Cris Carter was virtually without peer when it came to making tough catches during his NFL playing career.
But the one thing he couldn’t catch until Saturday was an invitation to the the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his sixth time as a finalist, Carter finally got the call to Canton, where he’ll be inducted next summer along with Bill Parcells, Warren Sapp, Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen and senior selections Curley Culp and Dave Robinson.
Carter, who had 1,101 career receptions — most with the Minnesota Vikings — officially earned enshrinement into the Hall of Fame Saturday, after a selection committee vote in New Orleans. The accomplishment was a long time coming for Carter, who ranked second in career receptions and receiving touchdowns (130) when he retired in 2002 after a 16-year career that ended with brief stint with the Miami Dolphins.
“It’s unbelievable,” a teary-eyed Carter said Saturday on NFL Network. “It’s the most amazing thing that’s happened to me. It’s unbelievable to be in a class like this — I mean, it’s unreal.
“I’m forever humbled. I mean, this is the happiest day of my life, man.”
A fourth-round supplemental draft pick by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987, Carter played for Minnesota from 1990-2001 and made the Pro Bowl eight times during that stretch.
“The Vikings are thrilled that Cris has been selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Vikings owner/chairman Zygi Wilf said in a statement. “For over a decade Cris entertained Vikings fans with his trademark great catches and competitiveness, as he became one of the most beloved players in franchise history. Cris represented the Vikings organization in a first-class manner both on and off the field. We appreciate his place in Minnesota Vikings history, and we look forward to seeing him enshrined in Canton later this year.”
Carter’s 130 career touchdowns were far more than that of his main competitors on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot. Fellow receiver Tim Brown had 30 fewer touchdowns than Carter, and Andre Reed had 43 fewer.
“This history of wide receivers, I follow it really close,” Carter told NFL Network. “It’s becoming very difficult to judge the skills of the wide receiver in today’s game.
“I’m glad everybody on the (Hall of Fame) committee recognized my career for what it was.”
Carter also had 72 career red-zone scores, the most ever by a receiver. Additionally, the longtime Vikings star led the NFL in third-down catches (297) from 1991-2000. The outspoken Carter gained perhaps his most acclaim for making dramatic catches, often while using just one-hand or while tip-toeing along a sideline.
Carter had seven seasons with at least 80 catches and back-to-back seasons with 122 receptions in 1994-95 and ended his career with 13,899 total receiving yards.
Carter never made it to a Super Bowl, enduring NFC championship game losses in 1998 and 2000, yet his pro career wasn’t without memorable moments. He had 14 receptions in a regular-season contest against Arizona in 1994. He helped lead a last-minute comeback in a 1997 NFC wild-card game at the Meadowlands, as the Vikings stunned the New York Giants, 23-22. He also had eight catches for 120 yards and a score in a rout of New Orleans in a second-round playoff game during the 2000 season.
And, Carter also mentored the talented Randy Moss — who brings 156 career receiving touchdowns into Sunday’s Super Bowl appearance with San Francisco — when the two were teammates in Minnesota from 1998-2001.
By all accounts, Carter wasn’t pleased with being passed over for Hall of Fame induction in recent years. Yet, the former Vikings star also indicated that he wouldn’t let his post-career accolades define him.
None of that matters after Saturday’s news.
“I’m just overjoyed by it,” Carter told NFL Network. “I’m just happy, because, man, football’s been good to me. Playing football, for me, it’s been my whole life. … This game means everything to me.”