MANY After two seasons of relatively quiet but substantial contributions, AJ Carter knows it’s his turn to lead yet another state title contender in Many.
Coach Jess Curtis said the 6-foot-1, 220-pound junior who earned First Team All-Area honors at safety last year could be a Division I outside linebacker if he wanted. Instead, with the graduation of standout running back James Carhee, Carter turned his attention to offense and already boasts an eye-popping 567 yards and nine touchdowns on 59 carries in three tough non-district wins.
“I lead the team. Lead by example,” Carter said following a dramatic 34-33 win over North DeSoto last Friday. “Coach always makes sure I do that, gets on me if I’m slipping.”
That’s something Curtis said Carter improves on every day now that he’s no longer just a role player. They both knew this time would eventually come from the moment Carter arrived at practice as a freshman with his rare blend of speed and power.
He used both to set the standard for his team against North DeSoto, capped off by an incredibly gutsy effort during the game-winning drive against the Griffins. Painful cramps that sent him to the sideline early in the fourth quarter and multiple tacklers couldn’t stop Carter from somehow picking up 16 yards on two plays, including a 4th and 7, to convert a first down by the narrowest of margins.
Another eight-yard carry with 15 seconds remaining set up Pquawn Williams’ final touchdown, ending Carter’s night after 23 carries, 179 yards and three touchdowns. He outran North DeSoto defenders on a 35-yard touchdown and bulldozed those who dared stand in his way on fourth and goal after other Tigers failed to score three consecutive times from the 1-yard line just before halftime.
“He’s a really good football player,” Griffins coach Scott Abernathy said after Many’s 34th straight home win. “He was hard to tackle and their offensive line’s good.”
Those who paid attention at summer camps Carter attended won’t be surprised by his success, and he’s not shy about noting he dominated wherever he went. Strong performances to complement Carter’s great size and speed resulted in offers from Louisiana Tech, Kansas and Texas Tech, with another expected the next time he visits UL Lafayette.
LSU running backs coach Jabbar Jaluke showed plenty of interest, and Curtis believes that helped Carter garner some attention from other schools. Curtis said Notre Dame has recently been trying to help schedule a visit for Carter, who holds a 3.0 GPA.
Although he’ll still occasionally play safety in practice, Carter sees himself as a running back at the next level. It’s hard to argue considering what he’s accomplished so far, and he said coaches like his ability to move and break tackles.
Many’s multiple running back offense means Carter will also spend plenty of time blocking for Shacori Collier or other Tigers. Curtis said some weeks Carter might not even be his team’s leading rusher, but he’ll always find a way to make his presence felt.
“He does awesome at (blocking),” Curtis said. “That’s the thing, he’s unselfish. He’s great without the football.”
Star tailbacks at Many are nearly an annual occurrence, thanks to players such as Carhee, Kentrell Maxie, D.J. Palmer and others. Curtis said Carter — who represents a much bigger and more physical version of his predecessors — hopes to cement his place alongside them in Tigers history on the way to a state championship.