Former Viking and Hall of Fame Class of 2013 WR Cris Carter
Introduced by Leslie Frazier:
Good afternoon everyone. This is a tremendous day for our organization. To have a chance to introduce a Hall of Famer, no longer have to say future Hall of Famer, but a person who I gained a lot of respect for over the years, not only as a football player but as a person. So many great accomplishments in our game. Eight consecutive Pro Bowls, over 1,000 yards receiving on a consistent basis, 13,000 yards in his career, over 1,000 catches. We’re all very familiar with the statistics and all the many things he’s accomplished on the field, which is one of the reasons of course that he’ll be entering the Hall of Fame. The thing that has impressed me most in getting to know Cris [Carter] is the transformation as a person. When you consider, and he just mentioned this a moment ago, where he grew up back in the projects and you look at where he was at Ohio State, what things were like for him with the Eagles, and the transformation as a man along with the talent that he has and that he’s been blessed with. I mean you knew he was a great football player but to see the man that he’s become, that’s what really inspires me and inspires so many. The humility that he shows, it makes a difference. So it is with great pleasure, on behalf of the Wilf family and Rick Spielman and the rest of our organization, we’re honored to present one of the greatest wide receivers to ever play this game and now a Hall of Famer, Cris Carter.
I appreciate it Leslie, thank you. I have to take you on the road with me, have you introduce me everywhere, but I am very, very thankful. I’m thankful to be here, I’m thankful for the process for which I went through to get here. There’s hundreds and hundreds of people that I have to thank because I didn’t make it here by myself. What the Vikings organization, what they did from the beginning to be able to help me and give me the skills that I would need off the football field, that’s the most powerful thing that anyone could ever do for you. And then the process of the people who really got involved in my life and helped me out, it’s overwhelming. I don’t really want to talk about my career because for me, it’s really about all the people who helped me. It’s such a phenomenal thing for people to get involved in your life as a young person and to be able to stick with you and to have confidence in you that you could do it because it was a daunting task to be able to do. That’s why I always have love for the Purple. Not only for the organization, the Wilf family that owns the team now, they’ve been very, very supportive since they’ve owned the team of me and anything that I was involved with. Anything that involved ESPN, they’ve been supportive. They’ve been supportive of me coming here and being involved with the team. Having Leslie here as the head coach gives us that security as Purple fans that eventually we are going to get a championship here in Minnesota. I’m very thankful for Red McCombs and his family when they bought the team in 1998, the investment that they made in me personally and the friendships that we have. Then the ownership that was here with the Vikings when I took over, I think there were eight owners. Wheelock Whitney is here, I talked to Roger Headrick on the phone earlier and they’re the ones really responsible for me coming here. Wheelock and Betty Triligi who was our employees assistant, she handled that at the time. Personally what they did for my life, that changed my life. Besides my mother, there’s a lot of people that helped me out but there’s not a lot of people that can say that I wouldn’t have made the Hall without their involvement. But I can stand here today as a man to tell you if you wouldn’t have helped me that day when I came here, that second week in September, I wouldn’t have made it. I am forever indebted to the Vikings organization for the skills and the power they gave me that I can have success, that I didn’t have to be that other person and to be able to go on and be productive in life. To me, that’s the thing I am most proud of, I really am. I’ve always been proud of the Purple, always been proud to be a Vikings fan, I was always proud to say I played for the Purple. Some people might say, ‘Well you guys didn’t win a Championship’, but we did all we could. We played to the level as good as we could play at and I still look forward to the day that the Vikings do win their first Super Bowl. I greatly appreciate all the administrators, coaches, scouts that were involved in my development. There were a lot of people that really helped me. There were a lot of people that talked to me. Me and Stud when we played together, I see Stud [Scott Studwell] sitting back there, and we played together, but there were times we sat down and talked and JR [Jeff Robinson], who’s still here working with the organization. There are times these people sat me down and talked to me about things that had nothing to do with the game but they really helped me be a better leader. They helped me grow up, they helped me really make goals in my life to really be a special player. I greatly appreciate all the things that everyone around here has done for me. I’m forever indebted for all those who took a part in my success. That I do appreciate.
Q: You mentioned that first day that you got here. What was that like for you and what made it so special for you?
A: Well the first day was very, very difficult because I would say that the Vikings were somewhat aware of my situation but not fully aware. Once they opened that file they became fully aware of it and realized that I had an issue. They put certain steps in place that day that, at that time I wasn’t using, my biggest problem was struggling with cocaine, and at that time I wasn’t using but I was still using alcohol. On that Friday, September 19, that was the last day I ever drank. Betty issued me a challenge, it was for a week that I wouldn’t drink. I haven’t had a drink since then. I was just trying to make it through the week to survive really. That’s what I was really trying to do, just make it through one week and then eventually after surviving, I could feel my body starting to change and I could feel my ability starting to really, I could be as good as I really wanted to be. I upped my conditioning, I dropped my body weight, and then the rest was history.
Q: A little bit of time has passed since you’ve got the good news and the vote to get in. Once you come back here and walk through these halls again, does it really kind of sink in how far you’ve come and that you’re actually in the Hall now?
A: No, every day I cry. Every day. It’s overwhelming, it’s the most unbelievable thing that has ever happened to me. People tell you it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be good, but they don’t really give it justice for what it means. It’s not for me. To me it recognizes the people that really helped me who people don’t know. So for me, every day being a Hall of Famer, every day those people get recognition for what they should and playing a huge role in my life. Before we go any further, I have to thank another person and that’s Mark [Craig]. I greatly appreciate what you had to do. Four of the last five years we’ve had Vikings selected to the Hall of Fame. With you taking over being our presenter, it’s very, very difficult. It’s really hard to talk about someone else’s stuff but when I was sitting there watching it on television, I started getting texts and people started telling me stuff about you. ‘Man, your guy was unbelievable’, ‘Your guy was great today’, ‘Craig was unbelievable’. Bob [Hagan] and them will tell you, and I never thought I was going to get into the Hall, I didn’t, but it gave me the greatest sense. Seeing the other Vikings over the last several years get in, I did have a sense that this year was going to be different. I greatly appreciate how you guys presented the information. We came up with a plan from the last time we didn’t make it. Tom West, Bob Hagan here with the Vikings, we came up with a plan. We were upset but we got over it. We said we were going to do things just a little bit different. They showed you that plan and you walked it out like no one could do it any better. I greatly appreciate it because it’s the most frustrating thing for people to tell you you’re a Hall of Famer but you don’t have it. To finally get in, man it’s really, really amazing. It’s a very, very difficult job that you have, especially given that the wide receivers and the issue that they have with the numbers and everything. For me, people say, ‘Well you should have made it the first time’, it really doesn’t matter. I greatly appreciate it, it was just as sweet, and I’m proud that you were my presenter. Man, we’re going to have a good time in Canton.
Q: Can you talk about picking your son to be your presenter at Canton?
A: Well my son is the closest one to me and he’s my son, I have one son. He’s a football player, so to me it was either my son or my daughter. It wasn’t even close as far as anyone else. He is my son, I think that he had it different growing up with me as his dad and somewhat coaching him. I think he’ll have a different perspective on it. It will be interesting to hear what he has to say. I’m not going to find out until going into that day. I’m sure he’ll do a decent job for his pops.
Q: When did you first do your signature toe tap on the sideline and how did you develop that?
A: Well, Kelly [Wilske], see I mentioned you. She wanted to be mentioned in the Hall of Fame speech, but I told her it’s only 10 minutes so I’ll get her today. She mentioned that since she’s been here – How long have you worked for the Vikings, 24 years, but she’s only 26 – and she said the one thing that she thought was different from me was, as accomplished as I was, most days after practice I would stay after and catch balls. I’ve caught thousands of balls on that Jugs machine. I believe that as a wide receiver every ball you catch, your brain takes a picture. So for me, I tried to take millions of pictures in my mind so once I got on the field, there was no ball that I had never seen in my mind. Every time that I would drop the ball, I would close my eyes or I would not remember it. I would forget it because I didn’t want it to creep into my psyche. I caught thousands of balls one-handed, jugs machine, left-handed, right-handed, it was part of my routine. I’d catch 50 just before I left practice. I’d get the equipment guys to throw to me. I believe in catching the football and I don’t believe in dropping it. I don’t believe you learn anything from dropping the football. I tried to set myself apart from the other great receivers in the game and I thought I could catch the ball better than them. As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen anybody in football that catches the ball better than me and I pride myself on it that I catch everything. I catch everything that the normal people catch and I catch a few things that no one catches. That’s what I used to say to myself before every game. I catch everything that normal people catch and I catch a few things that no one catches. That’s all I say, and I prayed to god to keep my teammates safe, before the game. That’s all I’d say. I always tried to make a difference in getting to the balls that other guys couldn’t get to.
Q: Can you talk about your training and your workout regimen over the years that kept you in such great shape?
A: I don’t believe that I should be commended for being in shape because I’ve only had one job. I’ve only had one job my whole life. To be in shape, that’s just normal. I saw that training was changing in the 90’s and I really got with that and I tried to take it to a new level, but you only have one body. God is only going to give you one body and you have to take care of it. I can’t even give a guy credit for being in shape now. That’s part of your job. That’s like a construction guy wearing a hard hat. I’m a wide receiver, get up in the morning and run. What I did was, everyone assumed that Jerry Rice was the best receiver, and Jerry Rice trained at 7:00 a.m. on the West Coast, but with my trainer we came up with a plan. We said that we are going to outwork Jerry Rice before he gets up, when he’s sleeping, true story. We started working out before him. Even when I was late my trainer would call me and say, ‘Jerry Rice is going to be up in two and a half hours. The best receiver in football is going to be up training and it’s going to be too late to catch up to him.’ By the time Jerry Rice woke up I was done with my work, I was done doing whatever I wanted to do and I knew that if Jerry Rice was ahead of me, that day I had caught up to him a little bit. I did that for the last 12 years of my career trying to catch up to Jerry Rice and getting up before he got up on the west coast.
Q: Your work ethic seemed to be imparted on some of your teammates and people that came after you. Can you talk about your work ethic?
A: I think that the veteran players wherever I was, and more so here with the Vikings, we had great leadership and we had great guys, great examples. Our best players were our best practice players and I got caught up into that. I believe in putting on a show in practice. I don’t believe in waiting until the game. Every day I went to practice I tried to do something special. I tried to make the Vikings think that what they had invested in me was the right thing. I really love practice. I really love going to practice, I really love doing it and I think that’s one of the reasons I was able to have a long career.
Q: When you finally got that call, how did it feel?
A: I didn’t get a call. I was watching on TV just like everybody else. When you’re watching for the last five years, and the first year I think I was a finalist, to me it’s gut-wrenching. There’s no feeling like it. You feel like you’re getting sick to your stomach. I’m so glad I’m off that list. Man, I’m telling you. Me and Paul Krause were talking a little bit, I remember when he got inducted I was playing and all the years he had to wait. They gave him a number, be the best safety in football, he did that, had everything and they still made him wait. There’s a process so there’s no way to explain that away. There’s no way to explain it. Man, it’s tough. It’s tough when you get down to those final guys and everyone on the list, you can put them in the Hall. They have a Hall of Fame career and they’re not a finalist. Man, I’m so happy I’m off that list. When they make that Saturday selection now, I will be going about my day totally different than the last five years, that’s for certain.
Q: Do you think more receivers will have to go through that wait that you went through?
A: I’m going to tell you, every man has to fight his own battle. The process is not going to change, the wide receivers, they’re not getting any less accomplished. We have Marvin Harrison, he’s up this year. So now you have him, Tim Brown and Andre Reed. Andre Reed was a finalist last year so it looks like Dre will be the first one to get in and subsequently in the next five years you’ll have Randy Moss, you’ll have T.O. [Terrell Owens], you’ll have a bunch of other people on the list. It’s not going to get any easier. It’s supposed to be the best players, not the best players by position. Eventually, they’ll work out. I can’t campaign for them because it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough. If you look at the people that didn’t make the finals this year, they could have gotten in the Hall. It’s going to be tough, but I’m so glad I’m not on that list with them.
Q: How many times have you been to the Hall of Fame being from Ohio?
A: I’ve been to the Hall a couple times. I went early as a youth on a field trip. It’s 241 miles from the housing project I grew up in. From that doorstep to George Halas Hall, it felt like 10 million miles because the journey I had to get there. You don’t grow up in that little place like that and think you’re going to end up in Canton. You really don’t. So for me, it’s a special meaning not only being in the Hall being from Ohio, but being a Buckeye and the number of Buckeyes in the Hall, but being born and bred in Ohio. That’s what we do, we play football in Ohio. To say I’m one of the elite of the elite to be in the Hall from Ohio, and to be a Buckeye? It’s just all extra. It’s all extra, on top of extra, on top of extra, but it really does mean a lot that it is my home state and the Pro Football Hall of Fame is there for a reason because pro football started in Ohio, that’s the reason it’s there. And for me to be selected, it just keeps getting better. It really does.
Q: When they finally said your name, what did you think?
A: I didn’t think anything. I totally blacked out. My wife jumped on me and I totally blacked out. I remember screaming, I remember kicking up my feet and then my wife said, ‘You have to take a shower, we have to get to the convention center.’ And when I got to the convention center, God’s honest truth, I saw Jonathan Ogden on the stage and I knew that Larry Allen – because I knew it was alphabetical, through the years you start to learn, if they get past the ‘C’ you’re not going to make – So I knew Larry Allen and I saw Jonathan Ogden and I didn’t know anyone else, so I had to ask them before we stared the show, ‘Ok, who else really made it?’ I really didn’t know. I blacked out, that’s what happened.
Q: One thing about you, you gave credit for someone getting you in. Paul Krause was tougher than anybody to get in and I got him in and it was a miracle to get him in.
A: Listen, let me tell you something. We have a great history here with the Vikings. We have everything but a Super Bowl trophy. Every Viking that’s in the Hall deserves to be in the Hall. Most of them deserved to be in before they got in. Now who else do we have. Every one of our Vikings should have gotten in the Hall. It was a crime to watch Paul Krause have the NFL record and not be in the Hall. The only reason why we don’t have the history of some of these other franchises is because we haven’t hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and that’s the reason why we have to wait. But, that will happen too. I’m very, very happy with not only the class I’m going in 2013, but to say that I continued the great tradition of Purple People Eaters. We have a great legacy in this building and we have a great legacy here and I’m so glad I was able to live up to all those great players. Every time I would see them I would acknowledge them. Not only Krause, but [Carl] Eller, [Jim] Marshall, [Alan] Page all those players. All those players we looked up to. They set a standard that when you play for the Purple there’s a standard you have to play to. I’m so happy there is a standard.
Q: One guy who’s not in that should be is Mick Tinglehoff.
A: He’s the next guy we have to work on. He’s the last one and then there will be several years before we have another candidate, but we have to be very, very happy with the 4 out of the last 5 years with the people who have been selected. Randall McDaniel getting selected, unbelievable football player, one of the best football players I ever played with, Johnny Randle being selected, Chris Doleman getting in and [Gary] Zimmerman getting in before that. People who have worn the Purple, we play some serious football and now our history is in Canton. Glad we’re on the same team now.
Q: Was there a point in your career where you thought you could be a Hall of Famer?
A: No, zero. I never even thought about it. Even when Denny Green would try to talk to me somewhat about it, I wouldn’t acknowledge it. I had new goals that I was trying to accomplish. The Hall of Fame was never a goal for me. It was never a goal for me, never.
Q: What were your goals?
A: I wanted to be the best receiver that I could be, I wanted to be consistent, I wanted to be the best receiver ever to play for the Purple and I wanted to win the Super Bowl. Those were my goals.
Q: There are some pretty good receivers with you.
A: Yeah, pretty good, pretty good. Played with some good guys, a lot of them.