Southern’s Ja’Tyre Carter was convinced to try football. Soon he might be an NFL draft pick | Southern

INDIANAPOLIS – A persistent, nagging voice in a high school hallway might’ve changed Ja’Tyre Carter’s life.

Carter’s first love was basketball, but Quentin Payne could not help but imagine what all that athletic potential would look like on the gridiron. So that assistant football coach would find Carter roaming the White Castle High School halls and make his pitch every day.

Like play football!

“Still to this day, I thank him,” Carter said. “… That’s my guy.”

Carter did play football. He found out he liked it, and Payne found his intuition of him was correct. Carter earned a football scholarship to Southern University because of it, and now, he might set himself up for life in the NFL.

Carter was one of four players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine. He felt proud to represent those institutions, and proud to show players from college football’s lower classifications belonged among the elite.

He acknowledged the small-school stigma can be difficult to overcome at times, because he’s got to prove his success was not simply a product of the quality of competition.

“Everything is under a microscope when you go to an HBCU,” Carter said. “Everything you do, every little thing. You have to do everything times 100 when you go to a small school, because you’re not really getting looked at like that.

“They’re really not trying to come get you, but if you can show that you can play, they’ll have no choice but to come get you.”

He added that it doesn’t matter where you come from eventually: “If you’re a ball-player, you’re a ball-player.”

Carter may have spent his career playing at the Football Championship Subdivision level, but he clearly showed enough to land on NFL scouting radars. He scored an invite to the Senior Bowl, one of the premier pre-draft talent showcases, then followed that up with a trip to the combine this week.

He is the first Southern University player to attend the combine since cornerback Danny Johnson in 2018. His hope going into the week was to show the NFL’s talent evaluators that, even though he may have played at an FCS school, that doesn’t mean he isn’t on the same athletic level as players who attended Southeastern Conference or Big 10 schools.

“My athleticism got me this far,” Carter said.

Before he got to Southern, Carter’s athleticism carried him on the basketball court. He led White Castle to a 1A state championship as a high school senior, earning MVP honors in the state title game when he scored 19 points and pulled down 17 rebounds.

But he quickly found a home on White Castle’s football team. His 6-foot-6 frame made him an imposing tight end and defensive lineman, and by the time his high school career finished, he figured he’d have a better chance at making it professionally in football than he would basketball.

Carter found a home with Southern University, and he had no problem when the coaching staff there told him they thought he’d fit best at offensive line, a position he’d never played.

“I was like, ‘Cool, mom ain’t gotta pay for school, so I’ll play o-line at Southern,’” Carter said.

He might’ve briefly reconsidered after going through his first couple practices at a position that felt foreign.

“It was horrible,” he said. “I was getting cussed out by my coaches and everything. I wasn’t doing nothing right. “

But it turned out, and now he might be realizing a future that might not have happened if not for that one encouraging voice.

“It’s crazy, it’s surreal, it still hasn’t hit me,” Carter said. “I’m still processing everything. It happened so fast. It’s crazy, for real. I’m just blessed for this opportunity and I’m just enjoying the process. “

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