Davis: Nobody commandeers the spotlight like Duron Carter

Duron Carter is among the most intriguing, charismatic, infuriating and talented people to ever play football for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

When the CFL team announced Carter, a potential free agent, had signed another one-year contract, Roughrider fans immediately recalled his one-handed grabs as a receiver and his pick-six when he was moonlighting as a starting cornerback during the 2017 season. They also know he fights with teammates during practices or sometimes loses his composure during games and takes needless penalties. Carter also befriends almost everyone he meets with his aw-shucks, smiling attitude and he never fails to answer for himself when called upon by fans or media.

Polarizing? Oh, yeah!

Carter was chosen as the Roughriders’ most outstanding player last season in voting conducted by the CFL’s head coaches and the Football Reporters of Canada. It wasn’t unanimous because defensive end Willie Jefferson and defensive back Ed Gainey were also in the mix, but nobody commandeered the spotlight like Carter.

He’s got lots going for himself. To keep it heading in the right direction, Riders boss Chris Jones meets daily with Carter to discuss . . .  well, almost anything, particularly their approach to the upcoming day. Jones, a football lifer, says he’s never met anybody quite like Carter and, in addition to admiring his athleticism, truly enjoys their relationship.

When he’s focused, Carter is capable of highlight-reel touchdown catches, serving as a special-teams returner, moving to the defensive side of the football and showing the naysayers (guilty!) that he truly can cover opposing pass-catchers.

Who wouldn’t want a guy like that? Apparently, a few teams aren’t particularly interested, including NFL squads that have sniffed around and decided against making him serious, roster-making offers. Maybe other CFL teams would have pursued Carter, but the Roughriders weren’t going to risk losing the kingpin of their starry receiving corps, particularly after recently acquiring veteran quarterback Zach Collaros to throw the football.

For his part, Carter said he feels comfortable in Saskatchewan and believes the Roughriders are on the verge of winning a Grey Cup. Winning a championship isn’t easy these days, as Jones noted, with players and coaches seldom willing to stay with one team for four or five seasons anymore. Witness the recent offseason moves among the coaching ranks and imagine what could happen Feb. 13, when more than 100 CFL players become free agents.

Like most veteran players in the CFL, Carter signed a one-year deal. Jones constructed a solid defensive unit last season. Adding Collaros was intended to shore up an offence that would be much better with Carter than without him. They’ve got one more year to try again.

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.