When former Minnesota Viking wide receiver Cris Carter was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame over the weekend, he recalled getting his start in football with a group of friends from the housing project in Middletown, Ohio, where he grew up. Carter also attributed his success to a strong family, including his mother, who he said raised him and his six brothers and sisters on her own.
Carter played for Ohio State before signing with the NFL. He was No. 80 for the Vikings from 1990 to 2001, and his retired purple jersey will hang in the Metrodome when the Vikings play their first preseason game on Friday.
"There was never a time in Minnesota I felt uncomfortable," Carter said during his induction speech.
Since his retirement, Carter has been an analyst for ESPN and just last week published a book: "Going Deep: How Wide Receivers Became the Most Compelling Figures in Pro Sports."
Following his Hall of Fame induction, MPR News' All Things Considered sat down with Carter for an interview that touched on everything from wide receiver personalities to performance enhancing drug use in professional sports.
On how the book came about:
"Someone had approached me with the idea that, 'Cris, you say things about wide receivers that I've never heard before.'" Carter hadn't ever considered writing a book but saw an opportunity, because there weren't many books on wide receivers.
"It was never a goal of mine, so to be able to get focused on it, lock in and be disciplined to be able to write it — I'm very, very proud of that."
On wide receiver personalities:
"It's a Type A personality. Typically someone who's going to be very, very selfish, typically someone high-strung, typically someone that will be vocal, so if they're disappointed they will say it. Because of their selfishness, they might try to generate more interest in themselves than about the team. Wide receivers, we are different, we're a different breed, we're different from any other position, and I think that leads to some of the things we've seen wide receivers do on and off the field."
On what quarterbacks and running backs would say about his arguments:
"I could care less what they say. Joe Montana is not Joe Montana without Jerry Rice, OK?"
On how the game has changed in the past 25 years:
Carter had a long list: Rules about bumping players has changed, some of the new quarterbacks are capable of throwing all over the field, more offensive coordinators like Bill Belichick who have an open mind about throwing the ball, formation changes.
On his predictions for the Vikings this year:
Carter says stealing wide receiver Greg Jennings from the Green Bay Packers was a good move, and he's excited the Vikings drafted wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee.
"The Vikings' got a good football team. I like Leslie Frazier as a coach. I believe the team is going in the right direction. They really can't afford any injuries. Their receiving core — I don't know how good they're going to be. They'll make the playoffs. If you tell me how good the receivers are going to be, then I'd be able to tell you how far they can go in the playoffs."
On performance-enhancing drug use in pro sports:
"There is so much reward that people are willing to take the chance as far as their overall health," Carter said. "If you can take something that would help you stay and make that type of money for an extra two or three years, they're willing to take the chance, so I'm all for drug testing, I'm all for HGH testing, I'm all for leveling the playing field in all sports.
"When I go and pay my money, I've been working hard all week, and I buy these tickets and try to take my kids, it would be nice to know that everyone out there is just on Mama's corn bread and greens, OK?"
"I am so glad I did not do anything illegally to my body. I'm reaping the benefits that now, at 47, I'm as healthy as I can be."
VIDEO: Cris Carter career highlights
Interview transcribed by MPR reporter Elizabeth Dunbar.