Cris Carter: Life, Football and Broadcasting Career of the Legend

Cris Carter

Cris Carter is a former National Football League (NFL) wide receiver who had a long and distinguished career between 1987 and 2002. After getting drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987, team’s coach Buddy Ryan said this about Carter, “all he does is catch touchdowns”. After retiring from Football, Cris Carter also had a successful career as a broadcaster. He has worked with numerous networks such as HBO, Fox and ESPN. In 2013, Cris Carter was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his seventh year of eligibility and gave an impassioned induction speech.

Let’s take a look at the incredible career of Cris Carter.

Cris Carter: All You Need to Know

When was Cris Carter born?

Cris Carter was born on November 25th, 1965 in Troy, Ohio. For elementary school, he went to Heywood Elementary in Troy, Ohio. He spent his early childhood there before moving to Middletown, Ohio, with his mother, three brothers, and two sisters. They lived in a small four-bedroom apartment. He attended Middletown High School and starred in both football and basketball. His brother, Butch Carter was also a star athlete from childhood and ended up playing in the NBA.

What is Cris Carter’s real name?

Cris Carter was named after his grandfather, Graduel Carter. However, he decided to drop that name and changed it unofficially to Cris after wide receiver Cris Collinsworth. Cris Carter said that one of the biggest reasons he changed his name was because he believed that no one with a name like Graduel can ever become famous. stating that he would never be famous with the name Graduel. According to Carter on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” (on September 15, 2014), he dropped the name during 7th grade, and his name is still listed as Christopher on official documents, including his driver’s license.

Cris Carter: College career

Cris Carter was heavily recruited out of high school for both basketball and football. He accepted the offer from Ohio State head coach Earle Bruce. Carter became a consensus All-America selection after his junior season, Ohio State’s first All American at wide receiver.

Carter had intended to play both football and basketball at Ohio State but decided to focus on football after making an immediate impact his freshman year. He had nine receptions for 172 yards in that year’s Rose Bowl, an all time record.

Cris Carter’s precise route running, exceptional athleticism and great hands were always highly touted in the league. He had remarkable body control and footwork when making catches near the sidelines. An incredible example of that was at the 1985 Citrus Bowl when Cris Carter caught a ball that was intended to be thrown away by quarterback Jim Karsatos. Karsatos has claimed that the catch by Carter was the greatest in the history of college football: “When I finally saw it on film, he was tiptoeing the sidelines and he jumped up and caught the ball left-handed by the point of the football at least a yard out of bounds. Then he somehow levitated back in bounds to get both his feet in bounds. I swear to this day he actually levitated to get back in bounds. When I saw it on film, it just blew me away.”

Before entering his senior season, Cris Carter signed with infamous sports agent Norby Walters. Upon the discovery of that deal, he was deemed ineligible for his senior season. The absence of Carter in the 1987 offense contributed to a disappointing 6–4–1 season and the firing of Coach Bruce. Missing this season also cost him a chance at evening his personal record against Michigan; Carter finished 1–2, his lone taste of victory in the series being his freshman year.

Despite losing his senior year, Carter left Ohio State holding the school record for receptions (168). In 2000, he was selected as a member of the Ohio State Football All-Century Team. In 2003, he was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity Hall of Fame.

Cris Carter: NFL Career

Philadelphia Eagles

Cris Carter was the fourth round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1987 supplemental draft. He saw limited action during his rookie season catching just 5 passes for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns. He scored his first ever touchdown as a pro against the St. Louis Cardinals by catching a 22 yard pass.

In 1988, Carter’s involvement with the Eagles offence became even more pronounced as he caught 39 passes for 761 yards and 6 touchdowns. In 1989, he became the teams’ primary red zone receiver, leading the Eagles with 11 touchdown catches (3rd in the NFC) while hauling in 45 passes for 605 yards.

However, Carter soon fell out of favour with Eagles coach Buddy Ryan and was cut after the preseason games. In a later interview, Carter admitted that he was released because of his excessive drugs and alcohol abuse. He used to consume large amounts of cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana. Carter has gone on to credit Buddy Ryan and his wife for helping in turning his life around. He even mentioned them in his Hall of Fame induction speech.

Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings claimed the troubled wide receiver off waivers on September 4, 1990. Cris Carter was mainly ignored in the offence during his first season with the Vikings as he came third in the pecking order behind Anthony Carter and Hassan Jones. He did gain a measure of revenge against his former team, however, catching six passes for 151 yards, including a 78-yard touchdown, in a Monday Night contest at Philadelphia on October 15. For the 1990 season, Cris Carter had 27 receptions for 413 yards and 3 touchdowns. Things changed drastically in 1991 and Cris Carter emerged as the Vikings’ primary wide receiver. He led the team with 72 receptions, 962 yards, and 5 touchdown catches. The winds of change were blowing in Minnesota; after a second straight disappointing season head coach Jerry Burns retired. Dennis Green, former Stanford coach was hired as Biurns’ replacement and started a “house cleaning process”. “The New Sheriff in Town” released stalwarts like RB Herschel Walker and QB Wade Wilson and traded DT Keith Millard to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Vikings returned to NFL prominence in 1992, posting an 11–5 record and capturing their first NFC Central Division title since 1989. With Rich Gannon and Sean Salisbury playing musical chairs at QB, Carter remained the team’s primary aerial weapon—leading the team with 53 receptions, 681 yards, and 6 touchdowns despite missing the final four games of the season with a broken collar bone. The Vikings season ended in disappointment, however, as the defending Super Bowl champions Washington Redskins upended them 24–7 in the Wild Card round.

Cris Carter celebrates a first down with the Vikings

In 1993, veteran quarterback Jim McMahon acted as the team’s primary signal caller and Carter had a breakout season. He posted career highs in receptions, 86, and yards, 1,071, while catching 9 touchdowns — all team highs, and appeared in his first Pro Bowl. The Vikings finished the season 9–7, good enough for a playoff berth, but fell 17–10 to the New York Giants in the Wild Card round.

The Vikings acquired fabled veteran Warren Moon for the 1994 season and he immediately bonded with Carter. The veteran helped Carter set the NFL single season record for receptions with 122 (the record was broken in 1995 by Detroit’s Herman Moore). Carter also led the team with 1256 yards and 7 receiving touchdowns, which earned him First-team All Pro honors. Moon and Carter carried the team to a 10–6 record and the NFC Central title, but couldn’t stop the Vikings from a third straight first round playoff exit — a 35–18 home loss to the Chicago Bears.

Cris Carter had his best statistical season in 1995 with Warren Moon. He caught 122 passes for a career high 1,371 yards and led the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions. He also earned a Second Team All Pro berth for his spectacular showing. The Vikings, however, finished 8–8 and missed the playoffs for the first time under Green.

Midway through the 1996 season Brad Johnson took over at QB for the Vikings. Carter didn’t miss a beat, catching 96 passes for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Vikings returned to the playoffs with a 9–7 record, but were routed by the Dallas Cowboys 40–15 in the Wild Card round. He made the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive season.

Cris Carter continued to be the most important offensive weapon for the Vikings in 1997 as well. He was named to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl, leading the NFL with 13 touchdown receptions while pacing the team with 89 catches and 1069 yards. Even though he had more impressive seasons statistically, 1997 may have been Carter’s finest hour, as week after week he dazzled with one spectacular catch after another. With Randall Cunningham at QB (he replaced the injured Johnson late in the season) the Vikings finally broke through in the playoffs, defeating the Giants 23–22 in a last-minute miracle comeback. The playoff success was fleeting, however, as the team fell to the San Francisco 49ers 38–22 the following week.

In 1998 the Vikings drafted Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss with the 21st pick in the first round. And just like that, the Vikings had the single deadliest weapon in the entire league. Even though Cris Carter was great, Randy Moss was at another level. Even as a rookie,, he made an immediate impact. They cruised through the regular season, posting a 15–1 record while scoring a then-league record 556 points. Carter, who made the Pro Bowl for the fifth time, caught 78 passes for 1,011 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Vikings were riding high and led by Moss, Carter, and Miller Lite Player of the Year Randall Cunningham, entered the playoffs as heavy favorites to reach the Super Bowl. They easily defeated the Arizona Cardinals 41–21 in the Divisional Round, advancing to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since 1987. The Vikings were heavy, 13.5 points favourites over the Atlanta Falcons but were upset 30-27 by the Falcons in overtime, becoming the biggest favorite to ever lose a home playoff game. Carter later said losing that game was the lone regret of his time in Minnesota, and that he didn’t even know if he wanted to play anymore afterwards.

Cris Carter (left) with Randy Moss (right)

The following year, Carter had his finest individual season since 1995— the First-team All Pro caught 90 passes for 1241 yards and an NFL-best 13 touchdowns. The Vikings easily defeated the Dallas Cowboys 27–10 in the Wild Card round and headed to St. Louis to face the NFL’s new hottest offense. Minnesota led the eventual Super Bowl champions 17–14 at the half, but a second-half flurry led to a 49–37 Rams win.

Carter finished the 90s with a total of 835 receptions, only jeyy Rice with his 860 was ahead of him. As a result of that, he also made the NFL’s All Decade team of the 90s.

The Vikings performed well in the 2000 season. They were led by Daunte Culpepper and won the NFC Central Division. Chris Carter finished the season with 96 receptions, 1274 yards, 9 touchdowns, and an eighth Pro Bowl. On November 30, Carter became only the second player in NFL history to reach the 1,000 reception plateau when he caught a 4-yard touchdown pass against Detroit.

The Vikings fared far worse in 2001 and limped to a 5-11 record for the season, their first ever losing season since 1990. Cris Carter also saw a massive drop in his on-field productivity. In his worst year since 1992, Carter only had 73 catches, 871 yards and 6 touchdowns — and his streak of eight straight Pro Bowls came to an end. Following the season, the longest-tenured Viking exercised an out clause in his contract that ended his career in Minnesota.

Cris Carter left the Vikings as their all-time leader in, among other things, receptions (1,004), receiving yards (12,383), and touchdowns (110).

Miami Dolphins

Cris Carter tried to get signed in the spring of 2002 and held talks with the Rams, Browns, and Dolphins. However, nothing could be finalized and Carter HBO’s Inside the NFL team as an analyst on May 21. He served in that capacity until October 21 when the Miami Dolphins lured the veteran back onto the playing field to bolster their injury-riddled receiving corps.

The Boca Raton resident started in his first game as a Dolphin at Lambeau Field in Week 9. Carter showed signs of rust, catching just three passes for 31 yards and fumbling once. During the week that followed, he checked into the hospital with a kidney ailment and was sidelined for the next four weeks.

Cris Carter made a comeback during Week 14. However, he was struggling to get a spot in the Dolphins receiving corp. Carter returned in Week 14, but struggled to get back into the Dolphins receiver rotation. Cris Carter did have a highlight in Week 15 as he caught a one handed touchdown pass as the Dolphins beat the Raiders 23–17. The following week against the Vikings, however, he made a key drop in the end zone that cost Miami a touchdown. The Dolphins wound up losing that game and then lost to the Patriots the following week, missing the playoffs. Even though he put up respectable numbers for the number of games that he played, he retired after the season.

Cris Carter: Career Accomplishments

At the time of his retirement, Carter’s 1,101 career receptions and 130 touchdowns as a receiver placed him second in NFL history behind Jerry Rice, although his reception total has since been surpassed by Marvin Harrison, and his touchdown receptions by Randy Moss and Terrell Owens. Carter is one of 14 players in NFL history with 1,000 or more receptions. He was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. Carter was one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2008, but was not elected in a surprise to some commentators. Cris Carter was overlooked in 2009 and 2010 as well since Jerry Rice and Tim Brown became eligible for the Hall of Fame. Additionally, Andre Reed was another possible candidate that diminished Carter’s chance for enshrinement in 2010. In 2011, he also did not make it despite not having a single wide receiver in the class.

NFL Network’s NFL’s Top 10 placed him atop the list of wide receivers with the best hands.

On February 2, 2013, Carter was announced as an inductee into the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 along with Bill Parcells, Larry Allen, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Curley Culp, and Dave Robinson.

Cris Carter: Broadcasting Career 

Cris Carter on the set of FS1’s First Things First

Carter was one of the hosts of HBO’s Inside the NFL and also was an NFL Analyst for Yahoo Sports and ESPN. He is also a faculty member and assistant coach at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, where his son played wide receiver in 2008. He is the owner of Cris Carter’s FAST Program, a sports training center in South Florida and is an ordained minister. He also appeared in the 2005 sports video game NFL Street 2 as a wide receiver for the NFL Gridiron Legends team along with former teammate, safety Joey Browner, and a few other historical NFL legends.

Cris Carter also spoke out against parents using physical force to discipline children when the issue of NFL running back Adrian Peterson disciplining his son with a belt came up.

Cris Carter was a speaker at the 2008 NFL rookie symposium and again at the 2009 NFL Rookie Symposium. He also spoke at the 2014 NFL rookie symposium, where he encouraged players to get a fall guy they can trust to take the blame if they get in trouble. The comments were revealed in 2015 in an ESPN The Magazine story about Chris Borland. The NFL took the video of the speech down from its website and released a statement saying in part: “The comment was not representative of the message of the symposium or any other league program…The comment was not repeated in the 2014 AFC session or this year’s symposium.” Cris Carter went on to apologize on Twitter and said that people should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own actions and not pass the blame on to others. ESPN also released a statement saying Carter’s comments do not reflect the company’s views.

Carter was chosen to be a coach for a team in the 2015 Pro Bowl, along with former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin.

In December 2016, Carter was hired by Fox Sports as a football analyst. In May 2017, his role was expanded as it was announced that Carter would co-host a morning show, First Things First, on Fox Sports 1 with radio personality Nick Wright and moderator Jenna Wolfe. The show premiered on September 5, 2017. Cris Carter became a fan favourite for his impassioned takes on athletes who were suffering as a result of head injuries that happened while playing football.

Why was Cris Carter fired from First Things First?

Cris Carter also became slightly infamous among viewers for constantly interrupting his co-panelist Nick Wright. In 2019, Cris Carter took some issue to the fact that recently retired NFL Tight End Rob Gronkowski was offered a position covering Thursday Night Football which Carter believed he deserved. As a result of that, he made some comments which weren’t well received and his tenure with Fox ended in November 2019 and the show First Things First continued with moderator Jenna Wolfe, Panelist Nick Wright and a revolving door of co-panelists until former ESPN producer Kevin Wildes and former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall joined the show full time. 

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