Carter, Cris D.

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(b. 25 November 1964 in Troy, Ohio), All-Pro wide receiver known for his acrobatic catches who has had more than 1,000 receptions and more than 120 touch-downs during his professional career; he ranks second only to Jerry Rice in career 1,000-yard seasons and touchdown receptions.

As a student at Middleton High School in Ohio, Carter caught 80 passes for more than 2,000 yards on the football field and scored over 1,600 points playing basketball. He attended Ohio State University, where he was a two-time Big Ten team pick and a first-team All-America in 1986. That year, Carter set school single-season records with 11 touchdown receptions and 69 catches for 1,127 yards and was the Big Ten's leading receiver. By the time he graduated from Ohio State, he was the Buckeyes' all-time leader in receptions (168 from 1984 to 1986) and touchdown catches (27). Carter ranks second in Buckeye history with 2,725 receiving yards, and as a freshman, he established a Rose Bowl record of 172 receiving yards. He graduated with a B.A. degree.

Carter was chosen in the fourth round of the supplemental National Football League (NFL) draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986 and was a wide receiver for the team from 1987 to 1989. He and Keith Jackson led the Eagles in touchdown receptions, with six apiece in 1987, but Carter had problems with cocaine and alcohol in Philadelphia and failed three drug tests. Eagles coach Buddy Ryan put him on waivers for $100, complaining that "all he does is catch touchdowns." Minnesota Vikings coach Dennis Green brought him to Minnesota as a wide receiver in September 1990. Carter overcame his addictions and in 1991 had 72 receptions for 962 receiving yards, tying for first in Vikings touchdown catches that season. In 1992 Carter had 53 receptions for 681 yards and six touchdowns, and the next year the totals jumped to 86 receptions for 1,071 yards. He was selected for the Pro Bowl eight consecutive times beginning in 1993.

Carter was named to the Sporting News' s NFL All-Pro team in 1994, when he set the NFL single-season record for most pass receptions (122). That year, he and teammate Jake Reed set an NFL record for receptions by a receiving duo (207). Carter caught 122 passes again in 1995 for the most catches in the NFL over a two-year period. He was the second NFL player, after Sterling Sharpe in 1992–1993, to have back-to-back 100-reception seasons. He also set Viking records that year with 17 touchdown receptions and 1,371 yards and became the second NFL player to ever have two or more touchdowns in four straight games.

Carter had no bad years. In 1996 he again led the Vikings in receptions (96) for a sixth consecutive season. He and Reed became the only wide-receiving duo in history to gain 1,000 yards each in three straight seasons. In 1997 Carter ranked first in the NFL with 13 touchdown catches and led the Vikings for a seventh year with 89 receptions for 1,069 yards in regular season play. Carter and Reed each surpassed 1,000 yards in receptions for a fourth year. Carter made 14 catches against Arizona on 2 October 1994 and gained 168 receiving yards against Miami on 10 September 2000.

The Vikings came within a single game of reaching the Super Bowl in 1998, losing to the Atlanta Falcons when Gary Anderson missed a last-minute field goal. Carter made 90 catches for 1,241 yards and 13 touchdowns during regular play in 1999, but the team lost the divisional playoffs to the St. Louis Rams. The next year, Carter caught 96 passes for 1,274 yards and nine touchdowns. Carter and Randy Moss combined for an astounding 2,711 receiving yards in 2000. Carter has never had great speed or separation from pass defenders, but he is sure-handed.

Carter has set nearly every Vikings record for receptions. He has made receptions for at least 100 yards in 39 games for the Vikings and in 41 games during his professional career. He has caught passes for over 1,000 yards in eight consecutive seasons, tying Steve Largent for second place for the most 1,000-yard receiving seasons in NFL history and trailing only Jerry Rice, who has 12. During the 1990s Carter gained 11,512 yards in the regular season and another 842 yards in the playoffs. Only a Super Bowl championship has eluded him. He made his 1,000th reception, a four-yard touchdown, against the Detroit Lions on 30 November 2000. At the end of the 2000 season, he ranked second in receptions in NFL history with 1,020 catches and had amassed 123 touchdowns. The all-time leader was Rice with 1,281 receptions and 176 touchdowns. Carter, who wears number eighty, is six feet, three inches tall and weighs about 220 pounds. He is famous for his one-handed catches, for receptions while tiptoeing the sidelines or fully extended, and for pointing skyward after each of his touch-downs.

Carter became a Christian in 1994 and was ordained a minister two years later. He and his college roommate, William White of the Falcons, founded the Carter–White Charitable Foundation, which sponsors nonprofit football camps for underprivileged children and funds courses to prepare high school students from low-income families for college-entrance exams. Carter is an activist for "Cris CAUSE" (Christian Athletes United for Spiritual Empowerment) and is involved in the Big Brother–Big Sister program and the Boy Scouts. He often speaks at schools about drug awareness. In September 1994 Carter was given the NFL Extra Effort Award for his outstanding commitment to community service. In 1999 he received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in recognition of his charitable work and exemplary character, as well as the NFL Players Association's Byron "Whizzer" White Award.

Carter plays with great intensity. Jim Klobuchar, a Twin Cities sportswriter, has remarked that in the minutes before a game, Carter "is revved to a pitch that you usually see in the face of a high school kid pumping himself for the big game." He is seen as the Vikings team leader ("team warden" by some), even though that job usually goes to the quarterback. He has become part of Coach Green's inner circle—his "adjutant" in the locker room. Carter trains rigorously during the off-season, playing basketball, jogging, or running wind sprints. He practices yoga and, beginning in the spring, works out for six hours a day near his home in Boca Raton, Florida. He is part owner of FAST, a company that designs fitness programs for professional athletes.

Carter's brother Butch, who is eight years older than he, played basketball under Bobby Knight at Indiana University, spent seven years in the National Basketball Association, and coached the Toronto Raptors. Cris Carter and his wife, Melanie, have two children.

Besides being an outstanding receiver, Carter, as a minister, has provided spiritual leadership for players in the NFL. He has been an example of someone who overcame his addictions, and he has remained a tremendous competitor during his long career.

With his brother Butch, Carter wrote Born to Believe: Personal Reflections and Inspiration (2000). For more information about Carter, see Jim Klobuchar, Purple Hearts and Golden Memories: 35 Years with the Minnesota Vikings (1995); Dennis Green with Gene McGivern, No Room for Crybabies (1997); Jim Klobuchar, Knights and Knaves of Autumn: 40 Years of Pro Football and the Minnesota Vikings (2000); and Jeffri Chadiha, "Time Trial," Sports Illustrated (3 July 2000).

John L. Scherer

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Carter, Cris D.

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