NEW ORLEANS -- The road on his football journey has finally led wide receiver Cris Carter back home.
Carter, a native of Middletown, Ohio, and former Ohio State University player, joined Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells, former offensive linemen Larry Allen and Jonathan Ogden, defensive tackles Warren Sapp and Curley Culp, and linebacker Dave Robinson, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013 that will be enshrined in Canton this August.
Carter, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in his sixth year of eligibility, spent 16 seasons in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles (1987-89), Minnesota Vikings (1990-2001) and Miami Dolphins (2002). He caught 1,101 passes and 130 touchdowns, and surpassed the 100-yard mark in 42 games during his career. Carter was on the receiving end of at least 70 passes in 10 seasons.
“It’s unbelievable,” Carter said. “There’s no type of preparation. It’s the most amazing thing that’s happened to me. People told me when I didn’t get in the first year and they told me when I didn’t get in the second year, they told me that it would still be awesome, and they weren’t lying.
“To be in a class like this, to play against these guys, my contemporaries, it’s unreal. It’s unreal that you’re going to end your career in Canton. For me, I’m forever humbled. If you look at my career and how it started, for me to end up in this chair, this is the happiest day of my life.”
Carter started his career as a pick in the Supplemental Draft after his junior year at Ohio State. He lost his remaining year of eligibility after dealing with an agent and struggled in Philadelphia before finding success with the Vikings. Carter was emotional when he took the stage Saturday and talked about how much the game of football means to him.
“I come from a house in the projects in Middletown, Ohio, with seven kids,” Carter said. “My mom raised all those kids. Playing football for me has been my whole life. I never had a real job. I played 16 years in the league. Since I’ve been out of the league, I’ve been working in television. I never filled out an application.
“Every dime I ever made is on the National Football League. Football means a lot to me. To say I’m in the elite of the elite, I’m in the Hall of Fame with the greatest players who have ever played the game, there’s nothing more that can be said about your career.”
Ogden played in 177 games over 12 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. During his first two years, the Ravens gained more than 5,000 yards in each season. He also blocked for running back Jamal Lewis’ 2,000-yard season in 2003. He started at left tackle in the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV win over the New York Giants, was a six-time All-Pro and 11-time Pro Bowler.
Ogden got the call from the Hall of Fame on the same weekend his former team will compete for the Super Bowl. Ogden was the first-ever first-round pick of the Ravens back in 1996, and was selected in the same round as current Baltimore linebacker, Ray Lewis.
“It was not easy,” Ogden said of waiting for the call. “People were sending me texts of congratulations, and I’m like, ‘There’s no chicken that’s been hatched.’ I watched golf. I watched Phil Mickelson play golf. That’s what took my mind off of it this morning. If I had been watching NFL Network or any of the sports programs, I might have gone nuts and just pulled all my hair out.”
Parcells was a head coach of the Giants (1983-1990), New England Patriots (1993-96), New York Jets (1997-99) and Dallas Cowboys (2003-06) during his 19-year career. He coached in 303 games, carried a regular-season record of 172-130-1, and is the only coach to lead four different teams to the playoffs.
Under Parcells’ direction, the Giants won two Super Bowls (XXI over the Denver Broncos and XXV over the Buffalo Bills).
“It’s tremendous,” Parcells said of his induction. “It’s exhilarating. It’s such a great thrill.”
Former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He was drafted by the Cowboys in 1994 and played in Dallas until 2005. He ended his career with the San Francisco 49ers from 2006-07.
Allen came into the NFL out of Butte Junior College in California, and earned 11 trips to the Pro Bowls. He was named to two NFL All-Decade teams (1990s and 2000s), and started at right guard for the Cowboys in a victory in Super Bowl XXX. He will join three other Cowboys from that Super Bowl era in the Hall of Fame -- quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin.
“I broke down and started crying. I’m still trying to process it,” Allen said of getting the Hall’s call. “When I got drafted, they had just won a Super Bowl and had the best players at every position. Erik Williams got hurt and they threw me in. I didn’t want to be the one that messed up.”
Sapp also made it into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility after a 13-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1995-2003) and Oakland Raiders (2004-07). Sapp registered 96.5 sacks from his defensive tackle spot and had double-digit sack totals in four seasons. He was the 1999 NFL Defensive Player of the Year after collecting 16.5 sacks, and had 23 multi-sack games in his career.
“As the baby of six, I always said they saved the best for last, but they could have done me a little better than that,” Sapp said of being the last name called for induction. “That was hurtful. That was scary.
“My feet haven’t touched the ground in about 30 minutes. This is unbelievable. We play the ultimate team sport, and this is the ultimate examination of an individual. When you’re standing on the 50-yard line, it’s a pretty daunting task, but the 11 that are going to come along with you are going to do it. There’s nothing I can do without my other teammates.”
Robinson and Culp were veterans’ committee nominees who were selected for induction.
Robinson played in 155 games over his 12-year career with the Green Bay Packers (1963-72) and Washington Redskins (1973-74). He was part of three consecutive championship teams with the Packers. Despite a torn Achilles tendon in 1970, Robinson finished his career with 27 interceptions. He was a two-time All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1970s.
Culp was a second-round pick of Kansas City and spent his 14 seasons with the Chiefs (1968-74), Houston Oilers (1974-80) and Detroit Lions (1980-81). He played in 179 games, and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1975. Culp was an All-Pro in 1975 and a six-time Pro Bowler.