The enduring images of Carter as a player were making the difficult catch look easy. Whether it was a toe-drag on the sidelines or a spectacular one-handed catch, it wasn't luck that Carter made so many sensational catches. It was by design.
Carter put as much work into his craft as perhaps any receiver to play the game and visualized the big catch long before he ever made it in a game.
"Most days, I would stay after practice and catch," Carter said. "I've caught thousands of balls on that JUGS machine. I believe that, as a wide receiver, every ball you catch, your brain takes a picture. For me, I tried to take millions of pictures in my mine so once I got on the field there was no ball that I had never seen in my mind."
Carter's competitive nature rejected the notion of dropping a pass or making a mistake. While he had a voluminous mental file of the catches he could make, failure wasn't an option and dropping a pass wasn't part of Carter's game. Occasionally, they happened, but Carter never gave his rare drops a second thought.
"Every time I would drop the ball, I would close eyes or I would not remember it," Carter said. "I would forget about it because I didn't want it to creep into my psyche. I caught thousands of balls one-handed (from the) JUGS machines – left-handed, right handed. It was part of my routine. I'd catch 50 (passes) just before I left practice. I'd get the equipment guys to throw to me. I believe in catching the football and I don't believe in dropping it. I don't believe you learn anything dropping the football."
He proved that hard work can pay off. In two different seasons, he had 122 catches and finished his career with 1,101 receptions and 130 touchdowns, both ranking second in NFL history at the time of his retirement. He also had 13,899 yards receiving.
It was Carter's attention to detail that made him unique among NFL receivers. His work ethic can still be seen in those receivers who learned from him, guys like former teammate Randy Moss and former Vikings ball boy Larry Fitzgerald. He didn't have the greatest size, he didn't have the greatest speed, but nobody made more of his talent than Carter.
As Carter prepares to go into the Hall of Fame, the biggest selling point that he had was that nobody out-worked him and he got into the Hall the old fashioned way – he earned it.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.