September 12, 2013

Moffat: Carter bursting on to Alouettes scene

Now that Duron Carter is leading the CFL leader in yards-per-catch and showing up on the radar screen for fellow rookie Tanner Marsh, the lanky son of recently-inducted Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter is ready to confess – Montreal was never really on his pro football radar.

And this sudden burst to instant deep threat (3 big plays among his 8 catches in only 3 games) is a short lifetime in the making.

“From my youngest days being a football player is all I’ve thought about,” says Duron, as quick to smile and laugh as he is to race down a sideline after a deep ball.  

“Every Halloween I was a football player.  That’s what I’ve always wanted to be.”

While his father racked up enough catches in the NFL to earn 8 Pro Bowl selections, Duron was a regular at the Vikings training facility on the eve of games.  

The impressionable kid had wide eyes not for Dad (what son would?) but for the strutting swagger of Minnesota teammate Randy Moss.

“I knew all the players.  My favourite was Moss.  Dad made the first downs but Randy Moss was out there making plays with one hand, touchdowns…that’s Randy Moss,” the 22-year old Duron says with his face flashing like an adoring adolescent.

Moss had more “swag” than famous father?

Duron laughs out loud. “Yeah, definitely.

Family pedigree

There is no shortage of family football experience for Alouettes receiver Duron Carter to pull from.  The son of pro football hall of famer Cris Carter and nephew of former NBA coach Butch Carter, grew up idolizing his father’s teammate Randy Moss.

“Dad made the first downs but Randy Moss was out there making plays with one hand, touchdowns”, he told’s Rick Moffat.

“Earlier in my career it was like…that’s my Dad and it was in one ear and out the other.  Now I recognize how much he knows about the game, how respected he is.  So now I just sit back and listen.”

Truth is Duron Carter also needed a brother figure.  His father’s Hall of Fame induction speech thanked his brother Butch, a former NBA player who went on to coach the Toronto Raptors.  Duron thanks a brother-from-another-mother.  

“Dad made us work at Vikings camp…me and my brother Larry Fitzgerald.  We worked as water boys together.“

They must never have let a water bottle hit the ground.   THAT Larry is the second-youngest man ever to reach 10,000 yards receiving in the NFL, and a 7-time Pro Bowl selection.

“My Dad took care of him all through high school.  Yeah, he used to babysit me.”

Larry, 8 years older, figured he had an easy target for roughhousing and straight-arming.

“He would try, but I’m faster than him,” Carter protests.  “He beats me at everything else, but I’m faster than him.”

“He’s faster than his Dad and bigger than his Dad (who is only 6’3”, Duron listed at 6’5”),” says long-time agent Mitch Frankel, who represented Cris, Butch and now Duron.  “He’s matured as a person and has a great understanding because of his Dad.  He’s going to have an extraordinary career.”

Frankel says another CFL team expressed interest in 2012.  He wondered if Marc Trestman’s Alouettes would be a healthy learning environment, but had no idea his client was already on Popp’s negotiation list. Duron decided to stay in school.

Carter’s academic career was as zig-zag as a down-out-down route:  Ohio State to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, a detour taken by dozens of NFL players and Heisman winner Mike Rozier, on to Alabama, where the Crimson Tide caught him violating team rules, though Duron did well academically.  

“I did a lot of personal research on him to know what he was about, where he’d been,” Popp explains.  “He was at Alabama for a whole year practicing.  I’ve got good ties there.”

“Duron worked hard and the more I got to know about him I got to realize he’s a very intelligent young man.  Why school wasn’t his thing I can’t answer for you.”  

Carter could not get a waiver to play for Florida Atlantic University, but he returned to school anyway.

He entered the NFL draft class of 2013 only to be ignored.

After stints at Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints rookie camps this spring, Duron tells me he got a call from a friend trying to crack into the CFL with Hamilton.  That acquaintance failed to make the cut in Steeltown, but sparked the connection that has helped rekindle the Als’ offence.

“I found out Montreal had my rights.  Being one of the youngest dudes on the Alouettes, this was really just a year to come in and get experience, learn the system, but I’m happy to be playing and making plays,” says the instant deep threat who scored his first CFL touchdown at Molson Stadium Sunday against the Argos.

“It means everything to have a home and these are my first games in about 3 years,” says the young man with what his agent calls ‘untapped’ talent.  “I love Montreal, I love the team and having Coach Popp and Coach Berry trust me with the ball is just unbelievable.”

“It’s great having Tanner (only 23) in there being able to stretch the field.  He’s a great guy, real soft-spoken.  To tell you the truth he didn’t expect being in this position starting and neither did I.”

“I talk to my Dad every day.  He’s my best friend.  We got a great relationship and he gives me pointers, especially with me starting…staying calm and just getting a lot of experience.”

Popp points out Duron also had football “home-schooling” with numerous pro athletes at his father’s training facility, where he’s worked out “so many times against great athletes.”

“We found him a very interesting guy we felt could develop,” says Popp.  “And he’s proven that daily here.  It’s been an uphill battle for him, but he does have a great work ethic.  He’s very smart and he’s maturing by the day.”

Popp’s also appreciated the private show of support from the Hall of Fame father.  

“Cris has been around – he was at the pre-season game in Toronto, he’s been in Montreal, but he’s never showed his face publicly.  He’s never tried to intermingle.  He’s let his son earn his own stamp on the field – on his own.  He hasn’t tried to push any issue.”

Marsh is happy it worked out that way.

“We’ve been together since rookie camp.  You form a bond with him and get comfortable with him.  I can look at a defence and know exactly where he’s going to be.  That’s what’s made this little connection.  I have faith in him.  I trust him to go make a play for me.”