Tonight, Cris Carter will make the final stop on his Hall of Fame tour, returning to the place where so many of the memories of his historic career were made — on the floor of the Metrodome. At halftime, Carter will officially be presented with his stunningly beautiful Hall of Fame ring and he will get one last chance to acknowledge the fans with which he had such a close connection.
It has been a whirlwind since Super Bowl week in February when Carter got the call he had waited years to receive — that he was going to be part of the Hall of Fame in his home state of Ohio. Of all the great moments Carter has had over the last 10 months, there was one that stood out in his mind.
"The announcement," Carter said. "You've seen other speeches, so you've seen the emotion. You kind of gauge it a little bit. But the initial phone call is … everything just stops. Every feeling you've ever had, nothing is like the first phone call from (the Hall of Fame selection committee)."
It seems fitting that Carter would receive his ring at the Metrodome, because not only is he a beloved part of Vikings history, he feels a personal connection to the franchise a decade after his playing days in Minnesota were over.
"When they lose, it hurts," Carter said. "There's no other team that loses in the NFL that makes me hurt. But when the Vikings lose it makes me hurt and to see the state the team is in right now is very painful too."
Needless to say, if that's the case, there's been a lot of pain for Carter watching the Vikings struggle out of the gate to a 1-7 start. Asked how a team with essentially the same players from last season could have such a rapid descent in the standings, Carter didn't pull any punches.
"You've got to have players, Carter said. "If you think the team is the same (as last year's playoff team), you can say that. I don't think the team is the same. I think they were a little more talented last year than they are this year. They got off to a rough start. It's still based on the quarterback. If the quarterback doesn't grow, it's hard to grow the offense. Adrian hasn't had the record-breaking year so far. It's hard for them to get over. They're not getting the pass protection. They're not getting the defensive turnovers from last year. I think it's totally different from last year."
While players have come and gone over the years, one of the constants has been a loud and loyal Vikings fan base that embraced Carter from the day he arrived in Minnesota. It has been a long-term mutual love affair and Carter is looking forward to hearing a "C.C.!" chant one more time from the Metrodome faithful.
"I haven't been out with the crowd yet," Carter said before Thursday's game. "I'm more excited about the crowd and appreciating the crowd. People work hard and when I was here, before I came they had a hard time selling tickets. I'm not saying it's because I was here but when I was here we became more successful and it was always packed. People spent their hard-earned money to watch me play. I want to tell them thank you for that. I didn't come from a whole bunch so I appreciate that. When a family decides to come to the Metrodome to watch me play, I plan on giving them their money's worth. So for me, that's what I'm here for – to tell the fans, thank you. I came from a place where people were saying bad things about me. When I came here, I didn't have to warm up to the fans. They never treated me bad. I never got booed. They gave me a chance to redeem my life so I had great experiences with the Minnesota fans."
While Carter provided thrills for the fans, they gave back as much to him as he gave to them. There were times when he wasn't 100 percent, but taking in their energy helped him block out the pain and raise his level of play to match their enthusiasm.
"People don't think so, but you can wake up on Sunday and have a bad day," Carter said. "You can wake up Sunday and your back be hurting, your knees be hurting. But coming from the team hotel to here and just seeing the people. I came from great sports programs in high school and college and when I was here, they always made me feel at home. Then the end zone and the people doing the ‘C.C.' chant and all those things. Those aren't things that you expect, even as a good player. We've had great players with the Vikings who didn't have that type of rapport with the fans. I knew it was special and I knew it was different and I always tried to go out of my way to make sure that they knew how much I appreciated them."
Carter will be presented with his ring at halftime. He stared at the ring on his finger during his talk with a few reporters, but, as much as he appreciates it and what it stands for, Carter said it isn't the ring he wanted.
"It's an amazing piece of hardware," Carter said. "I'll tell the fans I really only thought I was going to come back to Minnesota for one ring — and I thought that was going to be a Super Bowl ring. It's my greatest disappointment athletically. But to come here to today to receive my Hall of Fame ring (is an honor), but I still want to come back one day and have a parade and see them get a championship ring. That's really my wish. I was very fortunate to play with some great players and on some great teams that eventually at the end of my career I was able to get one. But that wasn't my goal. My goal was to get one of my teammates a ring. It's kind of anti-climactic, but I'm very, very fortunate and very, very thankful to be part of a very illustrious class. I'm so thankful I got selected this year, the 50th anniversary of the Hall. It's been a spectacular ride with the Hall. It's really been amazing."
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.
Carter receives ring, finds Vikings ‘painful'
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