Tonight we find out how much Cris Carter worked on his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech. In May, the Middletown native and Ohio State alum had no qualms about what he was going to say once he got up to the podium on the stage at Canton's Fawcett Stadium. Getting the words out, however, might be a little more difficult.
"For me, that's a very difficult thing to do, that speech," said Carter as he took in a Reds game at Great American Ball Park in May. "But speaking, for me, is easy. I think I'll worry about that when the time is appropriate."
Carter is part of the 50th class of inductees that will have their busts unveiled and be given official entrance into the Hall of Fame. Offensive linemen Jonathan Ogden and Larry Allen, defensive tackles Warren Sapp and Curley Culp, linebacker Dave Robinson and coach Bill Parcells will also be enshrined tonight.
A record 121 hall of famers will be in Canton for the weekend celebration.
Carter played in 234 NFL games in 16 seasons after leaving Ohio State to enter the league as a fourth round pick by Philadelphia in the 1987 supplemental draft. He was just the second player to surpass 1,000 career catches when he accomplished the feat in 2000, and 42 times he had 100 or more yards receiving in a game. He caught 70 or more passes for 10 straight seasons and for eight straight seasons he totaled more than 1,000 yards receiving. The accolades and accomplishments are aplenty but it's been Carter's life off the field that has been more impressive.
Drugs and alcohol nearly cut short more than his NFL career. Saturday night is not something Carter takes for granted. His emotions flowed freely from his eyes when he and the other members of this 50th class were announced last February the night before the Super Bowl. They were on display again when he and his classmates went out on the Super Bowl field for the pre-game coin toss between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.
They are guaranteed to show again tonight. Genuine and sincere.
"My emotion is not from being nervous or anything. It’s just from being thankful," said Carter. "I’m just really thankful for my life and I’m thankful for the way my life has turned out and I’m thankful that I was able to make a lot of the sacrifices along the way that inevitably would change the fate of my life. I think that’s what is so cool."
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer will be among the guests Carter has invited to Canton to share in this night. Meyer was the Buckeyes' tight ends coach in Carter's final season in Columbus. He would become the wide receivers coach the next season. He never coached Carter directly but the two have become close friends over the years.
"To this day I still think he's one of the smartest, if not the smartest, football player I've ever been around," said Meyer. "I was with Emmitt Smith a few years ago when he went in, and I love Emmitt Smith. I can’t wait. I’m going up Saturday night as guests of Cris Carter. I love him. He really helped me with some stuff at Florida. We lost a player, and he was part of the Vikings when they lost a player. He shared some really great thoughts with our team. I love who he is."