Former Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Cris Carter had to wait seven years after he was first eligible to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Ohio native and former Ohio State Buckeye was the final speaker of the night and he delivered with an intense, often emotional speech about his journey from losing his eligibility in college, to his release from the Eagles for his abusing alcohol and drugs.
Carter greeted the Canton, Ohio crowd by leading them in the "O-H-I-O" chant and apologizing to Ohio State University for losing his eligibility by signing with an agent after his junior season. Carter thanked the Selection Committee and acknowledged that he lacked championships on his resume.
Carter pointed out that he's been on some great teams, beginning with his family. Carter praised his mother for going back to finish his high school after dropping out at 17 and raising seven kids. Carter's mother completed high school at age 40 and 10 years later earned a Master's degree. Carter mentioned the Eagles and how former head coach Buddy Ryan agonized over the decision to release him.
"Don't cut Cris Carter," Ryan's wife told him. "He's going to do something special with his life."
Carter would go on to great things in Minnesota, catching 1,004 passes for 12,383 yards and 110 touchdowns in his 12 seasons with the Vikings, where he played with Hall of Famers Randall McDaniel, Gary Zimmerman, John Randle and Warren Moon.
Carter also thanked his current teammates at ESPN, who have helped overcome the pain and hurt of missing out on Hall of Fame votes in recent years. He additionally thanked his high school football coach, his wife of 23 years, Melanie Carter, player development staffs for helping during his career, as well as the late Reggie White.
Carter closed his speech by stating four things people visiting the Hall of Fame should know about him before they leave.
"I won't apologize, I love God, with all my heart," he said. "I love my family and I love my friends who stuck with me. And just like these guys, I love football. I love this game. This game gave me identity, it gave me a sense of purpose, and for an African-American man, it's a great opportunity in America, to be able to play football. And the number four thing that you should know about Cris Carter before you here is...Buckeye. Born and breed. Now HOF forever, even after I'm dead. Thank you."
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