In his journey first to Ohio State, then to the NFL and ultimately the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Cris Carter has seldom been able to return to where it started: Middletown, Ohio.But one of the great receivers in history will be back there today, to be honored as part of his six-month trip toward Canton.
“It’s a little different, because the last 25 years I haven’t really been in my hometown,” Carter said yesterday. “So to actually go back, I don’t have a lot of family there, but I do have my friends and buddies I played ball with, and I think it’s nice for them.
“It’s kind of hard for them to understand the whole Hall of Fame thing, but it’s nice for them to be honored as a hometown and as a high school by the Hall of Fame.”
Carter’s return is part of a program called “Hometown Hall of Famers,” sponsored by Allstate Insurance. The ceremony will take place at Middletown High School at 1 p.m., with Carter’s older brother Butch, a former NBA player and coach, presenting him with a plaque of recognition to be displayed at the school.
“No one makes it to the Hall of Fame without a great deal of help and assistance along the way, especially in those formative years in middle school and high school when a kid’s career can just go astray real easy,” Cris Carter said.
He said he was lucky because “my brother Butch was such a great role model in how to conduct yourself as an athlete, how to work, how to go after it, how to set goals, how to compete. I always had a high standard because I looked up to him and admired him, and he was an unbelievable athlete.
“But I would say the person who really put some extra coals on the fire would be Bill Conley.”
Conley, now the football coach at Ohio Dominican, was the coach at Middletown in the early 1980s before Carter moved to OSU in 1984. Conley wound up following Carter to Ohio State as an assistant under Earle Bruce, and continued the prod.
“When I met Bill Conley and he started talking about me being a high-school All-American and being special in football, he believed that I could be real special in football compared to continuing a path in basketball,” Carter said. “And we have kind of the same temperament as far as competing, so I always felt like we were kind of on the same bloodline.”