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All The Way On Every Play
John Papanek
November 22, 1982
That's how far Anthony Carter, the All-America from Michigan, will go when he gets his hands on the ball
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November 22, 1982

All The Way On Every Play

That's how far Anthony Carter, the All-America from Michigan, will go when he gets his hands on the ball

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In a playful mood one day, Carter said to Schembechler, "Bo, I think I'll forget about pro football and become a coach like you. Only I'm not going to have any running plays in my book. Only passes. And maybe a few end-arounds."

"Don't come here looking for a job when you're fired, Snake," said Bo. Carter pranced away laughing.

Before his junior season, Carter met Elway at a preseason gathering of Playboy magazine All-Americas at Lake Geneva, Wis. Elway took Carter's hand and said, "A.C., gee, I sure wish you and I could hook up."

"John," said Carter wistfully, "so do I. So do I."

"Elway is going to win the Super Bowl for the team that drafts him," says Dick Steinberg, director of player development for the New England Patriots. "But he's the only one in the draft who'll be able to do that. Then come the guys you know are winners. Carter's one." Some, but hardly all, of the NFL people are concerned about Carter's size, which could mean the difference between his being a low first-round pick and a high second-rounder. Grambling's Trumaine Johnson and Arkansas' Gary Anderson, both of whom are bigger, and Tennessee's Willie Gault, a world-class hurdler, could be chosen ahead of Carter.

Still, many scouts feel that in the NFL, with receivers protected from contact once they're five yards downfield, Carter will be even tougher to cover than he is in college. Says Tim Rooney, a Detroit Lions scout, "I'll compare him favorably right now with John Jefferson and James Lofton, and they're the best. Anthony's no more than 10 or 15 pounds lighter than Lynn Swann, and he has the same great hands and great moves and acrobatic flair—and more pure speed. I'll say this. If you're not going to draft Carter, you'd better draft somebody who can cover him."

"There are two things that set Anthony apart from every other receiver I've ever seen," says Wangler. "One is that he runs a 4.4 40, but he can run 4.4 sideways. The other thing is his ability to position himself to make the catch, no matter where the ball is thrown. You just throw it, there's Anthony, always open and gliding into it." Always open. And this despite repeated muggings by opponents who have had Carter's picture pinned to their lockers for four years and game plans concocted especially to cope with him. Nothing has stopped him because there are so many things he can do. "He can take the ball on the sweep, or run the reverse, or cut upfield, or cut across the short zones," says Fry.

"If you want a single-word capsulization of Carter," says UCLA Coach Terry Donahue, "you spell it p-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l. In caps." Adds Purdue's Leon Burtnett, "We've tried double and triple coverage, and he still catches passes."

How? Carter gives a cute shrug. "Maybe it's this hook I have on my finger," he says smiling, holding up a meanly misshapen index finger on his left hand, the result of a high school football injury.

How does any superior receiver—a Swann, a Jefferson, a Lofton, yes, a Carter—catch balls lesser men can't handle? Carter's hands are of normal size by human—forget football—standards. The ball may come speeding at him like a bullet, yet there is no sense of impact when it meets his hands, nor is there any extraneous movement in his transition from receiver to ballcarrier. It is a physical puzzle that would confound Einstein. Carter says that in four years he has dropped only seven balls he should have caught, none of them in crucial situations. "Just sometimes when I'm lazy. Lackadaisy," he says.

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