A UGA football recruit was one of the feel-good stories of the week.
In his first complete game of high school football in nearly two years after recovering from a serious knee injury, South Gwinnett High School linebacker Reggie Carter had 19 tackles and one sack in his team’s opener on Friday.
Carter, who committed to UGA over FSU and South Carolina last April, suffered a torn ACL and ligament damage on the 10th play of South Gwinnett’s season opener last year.
It has been a long road of recovery, and the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder was almost in tears after Friday’s game.
“There was so much emotion,” Carter told the AJC. “I was so happy and so blessed to make it through a whole game. Early in the game, I felt like going out because I was thinking ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ But I looked at my teammates, and they were like ‘Hey forget about that. You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to play through this.’ And I did.”
It would’ve been a perfect night if not for losing 35-20 to Norcross. “We lost, and I’m still kind of mad about that,” Carter said. “Some people told me, ‘At least you should be happy you made it through a full game.’ But I wanted to win the game.”
South Gwinnett coach John Small commended his star player on his dynamic return. “For him to get back out there with bullets flying around, in live action, it was great to see Reggie play the way he did. I was as happy as I could be for that kid because I know he’s come a long way and fought through a lot. I’m very proud of him.”
Carter said there were some rough moments during the recovery but that he never doubted he would play again at a high level. “I always knew I was going to be back. I knew I would be fine. People around me kept me thinking positive.” Carter said he also gained confidence and motivation the day before last week’s opener after watching South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore rush for 110 yards and two touchdowns after also recovering from a serious knee injury over the last year.
Right now, Carter estimates that he’s playing at “80 percent” with the remaining recovery being not physical but mental – “learning to trust” playing on his right knee again. Said Small, “He’s not anywhere close to how he’s going to be. He’s just got to get the feel of the game back. He’s just got to get back in that groove, playing with confidence on that leg. I know that’s an injury that takes a lot to come back from mentally, but he’s definitely on the right track.”
The summer before his junior year, Carter was one of the state’s most-heavily recruited prospects for 2013. While some schools backed off after the injury, Carter continued to be aggressively pursued by UGA – which factored into his decision to pick the Bulldogs.
“They told me, ‘You can tear both of your ACLs and your offer is still going to be good at Georgia.’ It made me feel good, but I knew they were a school that would honor your scholarship, no matter what. That’s why I picked them, too. They’ve had other guys get injured, and they still honored their scholarships. That was important to me, going to a school that would keep its word.”
Added Small, “I think Georgia has a track record that if a kid is committed, they’re going to stick with the kid, no matter what. They’ve been loyal to everyone committed, it seems like. They expect him to heal up 100 percent, and he’s on the right track. [Mark Richt] and those guys, they’re not going to pull something from anybody. I don’t think they’ve ever done that to anybody for an injury. And that speaks volumes for Georgia.”
What about the schools that backed off because of the injury? Carter said he wasn’t going “to name any names” — while adding, “There’s no hard feelings but it will motivate me more when I play against them in college.” Small also declined to name specific colleges. “I just think a lot of them wanted to see him play his senior year, coming back from a knee injury. But Georgia was there all along, and offered him when he had the surgery. They knew the type of player he was and had seen him as a sophomore. They knew he was a good one, and kids come back from knee injuries all the time.”
Carter projects to play linebacker at UGA. “He can rush the passer, he can play on the edge and he can play in the middle at linebacker – he’s very versatile,” Small said. “Georgia is getting a good one. He’s a high character kid, and he’s a winner on and off the field.”
OVER THE WEEKEND
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FOOTBALL SEASON IS HERE
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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