Carter traces his ca­reer to boot camp

Vet­eran LB brings dis­ci­pline, for­ti­tude

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY NORA PRINCIOTTI

RICH­MOND | Line­backer Chris Carter is an NFL suc­cess story, just not the type you’re think­ing of. He’s never made a Pro Bowl and doesn’t have any Su­per Bowl rings. He’s not a house­hold name. But in a league where NFL is of­ten said to stand for Not For Long, Carter is en­ter­ing his sev­enth sea­son.

Any player who lasts that long in the NFL has beaten the odds. For a for­mer fifth-round pick to carve a ca­reer as a jour­ney­man backup takes dis­ci­pline and men­tal for­ti­tude. For Carter, those traits were forged in him dur­ing a three-week mil­i­tary boot­camp dur­ing high school he says was the turn­ing point in his foot­ball ca­reer.

“I came back in the best shape of my life and it brought out those men­tal abil­i­ties, men­tal tactics that l learned there and brought it back to foot­ball, im­ple­mented that in, I think that was one of the best things ever for me,” Carter said.

The Red­skins signed Carter dur­ing free agency to com­pete for a backup spot at out­side line­backer. Carter’s longevity isn’t lim­ited to the NFL, though. His foot­ball days date back to the age of four, while he was en­joy­ing child­hood in Los An­ge­les. He had some abil­ity, but mostly played for fun and for the en­joy­ment of be­ing part of a team.

Dur­ing Carter’s sopho­more year of high school, though, his par­ents sent him to Camp Pendle­ton, a United States Marine Corps base in Cal­i­for­nia near San Diego. It wasn’t a pun­ish­ment — Carter was a good kid — but his older sib­lings had gone, too. Carter’s older sis­ter had been in an ROTC pro­gram and used to

“get into it” with her in­struc­tor, who sug­gested to Carter’s par­ents that she go.

“They sent her, she came back and she was a dif­fer­ent per­son when she came back so they said, ‘We’re send­ing all you guys’,” Carter said.

Carter’s brother went, then Carter him­self. They didn’t go to­gether be­cause their par­ents wanted them to fend for them­selves with­out a sib­ling to lean on. Carter buzzed his hair and, for three weeks, slept in the bar­racks or out­side, woke at 4 a.m., marched and ran in lock­step with his fel­low cam­pers and did pushups “all day, all night.”

“You just learn how to be ac­count­able to the peo­ple around you, learn how to be a team player and how to beat your mind. A lot of times your mind is telling you to quit when your body still has a lot left in the tank,” Carter said.

Carter came home in ex­cel­lent shape and with a re­newed sense of what he could get out of foot­ball if he set his mind to be­com­ing the best player he could. His ju­nior year, he had 89 tack­les and 13 sacks. His se­nior sea­son he had 106 tack­les and 21 sacks. He dis­cov­ered that he had a fu­ture as a col­lege, and maybe even pro­fes­sional, foot­ball player.

“I got real dis­ci­plined and real con­sis­tent,” Carter said. “I learned about con­sis­tency and I came back and I think I had the best foot­ball year of my life.”

Af­ter all those pushups, he was bench­ing 345-pounds as an un­der­sized high school line­backer. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds, he’s still on the smaller side, but Carter hit a growth spurt and got more dis­ci­plined about his diet, and even­tu­ally earned a schol­ar­ship to play at Fresno State.

Carter was a fifth-round pick of the Steel­ers in 2011 and has gone on to play in 62 games to­tal over six sea­sons. Carter is 28 now, but says his best trait is still his speed off the edge. In 2011, he ran a 4.62 40-yard dash at the com­bine, sec­ond-best among de­fen­sive ends (Carter’s po­si­tion in col­lege) and slower than only three lineback­ers.

His high­light-reel plays show him “hav­ing an of­fen­sive line­man fight­ing air at some point be­cause he can’t touch me,” Carter said.

Speed also helps on special teams, which will be a ma­jor fac­tor in de­ter­min­ing whether Carter makes the 53-man ros­ter in Septem­ber.

“If it’s close, the bet­ter special teams player will prob­a­bly win out,” coach Jay Gru­den said Satur­day.

Carter said that the Red­skins lineback­ing group feels com­pet­i­tive, with far more NFL-cal­iber play­ers than can make the ros­ter. Most camps he’s been part of have felt that way, but not all of them. So far, Carter has got­ten a lot of work with the special teams unit, but he’s also been in the ro­ta­tion with the first team, get­ting work on passing downs.

If he makes the team it’ll be be­cause he brought an “edge” not just some days or on cer­tain plays, but con­sis­tently as camp grinds on. To do that, he’ll trust that he can push his body far­ther than his mind tells him he can, and lean on the men­tal tough­ness built over a decade ago in and around the bar­racks at Camp Pendle­ton.


A Marine Corps boot camp taught Red­skins line­backer Chris Carter men­tal tactics he uses on the foot­ball field.

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