The UCLA Connection

Former UCLA defender Reggie Carter has seen plenty of playmakers in his college career. Many of them have been his teammates. In an interview with Patriots Insider, Carter talked about how great it would be to reunite with a couple of his former UCLA pals in New England.

Don’t sleep on this sleeper. LB Reggie Carter wants you to know that if you give him a chance to show it, he’ll make you proud. And he’s doing it all for his mother.

UCLA LB Reggie Carter is a good kid. A kid who loves football, but loves his mother more. That is eveident when you ask him why he wants to succeed.

“My ultimate goal is to make it and take care of her, Carter told Patriots Insider. “She works two jobs. I really want to make it just to be able to take care of her. And to let everyone know that she’s a great mother. She’s worked hard to take care of me, so I’m going to do everything I can to show people how great she is.”

“She’s really the reason I’m here. You know I’m a football player, but you don’t know much about my mom unless I tell you. She works hard.”

Named a Top 5 Draft prospect his junior season by Mel Kiper, Carter didn’t make the list his senior season. He may not be on your radar but he should be. A team leader who has earned All Conference honors, led his team in tackles and been voted captain by his peers is ready to play at the next level. Carter knows he may not hear his name early, but he’s determined to make whomever takes him proud.

The knock on Carter is his size. He’s not exactly prototypical size for an inside linebacker prospect, measuring close to 6-foot-1, 235 pounds. But it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. As they say.

“I know I know how to play football,” Carter said.. “I’ve been doing it since I was 8. If I can’t tie my shoes I still know I can play football. If I get an opportunity I’ll show everyone.”

Carter should know. He led his team in tackles in 2008 and 2009. He played alongside names like Chris Horton , Matt Slater and Bret Lockett, while following others like Jarrad Page and Maurice Jones-Drew . All are players he has plenty of good things to say about.

Horton, who we interviewed in the 2008 NFL Draft, earned a reputation as a playmaker in the Redskins defense. Taken in the seventh round, he was overlooked by many teams, possibly due to a medical condition (he has a pin in his wrist to solidify an injury). He’s made the roster in Washington and has surpassed players taken ahead of him by the Redskins Draft team. The former Bruin’s toughness earned him the nickname “Hit Man” in college, a reputation he’s upholding in the Pros.

“Chris, if he caught you, he was gonna hit you,” Carter said of his former teammate. “People at practice knew that too. He became a pretty good teammate. He knew we needed everybody on the team, so please don’t knock someone out.”

Carter cited UCLA’s record for former Bruins not getting the attention they deserve in the Draft. Lockett went undrafted. Horton went in the seventh round as did Page. Slater was a fifth round pick. Only Carter’s current teammates Brian Price and Alterraun Verner have a chance to go higher.

“Guys like Jarred Page and Chris Horton, they’re both great ball players., Carter said. “But our situation was different at UCLA with our record. They were both drafted late, but they both played as rookies. They had a big impact on their teams, so it let you know that they don’t think too highly of UCLA around the rest of the world, but a few of our guys are getting into the NFL. They [may not] start at the top, but they did pretty well for their teams. “

Carter maintains a dialog with Lockett who landed on IR with the Patriots last season. But hasn’t had much contact with Matt Slater, another former Bruin who is also a Patriots player. Aside from some brotherly love for Maurice Jones-Drew, it was Slater who received the most praise from Carter.

“Slater is probably one of the hardest workers I’ve met, Carter gushed. “He was there before me, but I probably got more playing time than he did. They switched him from receiver to corner to safety and he never complained. His senior year they put him back there to return kicks and he made the most of it.”

Carter calls Slater a great story, a player who will make the Bruins program proud. “He’s a great player and a great person< carter said of Slater. “He’s one of the best individuals I know. He has great character and great integrity. He’s making us (UCLA) look good on AND off the field. I’ll bet all of my money that he’ll never get in trouble off the field.“

For Slater and Leockett, the way to land on a roster is to be part of special teams. Carter understands this is a key to getting picked by an NFL club. So how does he feel about it? He loves it.

“In high school I was on every special teams. I was long snapper, I was tackling on kickoffs,” Carter explained. “ As a Sophomore (at UCLA), I played with a torn meniscus because I didn’t want to let (his special teams coach) down. As a Junior and Senior I was told that they didn’t want me to get hurt., I love making tackles, so if I can get out there and make one on kickoff that’s even better.

Carter used Chad Ochocinco as an example of a player with tremendous talent who could succeed at anything he tried to do. “He’s one of those guys who you just want him on your team. Football, soccer, basketball, he’s good at everything.”

Ochocinco obviously has just one job for Bengals, a receiver, but he did step in on special teams when the Bengals had injuries with their kicker.

Carter says he’d do the same if a team asked him to resume his long-snapper skills. If someone gets hurt, I’d help out,” he said.

Perhaps it’s Carters natural leadership abilities that will endear him to some team – possibly Baltimore who spent significant time with the Draft prospect. Carter named Ray Lewis as one of his favorite players in the league.

Carter was named team captain by his teammates at the Shrine game. An honor he says made him feel good about what he was doing out there.

“When I was there, I was hitting and I was making calls. They voted me as team captain, Carter said of his Shrine game experience. “ That honored me, because to have them vote me as team captain that told me I was doing some thing right.”

Carter continued. “I wasn’t the biggest linebacker out there, but I was making plays. In college I was a starter for four years. I was captain because they knew me and I was already a leader and a starter. But at the Shrine game they were all leaders on their teams. Being voted captain by my peers really let me know that they trusted me and had confidence in me.”

Carter says he’d like a chance to play with, or against, some of his former teammates, especially Jones-Drew. Fancying himself as a decent trashtalker, Carter said he’d have something special for the Jaguars RB.

“If I ever get the chance to play against Jones-Drew again, I’ll be calling him every day that week talking noise,” Carter joked. Just to tell him to get ready cuz I’m coming to see him. Every little kid would love an opportunity to hit up on his big brother, and he’s my big brother.

UCLA has slowly built up their football program, thanks in large part to players like Horton, Slater and Carter. What about those naysayers, the ones who wrote bad things about him leading up to the Draft?

Once I get my shot, and I excel, I’m going to go back and find out everything bad that was said or written about me and get their numbers and ask them why they said that about me.” Carter explained.

Carter’s statement wasn’t a threat, it was Carter saying he knows he’ll do well, much like Tedy Bruschi knew he’d do well despite what Kiper had to say about him before the Draft.

When the UCLA players come off the board, expect to hear Carter’s teammates Alterraun Verner or Brian Price 's selected first. But don’t be surprised to hear Carters name called. Carter has a message, and he’s going to deliver it personally, He's there to make his fans, his almamater, his teammate and his mother proud, not necessarily in that order. Because as we all know, Mom comes first.

[Editor's note: This interview first aired on Patriots Insider Radio weeks ago and was published here because Carter is still on the board after Day 2. To listen to the Radio segment, click here to download the podcast. 42 mins, 13MB]

 

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