Cris Carter (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY)
It was fitting that Cris Carter was the last member of the Class of 2013 Pro Football Hall of Famers to be inducted. His wait to get there was overdue, too.
Cris Carter went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night as he should have. He went on last. In a star-studded Class of 2013 that included Bill Parcells and Warren Sapp, Carter was the final headliner.
Carter, who has always worn his emotions on his sleeve for all to see, was in fine form in his home state of Ohio. He was heading to, as he called it, Football Heaven. His mantra of the evening was letting those who were part of his journey know, “You’re in the Hall.”
In a heartfelt induction speech, Carter thanked everyone from family members to Buddy Ryan and his wife to former Vikings co-owner Wheelock Whitney. But he couldn’t help but take a little bit of a jab at the process that made him wait six years for his induction, thanking the members of the selection committee and the difficult job it has in whittling down the field of prospective candidates to the Hall.
“It’s an unbelievable process, a tedious task,” Carter said. “I know the way they go about their job. They try to get it right. I appreciate the process you have to through to be a Hall of Famer. I’m so glad, regardless of whatever you’ve done, it’s not a slam dunk. We have the greatest hall of all the halls. To be able to join these men on this stage in Football Heaven is the greatest day of my life.”
The biggest ovation of the speech came when Carter thanked the Vikings fans for embracing him, saying, “There was never a time in Minnesota that I felt uncomfortable.”
He took the opportunity to thank his fellow Hall of Fame Vikings that he played with, including Randall McDaniel, Gary Zimmerman, John Randle, and Warren Moon. He acknowledged their contribution to his life as he took his place alongside them in Canton.
“Guys, you set a standard and I appreciate that standard you set going to work,” Carter said. “You guys showed me what it meant to be a pro. You guys helped me in the transition. You knew I had tremendous issues, but you never held that against me. I appreciate it that now I stand here with you and I’m forever indebted to you.”
Perhaps what made Carter as great as he was came in one statistic. Carter retired as the No. 2 wide receiver in most statistical categories, but one stands out more than others. It wasn’t receptions, yards or touchdowns. It was that he caught touchdown passes from 13 different quarterbacks. While Jerry Rice caught almost all of his TD passes from two players (Joe Montana and Steve Young) and Michael Irvin caught almost all of his from Troy Aikman, Carter had to build a rapport with a variety of quarterbacks, including Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, Jeff George, Daunte Culpepper and Todd Bouman.
Whether ESPN had a hand in orchestrating the order of inductions so their colleague could go on last and headline the show is unclear, but the right decision was made in letting C.C. close the show. For all the inductees in the Class of 2013, Carter’s trip back home was the longest in coming considering was a dominant resume he had put together in his illustrious NFL career. After five times getting close, but not close enough, Carter has found his rightful place in the pantheon of the immortals and his induction in the Hall of Fame will cement his place in the history of the game as one of the all-time greats – an honor that was deferred, but not denied.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.