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Chargers’ DeAndre Carter: Substitute teacher turned special teams stan – Los Angeles Chargers Blog

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COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver DeAndre Carter stood in front of an excitedly watching crowd.

“When I grow up I want to be a professional football player,” Carter read in an essay, before adding his own line.

“Crazy thing,” he said. “Me too!”

A student wrote the essay at Mayo Elementary School in Compton, where Chargers players spent part of a recent day off surprising 150 second and third graders with bikes.

When Carter bonded with the student who wrote the essay, Carter, 29, and a student danced the “Griddy,” while sporting two smiles that infected the entire school auditorium and turned out to be a tough time to figure out who liked him. more — Carter or the student.

The auditorium was a very different arena from where Carter typically hangs out in the center on NFL game days, but one that felt incredibly familiar.

An undrafted free agent from Sacramento State in 2015, Carter bounced around NFL practice squads for one season before being cut by the New England Patriots ahead of the 2016 season.

No one came to pick him up – except Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Hayward, Calif., where he spent early mornings and evenings practicing to pursue his professional football career, but spent the day as a substitute teacher.

“I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world,” Carter said.

The Chargers are 10-6 as they prepare to face the Denver Broncos in a regular season finale before chasing the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2018.

A fifth-year journeyman, Carter signed a one-year, $1.14 million contract with the Bolts in the offseason, a big increase from the $150 a day he earned as a backup.

The Chargers brought in Carter as a return specialist, but he proved throughout the season that he offered so much more.

“It’s a coach’s dream,” said head coach Brandon Staley. “He’s a hard worker. He’s so selfless. He does so many different things role-wise.

An sometimes overlooked but key element of the Chargers’ return to the playoffs was a special teams turnaround, including the punt return unit.

The Bolts are averaging 11.19 yards per punt return, fourth in the NFL and a team record in 20 years. Over the past three years, the Bolts have averaged 5.6 yards per punt return — the worst in the league.

Carter’s average of 11.19 yards per punt return ranks fourth in the NFL.

“He’s a decisive returner,” Staley said. “The 10-yard impact is great. Those hidden yards in a game add up.

“He creates a lot of great positions on the field,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said. “Its very important for us.”

Carter also proved himself as a reliable role player on offense as quarterback Justin Herbert suffered significant injuries to wide receivers Allen and Mike Williams, who did not play a full game together until Week 14. .

“As soon as he stepped in here, we knew we had a special guy,” Herbert said. “I don’t know how used he was at his previous spot, but he came here and has such a great idea of ​​sitting in the cover, beating the cover of the man… he stepped up big time .”

Carter had a career-best season with 43 catches for 495 yards and three touchdowns.

“I’ve been on [an] travel up and down through the league and you kind of get to a place where you feel like you have the opportunity to contribute regularly and have a real role on a team,” Carter said. “It was fun. I have the most fun in the NFL football season, for sure.”

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi called Carter “fixer” because of his ability to play all four wide receivers at all times.

“If you look back at all the players you’ve coached, he’ll be one of the favourites,” Lombardi said. “Tough, competitive and just a guy you can trust to go out there and get the job done.”

Get the job done, whatever the job.

At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, Carter wasn’t a substitute teacher who rode around in a movie cart and waited for the bell to ring. He taught lesson plans and continued to work after classes ended. And if no substitute was needed for the day or period, he would show up anyway.

“If I didn’t have classes I would just like to walk around and check on the kids individually and stuff like that,” Carter said. “It was cool to be able to be around the kids, to be someone who — I mean, it was a tough area. So to be someone they felt comfortable coming in and talking to and who to rely on was pretty cool to me.

Carter, who smiles as he confirms he was once “Mr. Carter” to students, taught everything from math to history and English. He helped with the after-school tutoring program and also helped children learn to train.

Eddie Smith, a former Carter’s coach and mentor who serves as the school’s head adviser and encouraged Carter to become a substitute, said the kids especially liked him because he was young – 23 at the school. era and engaging, but most importantly because he led by example by graduating from college and getting an opportunity in the NFL.

“It was really awesome to see what DeAndre did for these kids,” Smith said. “But it’s just him. It’s built like that. He wills and continually gives back.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his goals in the NFL, Carter fondly looks back on the time, knowing as much as he tried to help the students, that the students — probably unwittingly — also helped him.

“Mentally, like in my personal life, it was definitely a difficult time not knowing, obviously I wanted to keep playing football, like not knowing if I was going to get another opportunity or if I was going to be able to play in the NFL again,” said Carter, who got an opportunity the following season from the San Francisco 49ers and has been in the league ever since. together it was one of the brightest moments of my life.”

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