One Frame At A Time: Anthony Carter Comment Count

Ace July 23rd, 2013 at 4:00 PM

I wasn't fortunate enough to be alive when Anthony Carter donned a Michigan uniform. In fact, my existence wasn't even a thought — his collegiate career ended in 1982, five years before I was born. I spent my formative years watching Toomer and Hayes, Terrell and Walker, Avant and Breaston and Edwards, remarkable talents all. The last among those, Braylon, had me convinced that no Wolverine before him could possibly have played the receiver position with more skill, impact, and style. In my youthful ignorance, Carter was simply one half of Wangler-to-Carter, playing a supporting role for Bob Ufer's ebullience.

Then came 2009, the midst of a dark age for both the program and its tradition of NFL-caliber receivers. The esteemed WolverineHistorian uploaded ten minutes of AC highlights — a reel even more impressive when considering that, before 1984, college football teams were limited to no more than six televised games in a given three-year span. Many of the clips below are from non-televised footage taken from the press box; I assume some of Carter's greatest exploits weren't captured on video at all:

Watching that video, I felt the same anticipative stirring of the Michigan Stadium crowd — or, on the road, the same petrified silence — when AC touched the ball that I've only experienced at Michigan with Denard Robinson; there's greatness, and then there's pure electricity, and each had them in abundance. That feeling alone captures more than numbers are capable, but the numbers still speak volumes:

  • In Carter's final three seasons, Michigan completed 366 passes as a team for 5,383 yards. Carter caught 124 of them, covering 2,219 yards. Of the Wolverines's 51 passing touchdowns in that span, Carter hauled in 26, more than half of the team's total. He was an All-American in each of those seasons.
  • Despite playing in a remarkably different era from those around him in the Michigan record book, Carter still ranks fourth in school history in receptions and second in both receiving yards and touchdowns. Of the top five players on each of those lists, only one played any part of his career before the 1990s: Desmond Howard, a freshman in 1989.
  • He also ranks as Michigan's second-most prolific kickoff and punt returner, trailing only Steve Breaston in both categories.
  • Carter recorded 14 100-yard receiving games in his career, a mark surpassed only by Braylon Edwards. Jack Clancy, the previous record-holder, set the mark in 1966 — at four.
  • AC still — stillholds the NCAA career record for average all-purpose yards gained per play: 17.4, with 5,197 career yards on 298 touches.

I could go on. Needless to say, my opinion on Michigan's greatest receiver has changed. From a pure football perspective, there's so much about his game to love, from his ability to reverse field in an instant... [click the still to open the GIF] his fearlessness over the middle... his Braylon-esque (or should I reverse that?) jump ball skills... the way his speed took the top off even the best defenses... his remarkable hand-eye coordination...

...and, of course, the fact that he could run a 15-yard post route in a tie game, with time expiring, and dance his way into the end zone.

Football exploits aside, even as someone who never experienced watching him live, it's easy to see why AC was — and is — so beloved; his effortless cool oozes from every pore, whether he's crossing the goal line with his signature high-kneed half step or casually flipping the ball to an official. I couldn't help but put together a supercut GIF of Carter's various, sometimes understated, occasionally exuberant, and forever imitable touchdown celebrations:

The next Michigan receiver to do the Carter high-step into the end zone will forever have a fan in me, even (especially?) if he draws a flag in doing so. Long live the definitive #1.


Bando Calrissian

July 23rd, 2013 at 4:11 PM ^

Talk to any Michigan fan in that 40-55 year old range who was watching Michigan football during AC's time, and they'll light up like a little kid at the mere mention of his name. It's seriously like the MGoCrush on Denard times about five. I saw my dad get visibly shaky and giddy when he noticed AC walk by us at a game a few years back. And this was, what, three decades after the guy played.

In this day in age, when teams pass 50 times a game and receivers have the kind of attention where everything is so overexposed, hyped, parsed, and dissected, it's hard to quantify just how great AC was. But the guy was pure magic.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:23 PM ^

I was in school from 78-81 and you are 100% correct.  AC was, is and forever shall be, the BEST wide reciever I have ever had the pleasure of watching.  And when you realize that he almost single-handidly forced Bo to reconsider the passing game (even Bo knew he had to get AC the ball somehow) his achievements are even more remarkable.

Now Ace - if you are going to start doing "one frame at a time" work for players of MY era I would humbly request a Ricky Leach montage next. "Quicksilver Lightning" could run the I Formation-Option better than any QB and could throw a little bit too.  He was my generation's Denard and that offense was taylor-made to his talents.

Thank you for doing this.


July 24th, 2013 at 7:17 AM ^

And when you realize that he almost single-handidly forced Bo to reconsider the passing game (even Bo knew he had to get AC the ball somehow) his achievements are even more remarkable.

You really can divide up the Bo era in terms of offensive philosophy into Pre-Carter and Post-Carter. After AC we had Harbaugh and the advent of much more sophisticated passing schemes which lead us to Grbac and Howard, then Collins and Toomer, Griese and Streets, Brady and Terrell, Navarre and Edwards, and most recently, Henne and Manningham. The modern Michigan offense began with Anthony Carter and Bo's realization of what a truly great talent at receiver could give him.

Bando Calrissian

July 23rd, 2013 at 4:33 PM ^

For the millionth time.

Braylon has NO SAY in who wears the #1 jersey. The scholarship is endowed for the WR the coaches assign #1. If no one is wearing it, the scholarship is still designated to a WR. That's how it's been since the scholarship was established. 

And, really, for everyone who criticizes Braylon about the scholarship... Do you actually remember the event when Braylon and the University announced the endowment? The whole thing was basically a celebration of Anthony Carter. Braylon's love and respect for his dad's teammate was a huge part of why he wanted to establish the scholarship, not to mention a big part of why he wanted to wear #1.


July 24th, 2013 at 11:17 AM ^,12

Stan sets the story straight real quick. When Braylon established the $500,000 scholarship fund for receivers to carry on the No. 1 tradition, it was the school that brought it to him in writing: you will be consulted on who gets to wear the jersey.

Also, Brandon Graham earned the scholarship one year so it does not have to go to a WR.

Here is another relevant quote from this artivle, 

“He was asking me about the number,” Edwards said of Hoke. “I said, ‘You know, coach, for the No. 1 jersey, everyone looks to me, but at the end of the day, it’s on you. You feel like someone deserves to wear the number, you feel comfortable, you have my blessing to give it to whoever you want.’”

So basically you won't be able to find a complete answer to this question.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:17 PM ^

I think it is safe to say he made his quarterback look really good, there are a lot of bad throws in that highlight reel AC manages to haul in...but I guess under Bo quarterbacks only got so much practice throwing the ball.


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:02 PM ^

Depends on which quarterback you're talking about, John Wangler or Steve Smith.  Wangler was a very good AC's junior and senior years Smith was more of a runner, though an adequate passer.  If he had a true pro-style passer those last two years AC might have have been even more impressive.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:25 PM ^

...Ace. It's nice to see someone from your generation looking back and seeing the greatness that was AC and then highlighting it. I take nothing away from Howard, Terrell and Edwards and their incredible careers and accomplishments. But AC is still Michigan's all time #1 receiver in my heart. 

And yes, a high stepping TD reception finish (after the receiver crosses the goal line) is a must have.

Rocking Chair

July 23rd, 2013 at 4:26 PM ^

As one who watched all of his home games from Section 4 (think Indiana 1979--catch was right in front of us) I can tell you that the crowd's "anticipative stirring" didn't just begin when AC touched the ball--it began as soon as he lined up wide on offense or waited for the punt or kickoff to fall into his waiting arms.  You just knew every time that you were probably going to see something special. 


July 23rd, 2013 at 10:41 PM ^

The play came at us. AC was the best offensive threat I ever saw in the winged helmet. You held your breath when he touched the ball. Bo used to run him on a delay 15 yard crossing route, and opposing safeties would play deep, he would get the ball running loose because the corner could never stay with him.


July 23rd, 2013 at 5:31 PM ^

My first game at Michigan Stadium -- vs. Michigan State in 1982 -- for a lot of reasons, but most clear in my mind is whenever a Spartans third-down conversion failed, the defense wasn't off the field before the crowd began chanting "A-C, A-C, A-C."

Why? Because he was going to get a chance to field a punt. I remember *expecting* Desmond to score on certain plays. And I remember thinking *anything* was possible when Denard had the ball.

But I've never heard collective anticipation like that before, or since.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:30 PM ^

The thing is Ace, many people either were too young to remember, or not born yet, and vehemently think Braylon is by far the best WR in Michigan football history.  Everyone believes the newest, most recent in memory athlete is better than the guy 20, 50 .... years  ago.

I don't know how many arguments with fellow Michgian fans i have had attempting to state how much better AC was than Edwards, Howard etc...

The irony of this is, i would argue with anyone that Wheatley was also the best RB ever at Michigan, and a 130 year old man would take my above position, arguing how naive i was that Wheatley was not even close to Willie Heston .... and he would be right.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:30 PM ^

Nice post, Ace. I was at most of those home games in the highlight clips. Damn, I am old. AC was the greatest. The #1 jersey begins and ends with him. He's also the best all-time Michigan Panther. Thanks for bringing back some memories

Blue Durham

July 23rd, 2013 at 4:31 PM ^

Great nostalgic post, Ace. Anthony Carter and I were in the same class at Michigan, so I saw him play when I was there.

Carter was greatly handicapped in that Bo rarely passed on 1st or 2nd down (unless the team was behind or it was 2nd and long). Most pass plays called were 3rd and long.

It was frustrating to be in the stands, see Carter wide out with single coverage on 1st down, and have Bo call a run every time. During Carter's Jr and Sr years, Bo would talk about getting the ball more to Carter, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.

Combined with his punt return ability, Carter was the most dynamic player I've ever seen. If he played under a coach more willing to use him on early downs, his stats would be even more impressive.

Another thing that really separates Carter from Edwards. Edwards, throughout his career, was plagued with drops. Carter never really had that problem.

Oh, and when I think of the #1 jersey, I don't think of Edwards, I think of Carter.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:50 PM ^

I was at all the home games during 1979, and that season Bo started out the season with option QB B.J. Dickey, who took over from the graduated Rick Leach. It was obvious to everybody in the stands what kind of talent Carter had, but throwing the ball out of the option was not a frequent occurrence, and B.J. wasn't blessed with the best arm when he did throw. The offense would sputter occasionally during the first part of the season, and Bo started putting in Wangler. All Wangler did was throw passes that Carter caught, but before long Bo would yank Wangler and put Dickey back in, and Carter would go back to being an underutilized weapon in the opinions of us geniuses in the stands.

At some point during one of the games a group of students in my section started a chant whenever B.J. was running the offense:

"Take out the Dick, put in the Wang! Take out the Dick, put in the Wang!"


Blue Durham

July 23rd, 2013 at 4:57 PM ^

I remember all of that well.

And you are dead-on, before people followed recruiting, after only a couple of games everyone in the stands knew that this SKINNY FRESHMAN was the most dynamic and biggest threat on the field.

Dickey was the better runner than Wangler, but that was because Wangler wasn't a runner at all. Wangler was a much, much better passer.

So Bo went with the average at best runner, crappy passer, naturally.

And as good as Carter's stats were, I have always maintained that they are very suppressed.


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:17 PM ^

Sure, he didn't have the wheels that Dickey did, but Wangler was capable of scrambling for some decent yardage... at least up until Lawrence Taylor cheap-shotted him in the '79 Gator Bowl. During the '80 championship season Wangler certainly didn't do any more running than he absolutely had to on that rebuilt knee.

SC Wolverine

July 23rd, 2013 at 4:34 PM ^

As one who was privileged to be a student at Michigan during AC's years (I was class of 82), I can only say that he is the greatest of Michigan's string of great receivers, in part because he was the first.  Prior to AC, there was nothing like this at Michigan.  We were all frustrated by 3 yards and a cloud of dust, win the Big Ten but lose the Rose Bowl football*... and then came AC.  He was incredibly electric in person, in large part because we had never seen anything like it.  I think the Denard comparison is on target.  Also, AC was a kind-hearted, friendly guy who was completely beloved by the student body while he was at UM.  It's nice to see him getting some publicity, because he really is the greatest in our line of great receivers.  I love all the great receivers who followed and would take nothing from them at all.  But you just had to have seen AC.

*Even when we deserved to win the 1979 Rose Bowl but had our game-winning fumble recovery overrulled by the refs.  I will never forget the wall-sized picture in the window of Moes, showing Charles White soaring into the end zone with the ball on the 3 yard line and the ref signalling touchdown.  The combination of Carter and Butch Woolfolk fixed our drought in 1981.


July 24th, 2013 at 11:21 AM ^

I don't know about football or basketball, but the Big Ten actually does still allow coaches to ban certain refs in other sports. I am a soccer ref and have a friend who is banned from doing MSU games just because the coaches don't like him. 

MMB 82

July 23rd, 2013 at 8:43 PM ^

at that Rose Bowl, and we were coming down onto the field for the half-time show when that play occurred, and we were literally right there. I remember screaming when I saw the ball come out, and being blown away when Gilbert Marchman (a Big Ten referee, no less) called it a touchdown. Coming back for Bo's first bowl win two years later kinda made up for it.

And yeah, AC was absolutely electric! He will always be the #1 #1 to me.

Wolverine 73

July 23rd, 2013 at 4:37 PM ^

Braylon was great, but AC was faster, could change directions more quickly, and had way better hands.  His numbers in the Moeller offenses or in the offenses of today would have been astonishing.  And the TD against Indiana may be the single most memorable positive play in the last 40 years of Michigan football.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:39 PM ^

whenever he lined up for a play on offense, there are only two other Wolverines I've seen that inspired the same kind of anticipation in me as Carter did: Desmond and Denard. I don't know if it's coincidence or not, but all three also had a personality that was so easy to love: always smiling, no sulking, never an asshole, excited to play each and every game for Michigan.

He's also the only UM football player that ever inspired my football-hating wife to stand up and cheer at a game, and of course it was the Indiana game. She was as excited as the rest of us were, which was no small achievement.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:42 PM ^

when AC was playing and my Dad, a 1947 grad, would watch the TV and have Ufer on the radio.  it was magic.  I loved how AC wore the tear away jerseys that became illgal I think partly due to him.  The Wranger to Carter play I remember watching live and didn't realize at the time I was witnessing UM Football Lore. 

AC was my dad's favorite player and, rest his soul, I think still was until he passed away at the age of 90 three weeks ago.  I never posted anything about him until now, but this seemed like a fitting tribute to him as AC is highlighted on this post.  I'm sure he and Bo are looking forward to the start of a great season...and taking a leak on Woody's front lawn.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:43 PM ^

As a graduate of the class of 1972, and a season ticket holder since 1968, I saw every one of AC's home games. Without a doubt, Anthony Carter was the greatest Michigan receiver during my lifetime and, as Bo said, a true "motor genius". Thanks for the great post, Ace. This is a keeper.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:48 PM ^

Carter is the best player in a Michigan uniform to not win a Heisman (and better than some). If someone better ever plays receiver for Michigan, I hope I'm still around to see him.

People forget because he spent the time in the USFL with the Panthers (Michigan's last pro football championship) that he wasn't one of those college wonders....he was a really good pro, too. There was a brief time when he was with the Vikings that it could be argued he was the best receiver in the NFL not named Rice.  He was the first superstar of the tv age of Michigan Football.