Anthony Carter appears to have a good sense of his own priorities and responsibilities.
By choosing the USFL for a reported $2 million contract with the Michigan Panthers, Carter, an all-America wide receiver from the University of Michigan, was able to make his mother, four brothers and three sisters a lot more comfortable in their home in Riviera Beach, Fla.
Carter, 22, was married 1 1/2 months ago, bringing stability to a life in which sudden wealth and fame have created chaos for many athletes.
He says he's not interested in promoting "Anthony Carter, superstar."
"AC" will do just fine.
"I'm secure about myself," said Carter, who will start against the Washington Federals Monday night in Michigan. "When I made the choice to join the league, I talked it over with my family, but it was my decision. If it was a mistake, I wanted to live with it."
When he married his hometown sweetheart, not even his roommate knew until the next day.
"He walked in, and I said, 'Hey, AC,' " Derek Holloway, a Panther wide receiver, said.
"He had a smile on his face. 'I got married yesterday.' "
" 'I didn't know you were getting married.' "
"He just sort of shrugged his shoulders."
"He's the kind of guy who you have to be around to appreciate," Panther Coach Jim Stanley said. "The more you see, the more you like him."
At the University of Michigan, Carter touched a soft spot in Bo Schembechler, and some teammates called Carter "Schemmey," after the coach's 12-year-old son.
"We were very close," Carter said. "It was more than a little special. Yeah, basically I was like a son."
Carter has learned to give back some of the emotional guidance he received from Schembechler. During the summer, he worked at the Tate Recreation Center in his hometown. "I liked working with kids. I give them a chance to learn something about football, about life in general."
Coming from Sun Coast High School, Carter did not lure many recruiters with his size (5 feet 10, 156 pounds), spidery legs, slim hips and small hands. Florida State was his first choice, but "I finally chose Michigan because I wanted to get away from home," Carter said. "I had been in Florida all my life and I needed the change.
"Nobody knew who I was because I wasn't highly recruited. People then saw what I could do."
At Michigan Carter became the first three-time all-America at the school since Bennie Oosterbaan (1925-27). He caught 161 passes for 3,076 yards (a 19.1 average) and 40 touchdowns, and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1982.
Carter's speed (4.35 in the 40) and quick hands dominated a conference in which passing is just becoming popular. "He quickly got a big reputation in the Big Ten," said Federals safety Mike Guess, an Ohio State graduate. "
Carter is starting to impress the USFL as well. "Against Birmingham he made an unreal play," said Stanley, whose team is 9-6. "Caught a ball which bounced off two people, hit him in the head, and he still caught it. But what I couldn't believe was that he turned it into an 81-yard touchdown."
Carter's USFL statistics are notable: 43 receptions, 832 yards, 19.3 yards per catch and five touchdowns. "I thought he was a good receiver," Federals cornerback Jeff Brown said after Washington's 22-16 win over Michigan March 27. "But I wasn't that impressed. They build a player up so much . . . I found that I was really worried about nothing."
On the road, Carter and Holloway walk around the different cities, grab something to eat, talk a bit, then go to bed. A rather sedentary life.
"I'm from Palmyra, N.J.," said Holloway. "When we were in Philly, I tried to take him home for dinner. But he had to do an interview.
"Busy, busy, busy. AC is always busy. He's a hard man to find sometimes."