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August 3, 2013

Time and Change: Cris Carter

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This is a very timely installment of Time and Change as we have the chance to visit with, in my opinion, the greatest receiver in Buckeye history, Cris Carter. For those who have not been keeping track, Carter is being inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.

I believe it is clear that aside from all the records, awards and experiences, the most important thing to Cris Carter is people.

Carter is in the top-three of most Ohio State receiving records and without a doubt, made some of the most spectacular catches we have ever seen.

Through the years other Buckeye greats such as Michael Jenkins, David Boston, Santonio Holmes and Terry Glenn have passed Carter in various statistics. But let us keep in mind that Ohio State did not have pass friendly offenses in the during Carter's playing days as they did in the days of Ohio State's more recent record holders. And let's not forget that Cris was also forced to leave Ohio State after violating NCAA rules by signing with notorious sports agent Norby Walters while he was still an active player.

Carter was selected in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1987 National Football League Supplemental Draft and after three years, became the Eagles leading receiver. Carter then had a falling out with coach Buddy Ryan and was a surprise cut following the 1989 season. Carter later admitted that Ryan released him because of alcohol and drug abuse and credits his former coach with helping him turn his life around as a result.

"All he does is catch touchdown passes." Those were the famous words uttered by Ryan on the day Chris Carter was released from the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Minnesota Vikings then claimed Carter off of waivers for the $100 fee and the rest is history.

Carter went on to play 11 years with the Vikings. He played in eight pro-bowls and left in 2001 as Minnesota's all-time leader in receptions (1,004), receiving yards (12,383) and touchdowns (110).

Carter finished No. 2 in the NFL record books only behind Jerry Rice in career receptions (1,101) and touchdowns (130) by a receiver. In 2008 Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts passed Carter to take the second place position in career receptions. Randy Moss and Terrell Owens have since passed him in touchdown receptions but he is one of only eight players ever in NFL History with 1,000 or more receptions.

Carter was one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2008 but was not elected which was a huge surprise to many NFL commentators. Carter was continually passed over by the voters from the Hall of Fame in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Finally, at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, it was announced that Cris Carter had been voted in to the 2013 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with players Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Curley Culp, Dave Robinson and former Head Coach of the New York Giants, Bill Parcels.

A very large number of football fans, regardless of fan affiliation, were surprised that it has taken this long for Carter to be inducted to the Hall of Fame. Former Ohio State and NFL players Chris Spielman and William White for example, believe Carter was the best receiver in NFL history and point out that if he had played with someone like Joe Montana in the Bill Walsh-led San Francisco 49ers, that he would have obliterated all the records.

They believe, as I do, that Cris should have been inducted long ago. It has been a long time coming, but Cris Carter doesn't see it that way.

"I've really tried to discourage people from saying or writing that I should have been in the Hall of Fame a long time ago," Carter told me a couple of weeks ago. "No one deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. You have to have earned it. "Me getting into the Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor and it is a very rare feat. I am ecstatic about the opportunity and I'm glad the hall selected me to be a member of the 2013 class. Being the 275th member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is simply overwhelming,"

A familiar face will be in Canton with Carter on stage to share the huge moment.

"My son Duron will be my presenter and I am extremely proud of him and that he will presenting me," Carter said. "That will be a very special day for he and I."

In these Time and Change pieces, I often ask former players about the greatest experience while playing at Ohio State. Given Cris' strong belief in people, his response is not surprising.

"My greatest experience at Ohio State was probably with the older players, Mike Tomczak, Jim Lachey, Keith Byars and Pepper Johnson," Carter said. "Those guys really took care of me when I was a freshman. They helped me transition from high school, not only in football, but off-the-field (too). I appreciated how much they cared about me and they helped get my career off on the right path."

"The other great experience at Ohio State I had was with coach (Jim) Tressel while he was an assistant coach at Ohio State, He more than any of the other coaches or people in the administration stayed close to me since I left Ohio State. He and I had a great relationship and we have stayed close ever since."

Another thing I ask in most of my Time and Change pieces to former players is , "Who is your Bob Fenton?" Who is that one person that went out of their way to help you in life? When I asked that question to Cris, he didn't hesitate with his reply.

"Without question, it was my wife, Melanie," Carter said. "She helped me deal with Ohio State, while we were there, the things that happened there and then my career in the NFL. She forfeited many of her dreams so that I could live out my dream."

"Let's not forget that when I left Ohio State, I was kicked out due to NCAA violations. They could have appealed to the NCAA and they didn't. That really hurt at the time and Melanie helped me through that. I will always love Ohio State and many of the people there. I am a Buckeye for Life."

The former Ohio State product will be honored in his home state and it should be no surprise that throngs of people from Ohio State still love Cris. Congratulations on a great career. Congratulations on a great life and thank for being a Buckeye. Some things should never change.



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