An outstanding athlete at Arvin High School, Bakersfield College and the University of Colorado, Tarver played three seasons for the New England Patriots from 1972-74 after he was selected in the sixth round (No. 166 overall) by the Patriots in the 1972 NFL Draft. He also played a season for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In his career, Tarver rushed for 574 yards and seven touchdowns, adding 34 receptions for 214 yards and one TD as a receiver.
At BC, Tarver rushed for more than 1,700 yards in two seasons. He was an All Metropolitan Conference running back as a sophomore, where he helped BC to a 10-1 season. As a freshman he led the Metro in rushing and scoring.
At Colorado, Tarver rushed for 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns in two seasons. In 1970, he had 623 yards and eight touchdowns, including the go-ahead TD in Colorado’s win over Penn State, the Nittany Lions’ first loss in 35 games.
As a senior in 1971, Tarver rushed for 677 yards and six touchdowns and was named to the College All-Star team at the end of the season. He had major contributions in wins at LSU and Ohio State. Colorado broke Ohio State’s 19-game home winning streak. He was never tackled for a loss in 122 carries that season. That remains a school record for most carries without a loss in a season.
Five of Tarver's six children each earned Pac-12 athletic scholarships: Sons Shon (UCLA basketball), Josh and Seth (both Oregon State basketball), Zach (Oregon State football) and daughter Taryn (Oregon track and field).
Following his NFL career, he became a medical representative for Ciba Pharmaceutical Company. He later was a director for Golden State Schools, a trade and technical school, for seven years. He completed his working career as a business consultant in the insurance industry with small businesses as a target market.
Tarver has always been involved with some type of community service: Coaching youth sports, and becoming a long-term member of the Lions sight and hearing organization. He also served as a mentor for at-risk youth. He says his greatest pleasure in life was "raising his family." He says, "If you invest time with your children it pays dividends."
He now lives in Portland, Oregon.