Top 10 Moments of Cris Carter's NFL Career
On Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, Carter will be inducted into the Canton hall after a career that spanned 16 seasons and produced 13,899 yards and 130 touchdowns on 1,101 receptions.
While it is impossible to completely encapsulate Carter's career with any list, we can certainly distill some of his greatest moments into a manageable list.
Most of Carter's top moments took place on the field, but we'll start with one that happened off of it. It was also one which changed the course of his career.
Like everything else, it was a battle that Carter emerged from victorious.
Overcoming His Drug Addiction
Sure, it might not seem like one of the greatest moments for a player, but consider for a second that had Cris Carter not overcome his demons, we likely would not be talking about a Hall of Fame career.
Yes, some top players have partied and played at a high level, but how much better could they have been had they laid off their drug or drink of choice?
Carter had a problem, one which at least partially was to blame for his being cut from the Philadelphia Eagles during the 1990 NFL preseason. During his time with the Eagles, Carter failed three drug tests and while he was a good receiver, the team had clearly had enough.
Carter and the Vikings put together a system which challenged him to stay sober and while it certainly wasn't an easy road, Carter overcame his addiction to become one of the most prolific receivers in the history of the NFL.
Would he have achieved the success he did had he continued using drugs? Maybe, but chances are that he would never have been as great as he became.
That being the case, perhaps there is an argument for this being the top moment of Carter's career.
Back-to-Back 122-Catch Seasons (1994,1995)
When Cris Carter finished the 1994 season with 122 catches, he sat atop the record books as the NFL player with the most receptions in a single season.
The record didn't last long. Carter was tied in 1995 by Jerry Rice and Herman Moore topped it by one catch that same season.
Of course, one other player tied Carter's record from 1994—Cris Carter.
Marvin Harrison would shatter the record with 143 receptions in 2002, but that makes what Carter did no less impressive
Consider that only two NFL players have topped 120 catches in multiple seasons—Carter and Wes Welker. Calvin Johnson far topped 120 catches just once, Rice never topped 120 again (though he was over 100 catches four times) and while players today like Welker make 120-plus catches seem more common than it is, in 1994 and 1995, there was Rice and Carter.
And that was it.
By the time Carter retired, he had two seasons with at least 120 catches while the rest of the league only had three other receivers total reach that distinction in that time.
Carter also was one of very few players at the time to notch 120 or more receptions in back-to-back seasons. Rice did it as well, but Moore dropped off from 123 catches in 1995 to 106 receptions in 1996 and 104 catches in 1997 before falling completely off the map over the next few years.
In topping 120 receptions in back-to-back years, Carter managed to do something very few receivers had done at the time, and very few have done since.
His First 1,000-Yards Season
It doesn't seem like much now, but 1,000 yards used to be pretty good for a receiver.
In 1993, the first time that Carter cracked the mark, there were nine receivers with 1,000-yard seasons. That's not to say you didn't get surges of players topping 1,000 yards—just that it wasn't commonplace.
Carter went on to top 1,000 yards eight seasons in a row.
His 1,071 yards in 1993 led the Vikings in yards from any position other than quarterback and helped Minnesota make it into the playoffs, where it lost to the New York Giants, 17-10.
Despite the loss, Carter led the Vikings with 183 yards and a touchdown on four catches.
Being Elected to His First Pro Bowl in 1994
In recognition for his outstanding play in the 1993 NFL season, Cris Carter reached the NFL Pro Bowl.
Not everybody gets to the Pro Bowl. Maybe it's easier now because the format is such that the Super Bowl participants don't play, but at the time, that wasn't the case.
It was a big deal, and for Carter, it marked the beginning of him really reaching his potential.
Considering the rocky start to his NFL career and his drug rehabilitation, it must have been doubly sweet for him to reach such a pinnacle.
Carter would gain the Pro Bowl eight years in a row.
The 65-Yard OT Winner Against the Bears in Week 14 of 1994
One of the most exciting plays Cris Carter was involved in was this 65-yard catch-and-run which helped beat the Dave Wannstedt-coached Chicago Bears in Week 14 of the 1994 NFL season.
The play put Carter in motion, which ended up with him matched up on inside linebacker Joe Cain. Advantage Vikings.
Carter did a great job of gaining separation from Cain and then catching a well-thrown pass from quarterback Warren Moon. Tiptoeing down the sideline, Carter made Cain fall on his face, crossed to the inside of the field and sidestepped strong safety Shaun Gayle before sauntering into the end zone.
The sauntering Carter made it look so easy, but it wasn't.
Check out the video to see some great footwork by Carter at the 1:29 mark. Simply incredible.
Going over the Top of a Miami Defender for a Score in 1994
There was no good way to trim this video, so start at the four-minute mark, although since a lot of the video is about Cris Carter's awesome hands, you could be happy watching the whole thing.
However, right around the four-minute mark shows just a glimpse of what could be Carter's most amazingly play.
The year was 1994, the first of two straight seasons in which Carter caught 122 passes.
Week 4 saw the 3-1 Miami Dolphins visit the Metrodome to take on the 3-1 Minnesota Vikings.
During the early part of the game, the Vikings took a large lead that they eventually lost, although they ended up winning, 38-35.
Warren Moon threw a poor pass towards Carter, a floater which was falling short of his intended target and heading directly into the hands of Dolphins defensive back Chris Green.
Not on Carter's watch.
Carter jumped, reached over Green's head and snatched the ball, coming down with an eight-yard touchdown.
The determination, hands strength and pure ferocity were all Carter trademarks—all on display in what was arguably the best catch of his career.
Being Added to the Minnesota Vikings Ring of Honor (2003)
When Cris Carter retired, he was given the two highest honors the Minnesota Vikings can bestow upon a player.
Entering the Vikings Ring of Honor was one of them.
Only 20 people have been added to the Vikings' Ring of Honor and Carter is the sole wide receiver.
It makes sense, given that Carter holds the franchise records for total receptions, receiving yards, total touchdowns and career games played while also having the most receptions in a single season and tied with Randy Moss for the most receiving touchdowns in a single season.
Carter did plenty for the Vikings to earn his spot in the team's Ring of Honor.
His 1,000th Catch (2000)
Anytime a wide receiver catches the ball 1,000 times, it's special.
When Cris Carter did it, he was only the second NFL player to ever achieve the feat. Since then, there have been seven more to notch 1,000 receptions, but even now, it's a special thing.
Catch No. 1,000 for Carter came on a touchdown of all things, thrown by Daunte Culpepper against the Detroit Lions in in the second quarter of a game in 2000 to put the Vikings ahead, 14-0.
Carter ended his career fourth on the list of NFL career receptions leaders with 1,101 catches.
Of the active players on that list, Tony Gonzalez is ahead of Carter while Reggie Wayne is 133 receptions behind and Randy Moss—well, that really shouldn't matter much at this point—is 119 behind.
The next closest is Andre Johnson with 818 catches.
There's a good chance Carter remain fourth on that list for a while to come.
Having His Number Retired by the Minnesota Vikings
Getting into a team's Ring of Honor is one thing.
Getting your number retired? That's a whole different level of awesome.
Like the Ring of Honor, the Vikings have only added a handful of names to the list of players who have had their number retired by the team.
In this case, it was five until Carter made it six.
Nobody will ever wear No. 80 for the Vikings again as it will forever represent what Carter meant to the Vikings, including who he was on the field and what he did.
The Vikings retired his number quickly as well, a sign of how much they respected what he did for the team.
Being Elected to the NFL Hall of Fame
It was getting to the point where Cris Carter and Vikings fans alike were wondering how long it was going to take before Canton came calling.
And then it finally happened.
While it was still too long overdue for one of the toughest, hardest-working and prolific receivers to play in the NFL, Carter will finally be in the Hall of Fame.
This video encapsulates what the honor, as well as how much the team's efforts to help him overcome his issues, means to him.
As Mark Craig of the Star-Tribune noted after Carter learned he had been elected:
"Man, [the Vikings] invested so much time in me," said Carter, breaking down again. "They got me to see the right people. Man, when I got there, I needed a lot of help. Oh my goodness."
One can only assume that come Saturday night, when Carter is officially added to the Hall of Fame, the honor will top all of these moments.
For Carter, it is a brilliant end to an incredibly long and emotional journey.
What were your favorite Cris Carter moments? Add them in the comments, and as always, thanks for reading.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and the NFL writer at CheeseheadTV.com. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.