It was Triliegi who issued Carter a memorable challenge on Sept. 19, 1990: Stop drinking for one week. Just one week.
“And that was the last day I ever drank,” Carter said. “I owe everything to the Vikings. They taught me how I should live the rest of my life.”
Carter was a rough kid with a fiercely competitive side. In that first Pee Wee game he played, he threatened to beat up teammates when they didn’t put forth as much effort trying to tackle one of the other team’s best players. Butch sat him down and had a talk about the importance of being a good teammate.
“Cris was a bit of a bully,” lifelong friend Jimmy Calhoun said. “First time we met was third grade. Cris had this one kid scared to death. He said, ‘Jimmy, I need protection.’ I said, ‘Give me that 25-cent ice cream cone you got in your hands, get Cris to follow you into the bathroom and I’ll be hiding in the stall.’ Cris came in, I came out and I picked him up and dumped him in a trash can. We’ve been friends ever since.”
There is one other person who didn’t back down from the Carter kids: Mom. Butch has called his father a “quitter” and a “failure,” but Joyce was anything but.
Joyce was a stickler for academics. Although she left high school to care for Butch, she did return when she was close to 40. She not only graduated, but she went on to get a master’s degree and become a teacher.
“Mom was known for taking you off the team if you had a C-minus,” John Carter said. “She’d say, ‘A C-minus is nothing more than a D. They just didn’t want to give you a D because they knew I’d take you off the team.’ She pulled my brother George off the team for a C-minus right before tournaments his freshman year. And the C-minus was in French, which George shouldn’t have been taking no French anyway. But Mom said, ‘You decided to take it. Off the team you go.’ ”
Temper tantrums also didn’t fly with Joyce. One time, Butch threw one at school and was sent to the principal’s office to be swatted on the backside. He took off for home. Joyce not only brought him back, she held him down so the principal could swat him.
Carter is now looking up at the second-story window of Apartment B. He’s laughing with John about the time they blew Joyce’s curfew, another huge no-no.
“Mom locked this door and they sent me up on the [porch roof] to go through the window,” Cris said. “Mom hears me and she’s waiting there with a belt in her hands. I didn’t know whether to go in the window or jump off the roof.”
A long time ago, Joyce coined a no-excuses motto — “Carters Don’t Quit!” — that rings in the ears of her children to this day.
“People ask, ‘How did you do it all by yourself?’ ” Joyce said. “I tell them I didn’t. I had God. There’s no way I would have survived these kids without God in my life.”
Before leaving Apartment B for perhaps the last time ever, Carter sets his feet and uses one of those soft hands to grip that Sharpie. In big, swooping letters, he writes: “Cris Carter #80 Hall of Fame 2013. God Bless.”
Later, he takes a long look at the door and his surroundings.
“When you’re a kid, everything looks so much bigger, you know?” Carter said. “But can you imagine seven kids and my mom, barely living check to check, all inside this apartment? She could have bailed out, but she always told me I would be something special. Standing here as a Hall of Famer all these years later, it’s awesome, man. Awesome.”