WHEN St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) senior wide receiver Duron Carter travels to Cincinnati for the opener against local powerhouse Elder this Saturday, he's sure to get some love from the Ohio State supporters in the stands. That's because he plans to follow in the footsteps of his pass-catching father, Cris, and play for the Buckeyes in 2009. It's not as if Cris hadn't planned for this moment: At the Columbus hospital where Duron was born, he requested a room with a view of Ohio Stadium.
In middle school, though, Duron began running a contrarian route. Out of his admiration for Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards, he became a fan of Ohio State's archnemesis. "He was just as much of a knucklehead as I was as a kid," says Cris, who graduated from Ohio State in 1986 and became the second player (after Jerry Rice) to reach 1,000 NFL receptions and 100 receiving touchdowns. And despite growing up in a family full of Buckeyes—his mom and three aunts also attended Ohio State—no one made fun of Duron's maize-and-blue allegiance. "They bought me Michigan clothes," he says. "I had a Michigan blanket on my bed."
Duron was overshadowed by Raiders wideout Philip Pierre-Louis, an Auburn freshman, for most of last year, but he drew the attention of recruiters after his performance in the Class 5A state title. He had two catches for 63 yards—and two touchdowns—in a 35--20 win over Osceola (Kissimmee, Fla.). Remember what ESPN commentator Chris Berman said throughout Cris Carter's NFL career? All he does is catch touchdowns.
Duron received offers from Auburn, West Virginia, LSU and South Florida, but his favorite team growing up paid him little attention. So he packed up his Michigan blanket and picked Ohio State. "I had a feeling that Buckeye blood would come through," says Cris.
At 6'4" and 190 pounds, Duron has grown one inch and 15 pounds since last year. Raiders coach George Smith, who is 318--65 in 31 seasons, says that Carter combines deceptive speed with the technical precision he learned from his dad, an Aquinas assistant when he isn't working as an NFL analyst. "Duron still hasn't filled out into his body," Smith says. "He's going to get better as he gets stronger."
If Cris has any tips in reserve, he may want to pass them along this weekend. Elder will have a home crowd at Paul Brown Stadium for the annual Kirk Herbstreit Varsity Football Series, a tournament that includes 30 of the top teams in the country. The Panthers also have the advantage of having played two scrimmages and a regular-season game.
For Duron, playing a national power from another state in a packed stadium is just the next step in his football education. And even though he'll be a Buckeye soon enough, Duron hopes to send the Ohioans home disappointed. "Over time," he says, "I think they'll forgive me."
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