DeAndre Carter overcomes adversity, tragedy in pursuit of NFL career

Jeremiah Martinez

With many of this year’s draft prospects hoping to make an impact next season in the NFL, Sacramento State’s DeAndre Carter has similar dreams of his own.

During his junior season in 2013, his little brother Kaylan Carter, 17, passed away due to cardiac arrest. It was that moment that motivated him to pursue his dream of playing professionally. Carter made a promise to his brother that he’ll fulfill both of their dreams.

“It pushes me everyday,” Carter said. “I told him we were going to make it no matter what, by any means necessary.”

Carter used football as an escape to deal with his difficult situation. He received support from the coaching staff and they helped him cope with his loss. The Hornets’ offensive coordinator Paul Peterson was one of the coaches who consoled him in his time of need.

“I don’t really have any words to express because I’ve never been through it, so it was more consulting with him,” Peterson said. “It was a hard time for him, but I think football helped him stay grounded and opened his eyes a little bit to be more determined.”

Peterson has been with the coaching staff since 2012––Carter’s sophomore season.

The Hornets’ wide receivers coach Jason Pollak, who has gained a close relationship with Carter, was also part of the coaching staff at this time.

“I was there for moral support,” Pollak said. “It was my first year with the team and our relationship wasn’t as close then as it is now.”

Pollak has been on the coaching staff since 2013 and the two still stay in contact during Carter’s pre-draft process.

Carter had a close relationship with his brother and considered him his best friend. Ever since his brother’s death, Carter points to the sky after every touchdown he scores and dedicates every game to his late brother.

The sport of football has been part of his life since he was 10 years old.

“The game has been my entire life,” he said. “I could never imagine my life without it.”

His former coaches believe all he needs is one shot to prove he belongs in the league and they believe he has the tools to succeed in the NFL.

“There’s no question about it,” said Sac State head coach Jody Sears. “He has the physical strength and explosiveness. He has extraordinary work ethic, he’s a very committed and determined young man, and he was always out there working, doing something extra.”

During last summer when practice wasn’t held, Sears took a trip to his office and noticed Carter doing drills in the stadium.

“In the collegiate level, guys have to work hard to make it to the next level,” Sears said. “To be able to put in the extra time like he did, it translated on the field.”

Coaching Carter was a “real treat” for Sears and his staff and was regarded as a leader, coachable and a high caliber player.

“He’s got the speed, he’s strong as an ox, he runs phenomenal routes and his hands get better every single time I see him,” Pollak said. “As long as he stays hungry and continues to be the person he was the whole time he’s been here and plays with a chip on shoulder, I see no reason––barring injuries––that he can’t have a long career in the NFL.”

During his first season coaching for the Hornets, Peterson knew right away Carter was a difference maker. He said Carter was a coachable, dynamic and fun player for him to interact with.

“He could make really fast cuts, has very good lateral speed and he’s worked on his straight away speed,” Peterson said. “He’s very fast, really strong in the weight room and probably pound for pound the strongest guy.”

Recently, Carter has been training at St. Vincent Sports Performance facility in Indianapolis, Indiana. Notable alumni from the facility include Denver Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman, Baltimore Ravens return specialist Jacoby Jones and Super Bowl XLIV hero defensive back Tracy Porter.

“It’s been a great experience,” Carter said. “It’s a new place, staff is great, medical staff is great and I’m glad I made a choice of coming here.”

After a phenomenal senior season for the Hornets, Carter got a chance to showcase his abilities and skill set in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl last month which was broadcast on ESPN. He played a limited amount of time during the first quarter and was out for the rest of the game due to a bruised knee injury.

“Coaches said I’ve proved enough this week but I’m now 100 percent and ready to work,” Carter said. “It was a fun experience, I learned a lot from the coaches and it was great playing with other players from different areas and parts of the country.”

Even though he didn’t play much of the game, he made quite an impression during practice.

“During the whole week I wanted to go out and show people no matter how tall you are, no matter what school you came from, I could make an impact in the league,” Carter said. “Any team that takes a chance on me, just know I’m always going to play on a high level, I’m a student of the game and I’m an overall playmaker.”

Scouts were impressed by his ability and drew comparisons to Cleveland Browns slot receiver Andrew Hawkins. Carter was humbled by this comparison.

“We’re close to height and I’m a little bit heavier,” he said. “I watched film on him [Hawkins] and he’s a phenomenal player.”

Due to his size, scouts have place Carter at the slot position. Last season, Carter was primarily used as an outside receiver, but feels comfortable playing any position on the field.

He is relying on his pro day to improve his draft stock. He also said his agent will try to set up interviews and contact a few teams afterwards.

“There’s not much I could prove after pro day,” he said. “I have to continue to work hard, and the way everything’s going right now, everything should come into fruition.”

Sac State will hold their pro day on March 6.

Peterson and Pollak had nothing but good things to say about the draft prospect, most notably about his off the field character and work ethic.

“I could not think of anything bad to say about him” Peterson said. “He maximizes everything he has and is a good leader.”

Not only was Pollak impressed with him on the field, he was even more impressed with him off the field. The maturity level of Carter is something that his coaches were impressed with throughout his collegiate career, especially how he handled the death of his younger brother.

According to Pollak, Carter would watch film as early as 2 a.m., be ready for meetings at 8 a.m. and ready to work after each and every game day. His off-the-field work ethic in the classroom and weight room was also discussed. Not only was Pollak impressed with him on the field, he was even more impressed with him off the field.

“It was an honor to be around him and watch him grow up in the last two years,” Pollak said. “DeAndre is probably the best football player I’ve ever been around and I’ve been around some good ones.”

Carter had a tremendous senior season, earning a lone unanimous All-Big Sky Conference first-team selection.

He led the Football Championship Subdivision with 17 touchdown receptions, tied for fourth averaging 110.1 yards per game and led the team with 99 receptions and 1,321 receiving yards.

He was also named as a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is presented annually to the top offensive player in the FCS.