Nov. 11, 2005
For senior tight end Donnie Carter, the road to the playing field at Florida State has been anything but easy.
Signed as a highly rated defensive lineman out of Ware County High School in Waycross, Ga., Carter arrived on campus in 2001 facing a depth chart loaded with future NFL stars.
“When I got here, I came in behind guys like Darnell Dockett, Jeff Womble and Travis Johnson,” Carter said. “We were eight or nine deep at defensive tackle, so I felt like I wasn’t really needed there.”
Carter redshirted in 2001 and then appeared in 13 games in 2002, playing mostly on special teams and in a reserve
role on the defensive line. He managed 10 tackles, two of them for loss, and also recorded a sack while trying to take advantage of his opportunity.
Frustrated by the lack of playing time, Carter was extremely open-minded when coaches approached him about the
option to switch positions and move to the offensive side of the ball after the 2002 season. He welcomed the switch to
tight end because it was not only in the best interest of the team, but it would also get him away from the logjam on the
“It was for the better of the team, and I thought maybe I could help bring back a position that had kind of been forgotten,” Carter said. A former basketball player and natural athlete, Carter grasped the tight end position quickly.
He impressed coaches with not only his size, but more importantly, his abbreviated learning curve.
“He came over in the spring of 2003 and in about 15 days he’d learned the position probably as quick as anybody I’ve
ever been around,” FSU tight ends coach John Lilly said.
Lilly said the position can be difficult for players to convert to because it requires mastery of more than one aspect
of the game.
“We always talk in our meetings about how the tight end has got to be the most special athlete on the team because you’ve got to be able to block like an offensive lineman and catch and run like a receiver,” Lilly explained.
After the quick transition to tight end, Carter caught five passes during the 2003 season, including one for a touchdown in a win over Duke. He entered the 2004 preseason with high hopes and with the expectation that it could finally be his time to shine.
Unfortunately, adversity struck the mild-mannered Georgian once again, this time in the form of an injury. Toward the
end of what had been, to that point, a promising fall practice; Carter went down with a torn ACL in his right knee.
“2004 was supposed to be a breakout year for me but because of the injury, I never got the chance to make it happen,”
Carter said. “It was tough; going through two-a-days, getting more comfortable with things, being in top shape and then
getting hit with that injury.”
But instead of sulking and wondering why, Carter spent 2004 putting the finishing touches on his sports management
degree while keeping a keen focus on the 2005 season.
“One positive was that I was able to finish my degree,” he said. “Now during my senior season I can concentrate on
The 2005 season has been a good one, so far, for Carter and his Florida State teammates. He has split starting duties
with fellow senior Matt Henshaw, while grading out well with his blocking and also working to establish himself as a part of the aerial attack.
Carter plans on taking a shot at the NFL after the season. He said he is willing to use his versatility to play offense or
defense depending on where his services are needed most. He believes that the challenges he’s faced during his college
career have prepared him well for the next level and have made him a stronger person overall.
“It’s made me a lot tougher mentally,” Carter said. “I’ve been able to overcome some things and I believe in myself now more than ever before.”
By Jonathan Butnick
FSU Sports Information