One Frame At A Time: Anthony Carter

Submitted by Ace on 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.



July 23rd, 2013 at 4:52 PM ^

Bo certainly did not underappreciate AC's gifts but did underuse him.  Why?  

Maybe it was because Bo was averse to risks.  He always said "there's 3 things that can happen when you pass--and two of them are bad."  

Or maybe--even as brilliant as Bo was--he may not have known how to best use AC.   Perhaps he was like the guy won the lottery but did not know what to do with all the money. 

In any case, though Bo and AC were like the "odd couple," they were both great in their own ways.


July 23rd, 2013 at 4:59 PM ^

Carter changed the way Bo played football. That in itself was nothing short of amazing. I saw "rarely threw on first down" up above. Before AC, that was in the section under "trick plays". 

It was easy to appreciate Vincent Smith because he was not a receiver and blocked with wild abandon. We've seen the mountain goat characteristic before, though. Perhaps it is something in the Florida soil. Not all of AC's returns or catches went for 60 yards. Many ended with him being just levelled, usually along the sideline. I don't know that I could count the number of times we collectively held our breath while he bounced up, on more than one occasion before the defender took to his feet.

I remember someone posting something along the lines of "we'll never see another player like this" in regards to Denard. I can appreciate the comment, but I also remember saying it to myself back in '82.

Carter also had Ufer. I would have loved to listen to Ufer announce one of Denard's games. It would have been epic.




July 23rd, 2013 at 5:03 PM ^

he heads my list of Michigan's most EXCITING players:

1. Carter
2. Robinson
3. Breaston
4. Howard
5. Woodson

I imagine that Harmon belongs on there somewhere.

San Diego Mick

July 23rd, 2013 at 7:36 PM ^

I realize there is a lot of Denard love on here, but he wouldn't even be in my top ten players all time, as exciting as he was, he made way too many mistakes for me to rank him that high.

The 2 greatest players in my over 40 years of watching my beloved Wolverines wore the #1 & # 2 Jersey's. AC & Sir Charles, hands down are my 2 favorite players and that's saying something when you consider all the great players we've had.

The players I would put right behind them are Desmond Howard, Wheatley, Rick Leach, Braylon, David Terrell, Mike Hart,Steve Breaston & the A-Train.


July 23rd, 2013 at 7:50 PM ^

Whoa. See, I was all ready to agree with you that maybe we were applying recency bias toward Denard to the exclusion of other great players, but...

First of all, the post you are responding to is referring to exciting players, based on the electricity of their playing style, not overall greatness. 

Secondly, you are way underrating Denard if you are filing him behind guys like David Terrell and Steve Breaston. 

San Diego Mick

July 24th, 2013 at 12:17 AM ^

was unstoppable at U-M, he was a stud who came up big time in big games, Breaston was valuable in so many ways, at WR, at returns and changed a game on his own at times. 

Denard played in an offense tailored made for him and he came up flat in the big games way too often , either fumbling the ball or throwing an INT. 


July 23rd, 2013 at 7:57 PM ^

Wait, what? Breaston over Howard? 

Breaston was a great player and made some incredible plays. But Desmond Howard was a Barry Sanders-level phenomenon at Michigan, who did incredible things every time he touched the ball, and was dangerous in so many ways. He scored an astonishing number of touchdowns in his Heisman season, and they weren't cheapies--his highlight reel from that season is still jaw-dropping.

He was, in essense, the prototype of the fast slash-back that has become, in the persons of Reggie Bush, Desean Jackson, Percy Harvin, and Tavon Austin, the most desired type of offensive weapon in football. An athlete with speed, acceleration, mind-bending moves; the worst nightmare of any defensive player in the open field; yet, also, an incredible receiver who could catch anything from any absurd position. The only real tragedy of his career is that he entered the NFL before NFL coaches really understood how to use a player like him, and yet he still managed to win a Super Bowl MVP.

That you would rank him behind Breaston (again, Breaston was a marvelous player, but we are talking about an entirely different category) can only lead me to conclude that you were too young to truly appreciate Howard when he played at Michigan.


July 23rd, 2013 at 5:08 PM ^

... I bought on purpose. In any sport. (It had the number, not the name IIRC.)

And the only one I ever will.

Which, actually, just means I had outgrown the idea by 1997, but still...


July 23rd, 2013 at 5:11 PM ^

AC was the best.  Anytime the ball was in the air, whether thrown or kicked, and it was headed in AC's direction there was an excitment in the stadium that has been unmatched since - with the possible exception of when Denard took of running with an open lane ahead of him.  #1 on his jersey, and #1 in the hearts and minds of those who had the pleasure of watching him play in the winged helmet.

For those that did not get to see him play, he was a THREE time All American WR that played for an offense run by Bo "three yards and a cloud of dust" Schembechler.  That should give you an idea of how special AC was.

AC was the quickest player I have ever seen.  So many opposing players wanted to really hit him hard and put him out of the game but AC was so quick they could never get a good hit on him.   One of the clips above showed AC step back after he caught the ball and you see the  defender go flying by in front of AC.  I would say that that was one of AC's signature moves.  I remember one game were the defender thought he'd out smart AC and anticipate his step back after the catch - only AC went forward after the catch and the defender looked liked a total fool diving at air 3 feet behind AC.  Good memories.



July 23rd, 2013 at 5:12 PM ^

ACs last home game was against Purdue, and he burned the Purdue dbacks all game.  Had 2 TDs.  They started to announce seniors in the 4th quarter.  As the next play is ready, the PA announcers says "And there is one more senior left to announce."  The crowd rose to its feet, shouted "AC AC AC AC........".  The play finished, and from the press box "and from Riviera Beach, Florida, #1, Anthony Carter".  The stadium goes louder, and AC walks off the field towards Bo.  He was a great receiver.  Yes, the greatest receiver ever at Meechigan.


July 23rd, 2013 at 7:16 PM ^

Seriously one of my 5 favorite home games of all time, and I have attended 250 or so.  Like yesterday.

That touchdown you mention is the third clip from the bottom.

rob f

July 23rd, 2013 at 10:14 PM ^

for AC's final home game, too; from what I remember in my 4th decade as a season-ticket holder, no out-going Michigan senior ever got as loud a roar of appreciation.

So many prior posts in this thread have said it so well that all I can do is thoroughly agree:  Anthony Carter is simply The Best Wide Receiver in Michigan Football History!! 

As also has been mentioned prior, without a doubt AC is the best Michigan Football player never to win the Heisman.  Best he ever finished in the voting, though, was 4th as a senior (won in '82 by Hershel Walker).  AC finished 10th in the voting as a soph (winner was George Rogers) and 7th as a junior (1981 winner was Marcus Allen).  Though I have no problem with either Allen or Walker winning those Heismans, thru my Maize'n Blue goggles AC was the best player in college football both years but just didn't get enough touches and P.R. to make a serious run at the trophy.

p.s.: Thank you, Ace, both for educating all the MGYoung'uns and for confirming what all us MGoOldFarts already knew about Anthony!


July 23rd, 2013 at 10:41 PM ^

That very first clip immediately brought back memories of one of the greatest days of my football watching history. We were setting at the bar.  Big screen projection televisions were state of the art at that time. Now too far away from us at another table was a group of ND fans - yeah ND fans and M fans, unlike OSU can watch a game together.  But that fake at about the ten yard line that left uniform parts from the defenders somewhere on the field even had the Irish fans excited.  It was also after their aborted fake fg, or possibly extra point that me and my buddy called when the ball was still in the air from the center to the holder showed us that the leap from high school to big time cfb was just too much.  Imagine his record if it hadn't been ND but some team with lesser talent. Can u say ugly.  ^ This was truly Bo's greatest offensive recruit. The excitement level whether it was watching him run under a nice soft pass was probably only surpassed when he was back awaiting a punt. Closest I've seen since at UM was Breaston.  I thought I'd never see an offensive player with that much talent and viewing pleasure in another M player. Denard made me rethink it, but I would-probably-due to my age-be forced to vote one, two in favor of AC. Harmon of Michigan was a little before my time but I think he should be mentioned in any talk about Michigan's greatest offensive weapons of all time.   In fact, I think AC was perhaps the greatest player I've ever seen not to win a Heisman.

Eastside Maize

July 23rd, 2013 at 5:30 PM ^

1) Carter was a great receiver and a threat anywhere on the field. 

2) The importance of having a running game that will make defenses bite on play action. A great deal of those bombs to AC came off play action.


July 23rd, 2013 at 7:27 PM ^

Good point.

Every single receiving touchdown Carter scored in 1979 was off play action, even the 45-yard pass against Indiana with 6 seconds left.  Why?  Because (the story goes) Michigan's playbook didn't have any pass plays that didn't start with play action.

This may have been true the next year as well.



July 23rd, 2013 at 5:36 PM ^

When I put that video together, I too got that jealous feeling of never knowing what it was like to see AC play live. I was born during Carter's sophomore year. And I wasn't watching football at age 2 so I missed out.

I probably have a little less than half of AC's games and I watched Braylon's entire college career. But it's still no contest for me who was the better receiver. Braylon did many great things obviously. But his mind blowing drops (thrown right to his breadbasket) were quite often. He made up for it by putting up the impressive numbers he did but you never would have seen Carter make the drops that Braylon had. Carter could adjust his body to make any catch even if they were overthrown or underthrown. When Bo first discovered his greatness during practice of his freshman year, he said the coaches were amazed that no matter how hard the ball was thrown, Carter would catch it. After a while, it turned into a game of having the QBs constatly throw as hard as they could on every pass just to see when he would finally drop something and it never happened. He was THAT good.

It's also interesting to note that Carter was very homesick during his freshman season. He went so far as to pack his bags and Bo had to chase him down to the bus station.


July 23rd, 2013 at 5:39 PM ^


Thank you for this fantastic look back at Anthony Carter's accomplishments. He was as special as any player that has ever worn the maize and blue. Like others above I either watched or listened to (Ufer's broadcast) every game he played for Michigan.

It would be great if you could profile other players in a similar fashion - I'd like to read about Rob Lytle again.

Thanks and Go Blue!


July 23rd, 2013 at 5:45 PM ^

I was at U of M from 1977 to 1981.  Carter was the greatest.  It wasn't until Bo took the passing connection Wangler to Carter to Pasadena that he won a Rose Bowl.  I think those two got Bo to change his coaching philosophy. Seems like his `80s teams made better use of the pass.

I'll never forget the change in emotion at that '79 Indiana game.  I had just said to one of my friends, "Great, we're going to kiss our sister on homecoming."  The next play was Carter's touchdown.  Everybody in the stadium, including Bo was jumping up and down.  I remember at the band show after the game Carl Grapentine said, "We salute the shell-shocked Hoosiers of Indiana," when they played their fight song.

I met Carter once outside of Dooley's at closing time.  Really nice guy.  Thanks for the memories, Ace.


July 23rd, 2013 at 5:57 PM ^

Great comparison to Denard -- same feeling of a drop in the stomach like the swoosh of a roller coaster every time he touched the ball.

My mom was always scared every time the ball got near him, be cause she thought his skinny little legs looked they would just snap. I don't remember him ever leaving a game injured, though.


July 23rd, 2013 at 5:57 PM ^

how did he not win a Heisman? 

Then I looked and his last 2 years it was won by Marcus Allen and Herschel Walker. Too bad. I wonder if he had been utilized more if he would've won over either of them. It seems he had the national recognition if he was an all american 3 years in a row!

An amazing player from before my "able to understand sports and things in life" time. I've known him from the Wangler Indiana highlights and others, but this was greatly refreshing. 

Thanks much. Weird to say he's my favorite #1 without having seen him play, but I think that's exactly what I'm saying. 


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:44 PM ^

But when the AP or some other organization I can't recall came out with its All-Time All-American team in the late 1980s or 1990s, AC was one of the WRs.  I believe he was a 3-time first-team All American and finished in the Heisman top 10 3 times as well, culminating in 1982 when he finished 4th behind Herschel Walker, John Elway, and Eric Dickerson.

He's the first Michigan football player I ever remember idolizing (I was born in 1971), and the reason my first and only jersey was #1.

Michigan Study…

July 23rd, 2013 at 6:00 PM ^

I met him at Michigan football camp in '89. He actually spent several minutes talking with a few of my teammates and me. Was absolutely awestruck. So much so that I forgot that my arm was in a sling when he asked me what had happened to my arm. I had broken it the first day of camp. Actually met John Kolesar at the training facility right after I broke it.



July 23rd, 2013 at 6:08 PM ^

I was in school 77 to 82 (BS & MS) and got to see him live. The first time AC touched the ball as a freshman, he ran a punt back 72 yards for a TD vs Northwestern. The crowd instantly started the AC chant as he ran off the field. A legend was born.


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:12 PM ^

I was born in '79, so I don't remember AC playing. My Dad, however, was always adamant that Carter was the best Michigan receiver ever (we had this discussion for the first time after Desmond's Heisman season, which I remember quite well) and perhaps the best Michigan player he ever saw. He held this opinion through Desmond and Woodson's careers, and I have never had reason to doubt him. Based upon my Dad's excellently informed opinion, I consider AC's position as Michigan's greatest receiver unassailable.

Of course, like Ace, I haven't seen many highlights. That Illinois highlight, for example, is completely new to me... and one of the most amazing Michigan plays I have ever seen. He has at least four or five Illini between him and the endzone, turns on the afterburners, and.... it's not even close! Magnificent!

AC would be a youtube/twitter sensation if he were making these kinds of plays today. And there's no question he would be able to compete with the athleticism now present on the football field; he was an athlete ahead of his time. 

Brilliant post, Ace. Best content on the site this summer.


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:19 PM ^

I am just curious, but what is that honking noise that occurs in the first two highlights after AC scores a touchdown?  I can't tell if thats just the stadium noise or just some other effect.  Regardless, everytime I hear that sound I get pretty amped up and wish I could have watched this legend play and hear the game called by the greatest radio playcaller ever, Mr. Bob Ufer. 


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:26 PM ^

Is General George Patton's horn he had on his jeep during WWII.  Ufer got it and honked it three times for a TD, two times for a FG, and once for an extra point.  You can get the story on's a wav that is Ufer telling the story.


Edit:  And all of a sudden, I'm feeling old again.


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:33 PM ^

And then some. We moved to Ann Arbor when I was ten, and my dad somehow got season tickets for 1977. We went and had a pretty good time, but in 1979 this guy seemingly no bigger than me trotted onto the field and returned a punt for a TD the first time he touched the ball. That set the tone for the rest of his career and hooked me as a Michigan fan for life. The next year he became the first second-year player ever to be voted as Michigan's MVP and it kept getting better. (He still holds NFL records for all purpose and punt return yardage in the playoffs - 1987 - so it's not like he was only a college great.)

Anthony Carter is #1 in the Maize N' Blue. Even Edwards, great as he was, is second fiddle here.


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:44 PM ^ Michigan history IMO.Certainly during the Bo era: 1.Opened up State of Florida for recruiting. 2.Bo's offensive scheme changed which led to a long run of NFL quality QB's and WR's.

The FannMan

July 23rd, 2013 at 6:45 PM ^

and please click on the link re: "Ufer ebullience."  Not only does it have Ufer's call, it has Bo describing the play.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

I miss Bo.


July 23rd, 2013 at 6:54 PM ^

AC was hands down the best receiver in modern Michigan history.  I would say he was the best Michigan player of the past 44 years (I started watching M football in 1969) with the possible exception of Charles Woodson. He was criminally underutilized by Bo.  For example he caught 17 passes in his freshman year for seven TD's. He averaged over 27 yards per catch as a freshman.  

Victor Hale II

July 23rd, 2013 at 8:04 PM ^

My first consistent football viewing was those Bo coached UM teams of the late 70's (born January '74). The two guys I remember most, and always will, were AC and Butch Woolfolk. Those two guys were so special and could really light up the eyes up a little 5 year old football neophyte. And obviously pretty much anyone who watched them play.

Great post, Ace.


July 23rd, 2013 at 8:35 PM ^

He was such a major part of my childhood I actually watched USFL Michigan Panther games just to see him play (reminds me of my upcoming shame... that I will watch Jacksonville Jaguar games this fall).  He was paired up with Bobby Hebert, who turned out to be an NFL-quality QB and later played for the Saints, and it all paid off in the end with AC clinching the championship with a typical AC play:


I lived in Houston at the time, and I would make my parents take me to Houston Gambler games when Michigan came to town just so I could see AC in person.  Watching those shootouts with Jim Kelly on the other side was an absolute blast.  

Though I had zero interest in Minnesota Vikings games, you can guess what happened next... will never forget his dominating performance in the '87 playoff game vs. 49ers:

Watch this freaking catch.  Pure AC.


The Niners were a huge favorite in this game, but they just couldn't handle AC.  He set an NFL playoff record with 227 yds. receiving that day.

And, for no reason other than I hate the Cowboys, this: