-20 win. Carr had another dominant performance in week 7 on the road against the San Diego Chargers as he threw for 289 yards and 3 touchdowns, putting up a 137.7 passer rating. Carr threw for 333 yards and 4 touchdowns and a 130.9 passer rating in a win against the New York Jets the next week. On January 20, it was announced that he would be replacing Aaron Rodgers for the 2016 Pro Bowl. He became the first Raiders quarterback to be named to the Pro Bowl since Rich Gannon in 2002. After two seasons, Carr had 53 career touchdown passes, the second most by a quarterback in his first two seasons, behind Dan Marino's 68. Carr was ranked 100th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.
During Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carr finished with 513 passing yards, a franchise record, and four touchdowns as the Raiders won 30–24 in overtime. In a Week 9 game against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, Carr led the Raiders to a 30-20 victory on a Sunday Night to take sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
During Week 11 against the Houston Texans at Estadio Azteca, Carr completed 21 of 31 pass attempts for 295 yards and three touchdowns as the Raiders won 27-20. He surpassed 10,000 career passing yards and helped the Raiders take back sole possession of the division lead from the Kansas City Chiefs.
The following week versus the Carolina Panthers, Carr dislocated the pinkie on his throwing hand and had to miss a series. He returned the next drive with a glove on his hand and finished the game, which resulted in a 35-32 victory. The win brought the Raiders to 9-2 and clinched their first winning season since 2002.
On December 18, with a 19-16 win over the San Diego Chargers, Carr led the Raiders to clinch their first playoff berth since 2002.
Carr was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl on December 20, 2016, but an injury prevented him from participating.
On December 24, in Week 16, Carr left the Raiders eventual 33-25 win against the Indianapolis Colts with a leg injury. Head coach Jack Del Rio announced after the game that Carr suffered a broken fibula and that he would be out "indefinitely." The expected recovery time is six to eight weeks. This presumably made Matt McGloin the team's starter for the rest of the season. McGloin was injured in the following Week 17 loss against the Denver Broncos. Connor Cook, the third-string quarterback when the season began, was the starter for the first round of the playoffs. There was a small chance that Carr could return if the Raiders were able to get to Super Bowl LI, but the Raiders lost to the Houston Texans, 27-14, in the Wild Card Round, ending their season. In 15 starts in the 2016 season, Carr finished the year with 3,937 passing yards and 28 touchdowns.
Carr married Heather Neel on June 29, 2012. The couple have a son named Dallas (born August 5, 2013) who was born with a medical condition that tied up his intestines and required three surgeries to correct. The couple's second son, Deker Luke Carr, was born on March 16, 2016.
Carr self-identifies as a Christian, and has said his faith is the most important thing in his life. He has tattoos on his wrists, the left citing a verse from the Biblical Book of Jeremiah and the right depicting a Chi Rho.
Carr's brother, David, was the first overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. Carr's uncle, Lon Boyett, played for the Raiders during the 1978 season.