The voters made Cris Carter wait until his sixth try before electing him into the Hall of Fame.
Saturday night at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Carter had to wait again, sitting through six speeches before stepping into immortality and exulting in the crowning moment of his career.
But no one had to wait to see how much it meant to him, as the emotion came pouring out before he even reached the microphone and uttered his first words, which were “O-H” — a tribute to his alma mater Ohio State.
The quivering lip and watery eyes have been traits of Carter’s since he found out in February he would be a member of the Class of 2013, along with Jonathan Ogden, Dave Robinson, Larry Allen, Bill Parcells, Curley Culp and Warren Sapp.
Carter cried before the first question could be asked in his first interview after the announcement, and again in May when he was the keynote speaker at the Pigskin Roundball Spectacular in his hometown of Middletown, and again Friday night in a media session at the Hall.
After being presented by his son Duron in a four-minute video and trembling on his way to the podium, Carter quickly composed himself and began doling out the thank you’s during a 16-minute, 44-second speech, beginning with his his older brother Butch, telling him, “Today as your baby brother goes into the Hall, you need to know: You’re my hero.”
He also praised his sisters for all the meals they cooked and football pants they sewed before turning to his four childhood friends – Sean Bell, Jimmy Calhoun, Al Milton, and Dwight Smith – and asking them to stand up and saying, “As your boy goes into the Hall of Fame, you go into the Hall tonight.”
Carter went on to single out the people he met on his way to “football heaven,” including his mother Joyce. He asked her to stand and talked about how she dropped out of high school at age 17, had seven kids, went back to get her diploma at age 40 and by age 50 had her Master’s degree, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Momma, I’m so sorry for the bumpy flight and rough ride, but I’ve got to tell you, it’s a smooth landing,” he said. “Sit down, momma. You’re in the Hall of Fame.”
Carter also mentioned his wife, Melanie, and Vikings employees Wheelock Whitney and Betty Trilogy, whom he credited for helping him quit drinking and get his life in order, something his son alluded to in his presentation video.
“He felt like his life was spinning out of control and right about that time I was being born,” Duron said. “He tells me all the time that when I was born, that’s when he decided he was going to get his life together and be great.”
Carter gave nods to his high school coach, Bill Conley, and the late Reggie White, a fellow Hall of Famer. And he apologized to Ohio State fans for signing with an agent, a transgression that cost him his senior season, calling it his only regret as an athlete.
He concluded his speech by saying, “The last thing you should know about Cris Carter before you leave here is ‘Buckeye, born and bred, now H-O-Fer, even after I’m dead.’ ”