Counting their blessings: Tyrone and April Carter handle adversity

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 19, 2014 - 3:01 PM

Former Gophers standout safety Tyrone Carter focuses on the positive despite his wife April's paralysis following an ATV accident.

The trash talk flows nonstop from Tyrone Carter’s mouth as if he’s trying to intimidate an opponent on a football field.

“You’re in trouble,” he said, repeating it nine times.

This is the same fiery edge Carter displayed in a Gophers uniform, an All-America safety who was named college football’s best defensive back as a senior. Former Gophers coach Glen Mason describes Carter as one of the five toughest players he had in 35 years of coaching.

His competitiveness begins to percolate again, except Carter isn’t staring down a receiver. His target sits across the kitchen table, unaffected by his playful taunts.

His wife, April, smiles and quietly studies her next move. She knows the drill. Their daily games of dominoes often become so intense that April’s mom interjects: “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

It’s no contest on this day. The more Tyrone woofs, the worse the score becomes, until April closes with a bang to win 150-50.

“She skunked me,” Tyrone says, gracious but not surprised.

His wife never stops proving how tough she is, in reminders both big and small.

An ATV accident in 2004 left April paralyzed from the chest down. She flew off the machine while making a slow turn and crushed the 7th thoracic (T7) vertebra in the middle of her back. She was 25 and had been married to Tyrone for less than a month.

Confined to a wheelchair for the past 10 years, April refuses to accept her disability as a deterrent. She’s grateful that she has full use of her arms. She drives a specialized minivan with hand controls and goes fishing at every opportunity. She’s taken cruises to Costa Rica and Turks and Caicos and visited other countries on vacation.

Best of all, she and Tyrone had two children — Tyra (7 years old) and Tyree (4) — after her accident, both delivered by Caesarean section.

“I’m very faithful,” she said. “I believe things happen for a reason. I just never looked at it in a bad way.”

The family relocated from Florida to the Twin Cities a year ago so that April can be near her family. She grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from North High School. Tyrone considers Minneapolis his adoptive home after starring for the Gophers and then being drafted by the Vikings in 2000.

Now retired after an 11-year NFL career, Tyrone has turned his focus to helping football players (youth to college level) develop their individual skills. He started a company — TC Elite Training School — that hosts camps that offer coaching from former NFL players, including Randy Moss. He held his second camp recently at Cooper High School.

Tyrone said his family’s journey to this point hasn’t always been “peaches and cream,” but he and his wife made a conscious decision to focus on the gifts in their life, not any limitations.

“I told her, ‘Hey, you’re going to continue to enjoy your life, it’s just in a chair,’ ” he said. “That’s not stopping you from having fun and still smiling and doing what you love.”

• • •

As a prep recruit from Florida, Carter never had been on an airplane and knew nothing about Minnesota when the Gophers offered him a scholarship. Actually, he knew about the Vikings and the TV show “Coach” but that was the extent of it.

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  • Tyrone Carter's NFL statistics

    Wednesday June 18, 2014

  • The world changed for ex-Gophers star Tyrone Carter and his wife April, who was paralyzed in 2004. But the couple stress the gifts they have over any limitations.

  • Four-year-old son Tyree napped on Tyrone Carter’s lap at their St. Louis Park home. Carter and wife April also have a 7-year-old daughter, Tyra.

  • Playing dominoes and caring for their children occupy some of April and Tyrone Carter’s time. “That’s why I’m so thankful,” April said. “I’m able to drive, get around, be mobile for my kids.’’

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