Vikings draft Gophers All-American Carter

by Mark Heller

If you were a regular passenger trying to get off Flight 745 from Detroit on Sunday at around 8:45 p.m., then good luck — you might still be trying to get off.
Not only was the plane an hour late landing at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, but Tyrone Carter was on the flight.
The former Gophers safety returned from Florida to meet some relatives ecstatic he doesn’t have to move, then a media hoard and lastly, his new team, the Vikings.
Selected in the fourth round Sunday morning, he hurried to catch a flight to the Twin Cities to meet his new team today.
“It still feels like home, but I’m wearing shorts right now,” Carter said. “I had no bag, and I had to get on a plane right away. I have no pants.”
Fans need not worry about his cold legs. Carter is expected to head back to Florida late today, where his parents and fiancee are. But he’ll be back. Since he already has an apartment in the Twin Cities, the only thing he needs to learn is that games are on Sunday, not Saturday.
Last season’s Jim Thorpe Award winner for the best defensive back was still there when the Vikings had the 118th overall pick in the late fourth round.
“Denny (Green) liked him and he knew that I liked him,” said Vikings special teams coach Gary Zauner. “We knew that if we waited until the fifth round, he’d be gone.”
Hold on. Fourth round? The guy made 414 unassisted tackles and set the NCAA record with 528 tackles by a defensive back.
Apparently, at 5 feet 9, 190 pounds, NFL teams viewed him as too small. The Vikings did not.
“Most teams downgraded him because of his height, we didn’t,” Zauner said. “He had a 41-inch vertical. He has a big heart, he’s relentless and he’s always where the ball is. I think he’s a slightly smaller version of Robert Griffith.”
But the questions about Carter’s height lengthened his wait and anxiety. On Saturday he wasn’t drafted, so he had to wait.
Would he get drafted? When?
“(Saturday) I was fishing with my dad and my cousin,” Carter said. “I wasn’t watching TV much because I didn’t want to get stressed. When we got done fishing, I went to a pool room and started playing. My family kept calling me and saying you’re going to go this or that. I made it through.”
Zauner indicated that Carter’s first role would be where Griffith and many others start: special teams. At worst he could be a backup safety or cornerback.
Carter wasn’t the only Gopher to go. Former Minnesota running back Thomas Hamner was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round.
Besides the convenience of not having to move away from his relatives, Carter could be in an ideal situation. Given the woeful tales of the Vikings defense, they desperately need help in the secondary. Of course, the Gophers were desperate for anything when Carter arrived a little over four years ago.
Now, after giving more than a helping hand in resurrecting the Gophers’ football program, he has rearrived in Minnesota for the Vikings. And while waiting for Carter’s plane to touch down, one of his relatives was already wearing a Carter jersey.
It was a Cris Carter jersey.
For now.

Mark Heller welcomes comments at [email protected]