There is no playbook on how to get inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there is no guide, no step-by-step directions, each inductee has traveled a different road towards the ultimate goal. The moment when a player receives the ultimate gratification as they slide into their new gold jacket and reveal their Hall of Fame busts that will be enshrined for the rest of time.
Cris Carter’s road towards the ultimate goal began in Middletown, Ohio where he grew up just 242 miles from the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Raised by a single mother, Carter turned to his older brother Butch as a father figure and mentor.
“He did everything the way you’re supposed to do it, conducted himself, dressed in the manner, did well in school, worked extra jobs, helped his mom,” said Carter during his enshrinement speech. “Butch Carter today as your baby brother goes into the Hall, you need to know you’re my hero.”
Carter’s road towards Canton continued when he decided to attend The Ohio State University, where he became one of the university’s all-time great receivers. In his freshman year Carter racked up 41 receptions for 648 yards, led the team with eight receiving touchdowns and set a new Rose Bowl receiving record with 172 yards. In both his sophomore and junior season Carter improved in every receiving category. After his junior season in which he was a consensus All-American, Carter intended to return to Ohio State for his senior season until he made his only football-related regret of his life. Carter signed with a sports agent, which forced him to lose eligibility for his senior year at Ohio State.
“To all the Buckeye fans, from the bottom of my heart, I sincerely apologize,” said Carter.
After signing an agent Carter entered the 1987 supplemental draft and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the fourth round. In his rookie year Carter struggled while only playing nine games and catching 5 passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Carter’s second and third seasons were much more productive, combining for a total of 84 receptions, 1,366 yards and 17 touchdowns. However, the Philadelphia Eagles and head coach Buddy Ryan cut Carter from the team before the 1990 season due to his constant alcohol and drug abuse. The once promising career of Cris Carter seemed to be coming to a screeching halt.
That was until September 4th 1990 when the Minnesota Vikings claimed Carter off waivers for only $100. Almost two weeks later, on September 19, 1990 Carter was paired up with a woman named Betty Trilegi, a woman that would change his life for the better.
“Betty Trilogy was an employee assistant counselor working for the Vikings when I was waived by the eagles and Vikings claimed me and she’s still a good friend,” said Carter. “I just started on that day September 19th I was just trying not to have a drink for one week, that’s all she wanted me to do and here I am August 1st, 2013 and I still haven’t had a drink. I could have been so many other things than what I am now.”
That fateful day marked a new road for Cris Carter, the road to recovery. Carter never fell back into his old habits, and only moved forward in his career towards the Hall of Fame. In his career with the Minnesota Vikings, Carter had 8 straight seasons of 1,000 or more yards receiving, he became the second player in NFL history to reach 1,000 receptions, and he broke a single season record in 1994 with 122 receptions. Carter finished his career with eight Pro Bowl selections and in 1999 was the recipient of the NFL Man of the Year award. Carter gave Minnesota fans a reason to watch football every week, and in return they gave him their unwavering support.
“Vikings fans, they gave me chance, they didn’t judge me and there were a lot of bad things that people were saying about me,” said Carter. “But Vikings fans, they always cheer for Cris, they always cheer for Number 80.”
Carter always gave Vikings fans plenty of reasons to cheer during his playing days. Carter could only think of one way to describe the way he played the game.
“I catch the ball. If you throw the ball, I catch it,” said Carter. “If you throw it close to me, I catch it. If you make me have to do something crazy to catch it, I can catch it.”
Since his retirement from the NFL Carter has stayed involved in the game he loves so much. Nowadays, you can find him at ESPN on set with Chris Berman, Mike Ditka and many others covering the NFL. In 2008 and 2009 Carter made appearances at the NFL Rookie Symposiums, where he offered his advice and lessons from his own personal experiences.
“What I tell them is, we all got issues, but you need to get your issues addressed. We got all kinds of programs for everything that you could ever deal with it’s nothing really that we haven’t seen and take advantage of it.”
Cris Carter overcame great obstacles in his life. He battled through drug addiction and alcohol abuse on his way to becoming a NFL wide receiver, an ordained minister, an NFL analyst and a role model. Now Carter can add one more accolade to his collection, Hall of Famer.
“Buckeye born and bred,” said Carter finishing his enshrinement speech. “Now an H-O-F-er — even after I’m dead.”
Hall of Fame Photos by Ed Runyon for PPI
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