NEW ORLEANS -- Even the typical unemotional, crusty, old sports writer (guilty) had to feel good watching Cris Carter literally pour out his emotions upon receiving the news that he had finally made the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Also, as the person who has presented his case during the Hall's 46-member selection committee meetings, it's also good to know that page finally has been turned.)
Carter is only the third receiver from the 1990s to get into the Hall of Fame. Every other decade going back to the '50s has had at least four and as many as seven. So it's possible that Buffalo's Andre Reed and Tim Brown also will join Carter in the Hall of Fame soon.
The committee spent a looong time discussing the receivers again this year. I can't repeat anything that's said in the room, but it was a struggle for everyone as they tried to determine again in their heads how to prioritize Carter, Reed and Brown.
In the end, the committee eliminated Brown in the cut from 15 modern-era finalists to 10. Reed was eliminated in the cut from 10 to five.
Once the cut to five is made, those are the five that we actually vote "yes" or "no" on. It was the first time Carter had made it to the final five.
At that point, I knew Carter was a Hall of Famer. He had come too far not to receive the 80 percent necessary to get in.
Now, here's the story I've filed for tomorrow's paper after talking to Carter after the NFL Network show had ended:
By MARK CRAIG
NEW ORLEANS – Cris Carter, the man who became a Viking for the paltry sum of a $100 waiver claim in 1990, finally reached the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s end zone on an emotional, tear-filled Saturday evening at the New Orleans Convention Center.
After a 16-year career defined by so many touchdowns that former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan once proclaimed, “All he does is catch touchdowns,” Carter was selected Saturday as a member of the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013. He’ll be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, his native state, on Aug. 3.
“This,” said Carter, “is the happiest day of my life.”
Later, when the bright lights of the NFL Network’s show had clicked off, Carter stood in the corner of the room and talked about that $100 waiver claim. It took him several seconds to compose himself as he remembered how the Vikings reached out to him at a point in his life when chemical dependency had cost him his job with the Eagles and threatened to wreck his NFL career after just three seasons.
“Man, [the Vikings] invested so much time in me,” said Carter, breaking down again. “They got me to see the right people. Man, when I got there, I needed a lot of help. Oh, my goodness.”
Carter’s voiced trailed off. He looked down. He dabbed at his swollen eyes with a Kleenex that had lost its usefulness much earlier in the night.
Contributing to the flood of emotions was the fact Carter was in his sixth consecutive year as a Hall of Fame finalist. He finally broke through as the third receiver from the 1990s when the Hall’s 46-man selection committee busted up a long-time logjam that included two of Carter’s receiving peers, Andre Reed and Tim Brown. Brown was eliminated when the 15 modern-era finalists were cut to 10. Reed was eliminated in the cut to five.
Carter, the fourth former Viking to be selected in the past five years, is joined in this year’s seven-member class by former Giants, Patriots and Jets coach Bill Parcells, Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp, Ravens left tackle Jonathan Ogden, Cowboys guard Larry Allen and Seniors Committee picks Curley Culp, a nose tackle for the Oilers and Chiefs, and Dave Robinson, a Packers linebacker.
Carter thanked former Vikings coach Denny Green and the team’s eight-member ownership group that was in place in 1990. Without them and his family, he said he never would have beaten his drug addiction and fulfilled his potential.
“It was a lot of hard work, but there were a lot of people helping me, not on the football field, but just getting my life together,” Carter said. “They really cared about me. I owe everything to the Vikings. What they invested in me was more than money. What they taught me was how to live the rest of my life.
“I didn’t have to be a prisoner to the things that held me back before. That I could finally, finally tap into my athletic ability. That was the first time that I really feel like the car was running 100 percent. It’s not about money. Just what they invested in me.”
Carter was a fourth-round supplemental draft pick of the Eagles in 1987. After joining the Vikings, he became an eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, had back-to-back 122-catch seasons (1994-95), eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons (1993-2000) and five straight seasons with at least 10 touchdown catches (1995-99).
Ten seasons after he retired, Carter still ranks fourth in NFL history in career catches (1,101), fourth in receiving touchdowns (130), eighth in total touchdowns (131) and ninth in receiving yards (13,899). Of the 22 modern-era receivers now in the Hall, Carter’s career touchdown total ranks second only to Jerry Rice’s 197.
Carter also thanked his mom, a single mother who raised him and six siblings in a housing project in Middletown, Ohio.
“From the housing project I grew up in, it’s 242 miles to the steps of the Hall,” Carter said. “But it felt like a million miles away when I was in trouble [with drugs].”
Carter said his son, Duron, 21, will present him at the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies. Duron, also a receiver, entered this year’s NFL draft after college stints at Ohio State, Coffeyville Community College and Florida Atlantic.
“He’s had very, very similar struggles as myself,” Carter said. “And he wants to play in the NFL. I think he would be a perfect presenter.”
Obviously, Carter hopes his son can find the same path that he found 23 years ago.
“When I got myself together, the Vikings really believed in me, and we never looked back,” Carter said. “We never had any hiccups. Never had any mistakes. Never had any failed tests. Man, it’s just hard to believe. I knew this would be good, but I never thought it would be like this.”