Duron Carter will be officially changing positions to defensive back when he returns to the CFL in the upcoming season with the Edmonton Elks, but he may also be a changed man.
The outspoken former receiver for the Alouettes, Roughriders, Argonauts and B.C. Lions has been a divisive character throughout his CFL career, so much so that Elks head coach and general manager Chris Jones reportedly delayed his signing announcement until after free agency so as not to scare away potential signees.
However, the one-time superstar pass catcher has had two years off the football field and now boasts an entirely different perspective after coaching high school football at North Palm Beach Prep in Florida last season.
“Having to manage the egos and everything, it gave me a better understanding of how to manage mine,” Carter told Rod Pedersen.
“There’s so many young kids coming from different socioeconomic backgrounds, bringing them together into one team is definitely very hard. I didn’t understand that aspect until I had to do it and I had about 25 Duron Carters out there, so that wasn’t easy either.”
Carter’s time in the CFL has included a laundry list of controversies. In 2016, he was suspended one game for bumping then-Ottawa Redblacks head coach Rick Campbell after scoring a touchdown in a game and was involved in a practice confrontation with quarterback Rakeem Cato that led to his release from the Alouettes. His best season came the next year with the Riders, but not without a now infamous in-practice fight with strong-side linebacker Sam Williams.
After that season, Carter was caught with more than 30 grams of marijuana-laced chocolate chip cookies at the Winnipeg International Airport on November 25, 2017. In February 2018, security officers at the Saskatoon airport found marijuana in Carter’s bag following a search. He was given absolute discharges and not disciplined by the three-down league either time.
Carter was ultimately released by the Riders mid-way through the 2018 season, signing with Toronto. He last played for the Lions in 2019, posting pedestrian numbers.
The chance for the emotive receiver to see the game through a coach’s lens during his time away has made Carter realize the broader impact that some of his behaviour had on teams he played for.
“It allowed me to take a step back and look and see how I affected teams. I like to say I’m a big rock in a small pond, when the ripples start hitting you, you don’t really see,” Carter said. “I got this chance to step back and be able to take a look and analyze what I need to do.”
He’ll be approaching this new chance in the Elks secondary with a different mindset, playing simply for the love of the game. That will likely do little to satisfy CFL fans for whom his reputation has become a running joke, but Carter doesn’t care.
“Somebody’s got to be the victim. In people’s heads, they see my fire and they be like: ‘Oh no, man, I don’t like him.’ But if you were to get it from Tom Brady or Bo Levi Mitchell, it’d be like: ‘Oh man, he’s inspiring the team.'” he said.
“My goal is to just stay out of that. I’m not even on social media at this point. My goal is to just affect the team as much as I can in a positive way.”