That wasn’t the case for David Carter.
Lightly regarded coming out of Sprayberry High School, the running back had to walk on to the football team at Division II Morehouse College — despite rushing for more than 3,000 yards during his career as a Yellow Jacket.
To imply that Carter had something to prove to all of the programs that overlooked him would be an understatement.
“I definitely had something to prove,” he said about not being recruited, “and I’m thankful Morehouse gave me the chance to play football and extend my career.
“When I got here, my goal was to work hard to make the travel bus. But, to get the starting job was even better. I’ve worked as hard as I could since then to hold onto it and help my team win.”
Carter has completely changed his fortunes at Morehouse since walking on to the Maroon Tigers’ roster. In rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a freshman, he quickly earned a scholarship at the conclusion of the season.
Since then, the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Carter has continued to improve.
He totaled 262 carries for 1,347 yards as a sophomore, averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 122.5 yards per game.
As a junior, Carter totaled 1,495 yards and 19 touchdowns on 235 rushes. He topped the Division II leaderboard with 6.4 yards per carry, and his 149.5-yard-per-game average ranked fourth overall.
Carter’s highlight came in Morehouse’s game with Fort Valley State, in which he ran for 251 first-half yards, breaking a D-II record for rushing yards in one half.
With Carter’s success came several accolades. He was a 2010 All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference first-team honoree, and he completed his sophomore and junior seasons as the conference’s overall scoring and rushing leader en route to back-to-back 8-2 seasons for Morehouse. He was the SIAC player of the year as a junior and named a 2011 American Football Coaches Association all-American.
“I really didn’t expect this kind of success when I came (to Morehouse),” Carter said. “Everything has really just fallen into place. The coaching staff has been great, and the offensive line and receivers blocking for me have done a great job too. I couldn’t have done anything without all those guys.”
As for his senior season, Carter has already been named to the preseason All-SIAC first team and garnered AFCA preseason first-team all-America honors. He was a regional finalist last year for the Harlon Hill Trophy — the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy — and he is certain to be eligible for the honor again this year with another great season.
Carter’s goal now is to be worthy of all the adulation.
“Now, my goal is to top what I did last year and not get complacent,” he said. “I have to work on all aspects of my game like catching passes out of the backfield, pass-blocking and finishing plays. I want to be able to do it all.”
As far as the Morehouse record book goes, Carter nearly has done it all.
He has 3,519 career rushing yards entering Morehouse’s opener against Football Championship Subdivision member Howard on Saturday in the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic at Washington’s RFK Stadium. He needs 150 yards to break the team record of 3,669 career rushing yards established by John David Washington — the son of actor Denzel Washington.
“It’s a great opportunity to be able to break the record,” Carter said. “I really didn’t expect to do all of these things when I got here, but I’m grateful. I just want us to win games, so if the record happens, it happens.”
For the second straight season, Morehouse will be pitted against Howard in the opening game at RFK Stadium, but this time, the Maroon Tigers will be looking for payback after dropping a 30-27 decision to the Bison last season. Morehouse led 20-17 entering the fourth quarter before being outscored 13-7 the rest of the way.
“It’s a great honor to play in the Classic,” Carter said. “Last year was a tough loss, but we learned from it. It was close, and we have a chip on our shoulder because of it, so we’re going in there to prove a point and hope to win. It’s our season opener, and we’re finally ready to hit somebody different (than each other).”
With an entire season ahead of him, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for Carter to break the 4,000-yard mark for his career.
“I hadn’t even thought about getting 4,000 yards before you mentioned that,” he said. “Sometimes, you don’t realize what you’re doing or what you’ve done until somebody says something.
“Four thousand yards sounds really good. I just love to play, and I’m fortunate to play for coaches, family and teammates that make it all worthwhile.”
It’s also possible for Carter to reach the NFL.
“I definitely think about making it to the NFL,” he said. “As long as I continue working hard, hopefully I’ll get the chance to move on the next level. It would be a blessing for that to happen.”