CJ Carr and his brother, Tommy, are bound by the shared grief of losing their younger sibling, Chad. While their tremendous loss has altered the course of their lives, they discovered an unexpected strength in each other that has taught them how to tackle life challenges in a unique way. United by memories of their little brother, CJ and Tommy carry forward the legacy of Chad’s enduring spirit, inspiring them to cherish every moment, honor the past, and face the future with resilience and a profound appreciation for life.
CJ and Tommy were just 9 and 6 years old, respectively, when their parents sat them down and told them their little brother Chad had been diagnosed with a deadly type of brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). Their parents, Tammi and Jason Carr, were determined to fight Chad’s disease, but their unwavering resolve was matched with the grim realization that, despite their fervent efforts, Chad’s time with his brothers was likely limited.
As Chad battled over the next 14 months, CJ and Tommy found themselves facing an unimaginable reality and spent as much time as they could sharing precious moments with their baby brother. They helplessly watched their parents’ hearts slowly break and relied on each other for strength and support to get through the darkest of hours. And then, on November 23, 2015, Chad’s battle came to an end, leaving behind a void that echoed the depth of their loss.
CJ and Tommy will always remember Chad’s infectious enthusiasm and endless determination to be included in his older brothers’ adventures — never taking no for an answer. They smile recalling “Boys Night” every Saturday, a ritual etched into their hearts. Alongside their father, the trio would spend the night in the basement, indulging in pizza and late nights watching Chad’s favorite TV show, Naked and Afraid, a secret shared with their mom none the wiser.
The Carr family continues to honor Chad’s legacy by hosting RunTough for ChadTough Defeat DIPG, a 5K and 1M Fun Run that raises money for DIPG research. The annual event is a way to celebrate Chad’s September 26th birthday and to bring awareness during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month for the disease that took his life. This special day illustrates how the Carr family strives to turn pain into progress, their enduring love a beacon of hope for other families in the fight.
The Carr family first established The ChadTough Foundation in 2015 in an effort to raise money for childhood brain cancer research, with an emphasis on DIPG. In 2021, the Carrs united with another family with the same mission and vision, forming the ChadTough Defeat DIPG Foundation. Today, Tommy and CJ marvel at what the foundation has accomplished in raising awareness and research funding for the disease that took their brother.
As grandsons of the legendary Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, who guided the program from 1995–2007, and the maternal grandson of Tom Curtis, a former All American and College Football Hall of Fame Michigan safety, football is part of CJ and Tommy’s DNA. The brothers can usually be found with a ball within reach. This summer the boys have been gearing up for the Saline High School football season, with CJ as the starting quarterback and Tommy as his backup.
This fall, CJ will play his final season of high school football. He will graduate early and then head to Notre Dame in the spring. There, CJ will join the Fighting Irish as a quarterback in the class of 2024. Tommy teases that he’s looking forward to CJ’s move to South Bend, hinting at plans to take over both his bedroom and his position as starting quarterback. They both laugh, but share a glance that speaks volumes about their unbreakable bond that was forged through the crucible of loss.
More About CJ Carr
During intense training sessions, Chad is never far from CJ’s mind. He thinks about those dark days when his little brother was constantly going in for pokes and prods but always came home with a smile. Etched on the inside of his wrist is the name CHAD, reminding him to always be positive and never forget the life lessons his baby brother taught him.
CJ rose to football stardom as a sophomore at Saline High School and entered his junior season last year with all eyes on him after committing to Notre Dame. At 6’3” tall and 200 pounds, the quarterback is known as a cerebral player who studies and thinks the game. 247Sports ranked CJ the No. 1 overall prospect in Michigan for 2024 and the No. 5 quarterback in the country.
CJ has competed with the nation’s best passers at several events, including the prestigious Elite 11 competition, which showcases the best quarterbacks in the nation. Former Michigan Wolverine Devin Gardner, one of the Elite 11 coaches, noted that “CJ was one of the more pure passers that we saw there,” and in an article in The Athletic compared CJ’s arm angles to NFL quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Sports Illustrated called CJ “a combination of outstanding talent and exceptional football intelligence. Carr has everything you want in a modern quarterback.”
More About Tommy Carr
Standing just a tad taller than his older brother (a popular topic of debate between the brothers), Tommy has demonstrated incredible talent on the basketball court, playing for Saline High School. Since playing backup quarterback to CJ, Tommy is also starting to shine on the football field, and sports enthusiasts are eager to watch him grow. The anticipation surges as he prepares to potentially inherit the coveted role of starting quarterback, stepping into CJ’s cleats after he journeys to Notre Dame.
Beyond his formidable presence on the football field, Tommy has always had a variety of unique interests beyond sports that defy his young age. During his tween years, he began to learn woodworking skills by watching YouTube videos. His parents watched as Tommy’s hobby turned into true craftsmanship, and they fostered his artistry by allowing him to build things around their house. Tommy can also often be found with a pair of clippers in hand as a line of fellow athletes and friends gather in the Carrs’ garage, waiting their turn for a haircut. This spring, Tommy stands on the precipice of a new chapter, the absence of his brothers at home presenting a new phase in his life journey. A bright future awaits, illuminated by creativity, determination, and an unwavering spirit.