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Sports Then and Now



Cris Carter’s Long Journey Ends in the Hall of Fame 61

Posted on August 02, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Though best remembered for his years as a Viking, Carter started his career with three seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Though best remembered for his years as a Viking, Carter started his career with three seasons as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.

When I met Cris Carter in July 1989 there was little doubt that he had the ability to one day be a Hall of Fame wide receiver. However, after spending six months around him during the 1989 season I would have put his chances of actually ever living up to that potential somewhere between none and less than none.

So, it is quite amazing (and a testament to how people can change) that 24 years later Carter will indeed be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend in Canton, Ohio.

Talent was never the problem for Carter. The brother of former Indiana University and NBA player Butch Carter, Cris was a great multi-sport athlete and heavily recruited as both a basketball and football player.

An Ohio native, he chose to stay in state and attend Ohio State University. Originally Carter planned on playing both sports in college, but after setting a Rose Bowl record with nine catches for 172 yards during his freshman year, he decided to concentrate on football.

By his junior season in 1986 Carter was a consensus All-American and had already set the Ohio State record for career receptions.

However, as a harbinger of things to come, Carter was declared ineligible for his senior season after it was discovered that he had signed a contract with sports agent Norby Walters.

Allowed to enter the NFL through a supplemental draft, Carter was selected in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Under the direction of colorful head coach Buddy Ryan and sporting an exciting roster of young stars including Reggie White, Randall Cunningham, Jerome Brown, Mike Quick and Keith Byars, the Eagles were a team on the rise. As a rookie, the 21-year-old Carter saw very limited action during the strike-shortened season. He played in nine games and caught five passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

The next season he moved into the starting lineup and was a key performer on an Eagles team that won the NFC East and reached the playoffs for the first time since the 1981 season. Carter caught 39 passes for 761 yards (19.5 ypc) and six touchdowns.

By 1989, Carter seemed to be on a path to greatness, but few realized that he was actually on a path to self-destruction.

It was at that time during the summer of 1989 that I joined the Eagles as a Public Relations intern fresh out of college at James Madison University, where I had worked in the school’s sports information office and covered the football team for the school newspaper.

Spending the season as an intern with an NFL team was a dream come true, but while most of the Philadelphia players were great to work with, dealing with Carter was often more of a nightmare.

Unbeknownst to most of his teammates (or PR interns), it turns out that while Carter acted with great confidence (some would call it cockiness) on the field and in the locker room, he was actually losing a personal battle with substance abuse.

In hindsight, it actually makes sense that Carter was dealing with such demons. When I would make my daily trips to the locker room, you never knew which Carter you were going to run into. Sometimes he was engaging, friendly and helpful, however, more often he was difficult, condescending and just plain mean.

As a 22-year-old from a rural part of Virginia, I had never dealt with anyone who was an alcoholic or drug addict, so while others may have been aware of his problems, I was completely naïve and just trying to fit into the professional world and eventually handled it by only going near him when I needed to as part of my job.

On the field in 1989 Carter became the “touchdown maker” for the Eagles. He caught 45 passes for 605 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, after catching eight passes for 113 yards in a Monday Night Football loss to the Chicago Bears in the fourth week of the season, he never caught more than four passes in a game the remainder of the season. Read the rest of this entry →

Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters Have To Make Tough Choices 1

Posted on February 02, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Both Michael Strahan and Bill Parcells could be part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2013.

Both Michael Strahan and Bill Parcells could be part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2013.

Selecting which candidates will gain admission into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is never easy, but with a number of deserving first time eligible players joining a crowded list of holdover candidates, whittling down the field will be especially challenging this time around.

Making their debut among the Hall of Fame finalists are four players that all seem destined to one-day receive a bust in the Hall of Fame: Michael Strahan, Warren Sapp, Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden. Given the greatness they each exhibited during their careers, the question isn’t if they will get into the Hall, but when.

Joining these four newcomers among the 15 modern candidates are 11 former players, coaches and owners who all are making a return engagement among the HOF finalists and who all have compelling resumes that seem warranted of getting them into the Hall.

The selection committee will have the tough challenge of narrowing the list from 15 to more than five players who will be part of the Class of 2013.

In addition, the committee will separately decide if former defensive stars Dave Robinson and Curley Culp will receive football immortality this year.

As I have chronicled in previous HOF columns over the years, the selection committee is today paying for their past indiscretions.

The reason for the huge glut of deserving candidates is that the committee spent a prolonged period in the early part of the millennium making a mockery of the selection process.

Between 1995 and 2005 the voters chose the fully allowed compliment of five modern candidates only one time. The situation culminated in 2005 when only two modern era candidates were selected.

Interestingly enough, since 2006 24 players who were eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2005 have been inducted to the HOF. I would love to find out from the HOF voters exactly what those players did after 2005 to increase their worthiness for selection.

Of the four new candidates, you could very easily make a case for each one to receive entry in their first year of eligibility.

All four players earned at least one Super Bowl ring and were regular participants in the Pro Bowl.

Predicting what the HOF voters will do is never very easy, but given their past history of making deserving candidates wait at least one year before making it into the Hall, it seems doubtful that first year candidates will serve as a majority in the Class of 2013.

Because of his media stature, I would not be surprised if former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan finds his way into the HOF in his initial year on the ballot. Read the rest of this entry →

Will the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee Make it Two in a Row? 23

Posted on February 03, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Will 2012 finally be the year that Cris Carter earns Hall of Fame selection?

There are few things in sports that frustrate me more than the selection process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thanks to a combination of egos, inconsistency and often personal, geographic or team biases, there are many deserving former NFL stars who have never made it into Canton while others of lesser quality have a plaque of their own.

In the three years I have written this blog I have spent a significant amount of time each year chronicling the inconsistencies and offering my own ideas for who should be in the Hall and how they should be selected.

But last year a very strange thing happened. Instead of picking names out of a hat, it appears that the Hall of Fame selectors actually had a thoughtful and constructive discussion on who belonged in the Hall of Fame. The result was a Hall of Fame class that in my opinion was the most deserving class that the selectors have ever chosen.

So, my question entering their annual meeting coming up on Saturday is “Can they do it again?”

Sadly, I still am enough of a skeptic to believe that last year was just an example of the blind squirrel theory and with candidates like Marshall Faulk and Deion Sanders among those eligible it wasn’t overly difficult for the voters to get it right.

In fact, you could argue that the Hall of Fame voters have already put themselves in a negative situation for 2012 because unlike last year when it was very hard to argue that there were players just as deserving left out in order to enshrine the class of 2011, regardless of who enters as the class of 2012 for almost all of the finalists there is at least one player not on the list who you could easily argue is as deserving as the player who made the list of finalists. Read the rest of this entry →

What Blunder Will The Pro Football Hall of Fame Voters Make This Time? 2

Posted on February 04, 2011 by Dean Hybl

"Prime Time" should be an easy pick for the Hall of Fame voters.

Predicting which team will win the Super Bowl on Sunday is an iffy proposition, but one sure bet this weekend is that the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee will do something surprising when making their picks for the 2011 Hall of Fame Class.

There are many wonderful things about the NFL, but the selection process for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is not one of them.

Over the last two years I have written several articles outlining how I think the voters have missed the boat in many of their choices, or non-choices, and now have created a back-log of qualified candidates who are not in the Hall of Fame and probably will not gain entry for years to come, if ever.

You can read my list from last summer of the 25 players I think are most deserving of Hall of Fame selection. This list does not include first-year eligible players, but seven of the 17 Hall of Fame finalists for this year are included on my top 25.

When the committee meets tomorrow, if they do nothing else I hope they select at least six members to the 2011 Hall of Fame class and I’m okay if they make it seven.

Last year marked the first time since 2001 that the Hall of Fame voters selected the maximum number of seven inductees. Part of the reason for the glut of deserving players is that the voters selected only four players in both 2004 and 2005. Considering that 13 players and coaches who have entered the Hall of Fame in subsequent years were eligible during those years, it doesn’t make any sense to me why those classes were so small. Read the rest of this entry →

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