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Sant-Miller: It’s time to look out for Carter

| Monday, February 16, 2015

I’m going to go out on a limb and tell you to remember a name, the name of a player who wasn’t and will not be drafted, the name of a player who has never taken an NFL snap and only caught 13 passes in college, the name of a future NFL star: Duron Carter.

Those who have heard of him know him as the son of Cris Carter, the Hall of Fame receiver. Note, this isn’t another feel-good piece about the son of an NFL star, a star who will make it big following in his father’s footsteps. No, this is all about Duron.

Carter was rated as a one of the 10 best receivers coming out of high school, but his college career did not take off at Ohio State. Carter snagged 13 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman, but academics held him back from using that season as a building block. After an academic suspension and continued academic issues, he left Ohio State. He then tried a community college before moving back to the Division I ranks with Alabama. After that didn’t pan out, he tried Florida Atlantic, but a petition to play ball was denied by the NCAA.

After declaring for the 2013 NFL draft, Carter was not selected, though he was given chances to try out for both the Saints and Vikings. Neither panned out. Again, Carter’s departures were accompanied by stories highlighting a lack of professionalism.

With that, Carter took his talents to Canada. In his career with the Montreal Alouettes, Carter’s star shone bright. As one of the best receivers in the CFL over the last two seasons, Carter collected almost 2,000 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.

Finally, NFL teams came calling. Interest was high, and Carter signed a 3-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts on Feb. 2. He was finally positioning himself to begin an NFL career.

That’s Carter’s story. It’s surely interesting, but I doubt I’ve swayed any of you into thinking you’re hearing about a future NFL star. Yet, we’ve only scratched the surface of who Carter is and who he can be.

Recently, it was announced that Carter scored “at least a 39” on his Wonderlic, the NFL’s version of an IQ test. Carter’s score was better than Peyton Manning’s 28, Tom Brady’s 33, Aaron Rodgers’ 35 and even Andrew Luck’s 37. Those are some of the most cerebral players in the NFL, playing the most complicated position, and Carter tops them all.

No, this isn’t a story of a talented athlete who wasn’t smart enough to keep up with college coursework and who will struggle to adapt to complicated NFL schemes. This is the story of a brilliant young man who couldn’t click in a classroom setting and couldn’t keep up with the juggling act of a college life.

Carter is 6-foot-5, weighs 205 pounds and can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds. He has a huge wingspan, good hands and the ability to catch the ball in traffic. He can contort his body in the air, pulling down jump balls and back shoulder passes. His film and highlights are from the CFL, but his talent jumps off the screen. Oh, and despite his adventures, he is still only 23 years old.

If you hear him speak, he sounds like a guy who had to find himself and find what he truly wanted. He also sounds like almost any college senior/graduate who is finally ready to commit himself or herself to the real world and a career. He recognizes his mistakes and what he took away from them, and he appreciates that he has another chance. To me, he sounds ready to give the NFL a legitimate shot.

The Colts seem ready to give him that chance. According to reports, Indianapolis views Carter as a starting receiver, the kind of player who can take over for Reggie Wayne and be paired with T.Y. Hilton as a dynamic receiving duo. He’ll have Andrew Luck, one of the fastest rising stars and a true technician, to help mold him into that threat all of Indy hopes him to be.

So here are my parting two comments.

First, now that you’ve heard of him, pay attention going forward. When there is an interview halfway through the 2015 season, with Luck and Carter sitting on folding chairs talking with Jon Gruden about Carter’s explosion onto the NFL scene and his bond with Luck, remember this day.

Secondly, if and when Carter takes center stage as a professional, look for interesting implications on college football. This is a kid who is bright but better served outside of a classroom setting, where college life limited his growth. On the other hand, an opportunity to play in the CFL as a professional spurred his growth forward. What will this mean for a potential amateur football league? What will this mean for the landscape of college football?

Interesting storylines, indeed.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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