EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — A great year got a little better for Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter.
Twenty-three years after the Vikings gave him a second chance at an NFL career, they gave his son, Duron, his first opportunity on Sunday. The 6-4, 205-pound receiver, who last played in 2010 with Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College, was one of about 30 undrafted players invited to try out during a three-day rookie minicamp that starts on Friday at Winter Park.
"I'm just so happy for him that he'll get an opportunity to continue doing what he loves to do," Cris said. "For him to get that opportunity with the Minnesota Vikings, a team I played for and love, it's just a blessing."
Dad's second chance came in 1990, when then-Eagles coach Buddy Ryan took a hard line against Carter's cocaine and alcohol abuse and released him. The Vikings stepped in with a $100 waiver wire fee and a plan to get Carter the help he needed in overcoming his addiction. Carter put in the hard work, changed his life and, well, the rest is history that will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 3.
Now it's Duron's chance to work hard and turn his life around after a college career ruined by a poor work ethic, particularly in the classroom.
"College football is the minor leagues of the NFL and I really messed that up," Duron said. "I guess I had to grow up. But school just didn't interest me."
The first time Duron tried to follow in Dad's footsteps was 2009 at Ohio State, Cris' alma mater. He caught 13 passes but missed the Rose Bowl because he was academically ineligible. He was gone by the following season.
He transferred to Coffeyville, where he caught 44 passes for 690 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine games in 2010. But even that was a bumpy road.
According to USA Today, Cayden Cochran, Coffeyville's starting quarterback in 2010, used his Twitter account to post this about Duron: "The team that drafts Duron Carter will get the most lazy, whiny & non-work ethic player the nfl has ever seen. I played w/him. Horrible person & will be a complete cancer to any team on the board."
Duron transferred to Alabama in 2011, but grades kept him off the field again. He was suspended for undisclosed reasons and later transferred to Florida International. He never played a down there either.
Cris claims Duron is a good person who just hated school and will have a better chance to succeed when football is his only focus.
"Very few have taken the route to the NFL that he's taken," Carter said. "It may take him some time, but he's got enough talent. He's got really good size, good speed (4.54 40-yard dash), and his route running is probably his strength. He has good hands. If he makes the necessary changes in his life, he's got a chance to make it in the NFL."
Duron said he also had an opportunity to try out for the reigning Super Bowl champion Ravens. But he chose the Vikings because "they showed me more love."
So now the kid who grew up around the Vikings, who served as a ball boy and who used to be baby-sat by Larry Fitzgerald Jr. will report for a physical on Thursday. If he passes, he'll wear No. 13. Dad's No. 80 is retired, but Duron is OK with that.
"No. 80 is an old-timer's (receiver) number," he said with a laugh. "Tell Dad it's a new era."
With offseason rosters set at 90, an invitation to try out is a long way from being signed by the team. But it can and has happened. Current Vikings punt returner Marcus Sherels was a rookie tryout invitee in 2010.
"This opportunity means everything to me," Duron said. "It's sort of like a fairy-tale story. Every time I put on that Vikings uniform, I'm going to work hard because there's a history there with Cris Carter. I wouldn't want to put a bad stamp on that in any way."