Behind The ScenesNFL

Cris Carter’s celebratory march to Canton underway with stops in Augusta and his hometown

Early in Cris Carter’s NFL playing career, former Minnesota Vikings owner Wheelock Whitney promised to take him to play at the famed Augusta National Golf Club if Carter made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “In fact, he was the first person to ever call me a Hall of Famer,” said Carter of the Minneapolis businessman and philanthropist.

Nearly two decades later, Whitney lived up to his promise after the 16-year NFL wide receiver-turned-ESPN-analyst was named to the Hall’s Class of 2013 in February.

Last week, Whitney hosted Carter and his brother and another friend at Augusta National for three straight days.

“We’ve been going to the Masters for 10 years, but to play the course is a once-in-a-lifetime-type experience,” said Carter, who shot a best round of 82.

Playing golf at Augusta National was just the beginning of a memorable week for Carter.

On Monday, the former Ohio State star receiver returned to his hometown of Middletown, Ohio, for two days packed with events honoring his career accomplishments. (Middletown is the smallest town in America with Hall of Famers in both football and basketball. Jerry Lucas is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.)

That night, Carter, 47, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cincinnati Reds in recognition of his election to the Hall of Fame, and in salute to Middletown.

Then, the Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown analyst was honored at his alma mater, Middletown High School, where his older brother and former NBA player and coach Butch Carter presented him with a hometown hero plaque as part of the citywide Cris Carter Appreciation Day. The stadium where he played little league and high school football is also being renamed Cris Carter Field.

Last night, Carter addressed a sold-out audience at Middletown High’s “Pigskin Ramble Spectacular” banquet in his honor.

“It is pretty phenomenal,” said Carter, on growing up in Middletown and being on the verge of his Aug. 3 enshrinement 225 miles away in Canton later this summer.

“I’ve always believed you can accomplish great things in your life regardless of where you come from or your family’s economic situation. I am proud of what I have achieved and I hope the people of Middletown are as well.”

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