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Continued: Counting their blessings: Tyrone and April Carter handle adversity

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

He nearly froze to death on his recruiting visit.

“All I could think about was, ‘Man, I’m not coming to this school,’ ” he recalled.

But he loved then-Gophers coach Jim Wacker and appreciated how friendly everyone acted to him. Carter packed a powerful punch in his 5-9, 195-pound body. He ended his Gophers career as the school’s all-time leader tackler and won the Jim Thorpe Award as a senior.

“He’s a tone-setter for your program,” Mason said.

Carter met April during his final season in Dinkytown, and they married in 2004 when he played for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Three weeks later, April and Tyrone’s sisters went for an ATV ride near their home in Florida.

Tyrone became nervous when they didn’t return home on time, and his heart sank when he received a phone call from his sister. When he arrived on the scene, he saw an ambulance and found is wife unable to move her legs.

Tests revealed the extent of her injury. The first question April and Tyrone asked is if they still could have children. April had surgery and spent three months in a rehabilitation center. Steelers owner Dan Rooney personally arranged for her to receive care from top specialists, a gesture that still causes the Carters to gush in gratitude.

April tackled her physical challenges with such resolve that a psychiatrist at the hospital told her that it’s OK if she breaks down emotionally.

April’s response: It could be worse.

“That’s why I’m so thankful,” she said. “I’m able to drive, get around, be mobile for my kids. Not being able to do some of the stuff that I used to do is kind of hurtful. But that’s normal. Every once in a while I’ll think, ‘Yeah, I wish I could do this or that.’ ”

Tyrone admits that his wife’s strength helped him cope with his sadness.

“I broke down more than her,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe that this happened to her. The accident allowed me to really appreciate life more.”

• • •

Carter enjoyed a respectable NFL career. He played in 158 games with four teams and won a Super Bowl with the Steelers. He had plans to get into coaching afterward but found a different outlet to remain connected to the game.

He began training his cousin, Michael, a former Gophers cornerback, in Florida during the offseason. That led to other private workouts with high school and college players, and soon Carter found his niche.

He hopes his training helps develop more college prospects in Minnesota and supplies the Gophers with a larger pool of elite recruits.

“I got heart for my school, and I want to do whatever I can to help them,” he said.

Carter’s weekend camp focuses on improving technique and fundamentals and also includes film study. He said he experienced some initial resistance from one high school coach who teaches different techniques than Carter espouses.

  • related content

  • Video: Tyrone and April Carter handle adversity

    Thursday June 19, 2014

    Tyrone and April Carter focus on the positive things in their life despite the accident that left her paralyzed.

  • 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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