By Gene Phelps
TUPELO – Darryl Carter doesn’t want another football season to pass without giving the pro game one last shot.
Carter, 29, the wide receivers coach for Tupelo High School, will be a starting wide receiver Saturday for the Mississippi MudCats in their American Indoor Football Association season opener against the Pittsburgh RiverRats at the BancorpSouth Arena.
“I know I can still play,” a confident 6-foot-3, 220-pound Carter said. “I can still run and catch with the big boys. I just appreciate this opportunity.”
Carter, an all-state quarterback and Clarion-Ledger Dandy Dozen selection his senior season in high school at Northeast Jones, played quarterback and wide receiver during his college career at Louisiana-Monroe.
He played both positions for three seasons, 2003-05, with Tupelo’s previous indoor football entry – the FireAnts. Prior to coming to Tupelo, he played parts of the 2002 and 2003 seasons with the Omaha Beef of the National Indoor Football League.
Carter’s ultimate goal is to catch the eye of an Arena Football League team, where he would play for a bigger paycheck and be one giant step away from the show … the NFL.
“The coaches here have talked about me playing AF1, so I’ll just let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “If I don’t get picked up it will be because of the age factor.
“If I go, I go. If I don’t, it will give me the opportunity to work with some of the younger guys on this team.”
MudCats head coach Brian Brents calls Carter “a leader” on the offensive side.
“He’s our No. 1 receiver,” the coach said.
Joining Carter at receiver are former Boise State wide receiver Josh Smith and Howard Gilmore, an all-MEAC player from Norfolk State.
“Josh Smith has been the most impressive pickup we’ve had,” Brents noted. “We knew he’d be good, we didn’t know how good. He’s got great hands and runs the best routes. He can be a return man, too.”
Gilmore, a two-year indoor veteran, gives the team a third experienced pass catcher.
The job of getting the ball to Carter and company will be 6-foor-4 quarterback Tommy Jones, who set a pro indoor football record last season with 100 touchdown passes in a single season while playing in Odessa, Texas.
“He’s a big guy who throws the ball really well,” Carter said. “He’s pretty sharp, he knows the game. It’s all about getting acclimated to his receivers.”
Carter hopes football fans in Northeast Mississippi give the MudCats a chance to prove they’re worth the price of admission.
“I know we’re competing for their time,” he said. “I’ve had people tell me they’re going to come out and support us.
“We need to do our part … win.”
What: Indoor football
Who: Pittsburgh RiverRats at Mississippi MudCats
Where: BancorpSouth Arena, Tupelo
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday