Carter Finally Headed Where He Belongs
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Apparently the sixth time is the charm, or at least it was for Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter.
He can call himself that now because the former Eagle, Viking and Dolphin is finally headed to Canton; just up the road about three hours from where he grew up in Middletown, Ohio.
“This is the happiest day of my life,” Carter said Sunday after he was announced as one of seven members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2013 class.
“When people said, 'Aw, you know, it really doesn't matter, you're a Hall of Famer in my eyes,' I said, 'It's more important that I'm a Hall of Famer in the Hall's eyes.' And I really, really wanted this.”
Carter finished his career No. 2 behind only the great Jerry Rice in career receptions (1,101) and touchdowns (130) by a receiver. He was later passed by Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss and Terrell Owens for some of those honors, but he is still one of only two players (Wes Welker) in NFL history to record 120+ receptions in a season twice (1994-95).
Carter was a consensus All-American at Ohio State in the mid 1980s and a Pro Bowl receiver in the NFL in the 1990s. He wasn’t always a favorite of the media, which explains why it took him 11 years before he was finally elected to the Hall of Fame, but Carter is most assuredly deserving of the honor.
A fourth-round selection in the 1987 supplemental draft, Carter would put up staggering numbers during his 16-year career in the NFL. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection (1993-2000) and a two-time first-team All-Pro.
Carter was the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1999 and the Minnesota Vikings have retired his No. 80 jersey after he spent 11 seasons wearing the purple and gold. He ranks fourth in NFL history in receptions (1,101), fourth in receiving touchdowns (130) and ninth in receiving yards (13,899).
He also left Ohio State as the school’s all-time leader in receptions (168) despite missing his senior season in Columbus after signing with notorious sports agent Norby Walters.
“When I went to Ohio State, they taught us good football,” Carter said Sunday as a host on ESPN’s pre-Super Bowl coverage.
“My journey wasn't a journey for the Hall of Fame. My journey was the type of journey where a guy winds up either locked up or dead or doing something like that. When God has something for you, nothing's going to be able to stop it.”
As a freshman with the Buckeyes, Carter set a Rose Bowl record with 172 receiving yards in 1984. That team went 9-3 under Earle Bruce but lost to USC, 20-17, in Pasadena despite Carter’s heroic efforts.
Carter caught eight touchdowns that season as a freshman and eight more as a sophomore in 1985. He led the Buckeyes with 58 catches for 950 yards that season, despite the fact quarterback Jim Karsatos only threw for 2,300 yards all season.
As a junior in 1986, Carter put together one of the finest season in OSU history during any era. He went over the 1,000-yard mark with 69 receptions for 1,127 yards and 11 touchdowns, totaling 27 scoring catches for his three-year career.
He would go on to immediate success in the NFL, scoring a pair of touchdowns as a rookie in 1987 and six more as a second-year guy with the Eagles in 1988. He caught 39 passes that year for 761 yards and led the team with 11 touchdown catches the following season, but Carter had a falling out with Philadelphia head coach Buddy Ryan (father of Rex and Rob Ryan).
That’s where Carter’s journey could have taken a completely different path. He was consuming large amounts of alcohol at that point, along with both ecstasy and marijuana. His life was at a breaking point, but Carter caught on with Minnesota in 1990 and the rest is history.
He turned his life around and became one of the great receivers of his era during the 1990s. He had 72 catches in ’91 for 962 yards and five scores. His true breakout season came two years later, when Carter snagged 86 passes for 1,071 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Vikings signed Warren Moon to play quarterback that offseason, and Carter’s career took off. He led the league with 122 catches the following season and went for over 1,200 yards in his first season catching passes from Moon.
It would be the start of a seven-year run for Carter where he topped the 1,000-yard mark as a receiver. His best season in the NFL came in 1995. That was the year he caught 122 passes for 1,371 yards and a league-high 17 touchdowns.
He had double-digit scores in each of the next four seasons, solidifying his place as one of the great pass-catchers in NFL history. He played with Brad Johnson and then Randall Cunningham at quarterback.
It was with Cunningham in 1998 that Minnesota went 15-1 during the regular season. They drafted Randy Moss in the first round, and both he and Carter went over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns while the Vikings set an NFL record with 556 points.
In 2000, when he was 35 years old, Carter went over the 1,200-yard mark for the second-straight season. He was still one of the best in the business, though his career in Minnesota would last just one more season.
He played out the final year of his NFL career in Miami with the Dolphins during the 2002 season.
The 2013 induction ceremony will take place on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013.
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