Greatest of All Throws: Michael Carter’s Unbreakable High School Shot Put Record Turns 40

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By Jonathan Gault
June 17, 2019

He won seven NCAA shot put titles and a Cotton Bowl championship in football.

He won an Olympic silver medal in the shot put.

He earned All-Pro honors as an NFL nose tackle and won three Super Bowls.

But ask Michael Carter for his greatest athletic accomplishment, and he doesn’t hesitate. He casts his mind back to an evening four decades ago in Sacramento, when he lined up for his final throw in a high school shot put ring and sent a 12-pound ball of metal flying 81 feet, three-and-a-half inches into eternity.

When Carter used to tell people that his finest hour as an athlete was setting the national high school record in the shot put, they would assume he was joking. Better than an Olympic medal? Better than three Super Bowls?

Well…yes. When Carter unleashed his record toss at the Golden West Invitational on June 16, 1979, the national record stood at 77 feet even, which he had set a month earlier in Abilene, Tex. Carter improved that mark by four feet. Throwers do not PR by four feet, especially when they already own the national record, and especially when that record is almost five feet farther than the next-closest high school throw.

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Usually, the term for an achievement like that is Beamonesque. When Bob Beamon jumped 29-2.5 at the 1968 Olympics, he broke the existing world record by 6.6%; Carter’s throw at Golden West was similarly impressive, a 5.6% improvement on the existing high school record.

But those were the gaps to the previous records, which, in Carter’s case, was held by Carter himself. The difference between Carter and the second-best thrower in high school history at the time, Sammy Walker (72-3.25), was just over nine feet, or 12.5%. To run up the same gap to the #2 performer in history, Beamon would have had to have leaped 30-9.75 in Mexico City. Running 12.5% faster than the existing marathon world record would put you at 1:46. Running 12.5% faster than the existing mile world record would put you at 3:15. When Carter threw 81-3.5, it wouldn’t have been unfair to ask whether he belonged to a different species.

It took 32 years for someone to surpass Carter’s second-best throw — in 2011, Ryan Crouser, who would go on to become the 2016 Olympic champion, threw 77-2.75 at an indoor meet in Idaho, still the only other time a high schooler has surpassed 77 feet. But in the 40 years since Carter’s record toss in Sacramento, no one has come within four feet of it.

So yes, Michael Carter is quite sure that throwing 81-3.5 is his greatest athletic accomplishment.

“They laughed at the beginning, but they don’t laugh anymore,” Carter says. “I say, you know I’m an android, right? I’m the only person on this planet that threw over 81 feet in competition. That is something that no one’s ever done…Forty years later, it’s still there. You have a lot of NCAA champions, you have a lot of state champions. Every year, you can try to be a Super Bowl champion, but that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I took advantage of it.”

***

Blame Greg Graham.

He was responsible for creating this behemoth, for ensuring generations of high school throwers didn’t even have a chance of breaking the shot put national record.

Or at least, that’s the way Michael Carter sees it.

The truth is, Carter already had desire and an insatiable appetite for hard work by the time he reached the Dallas city championships in the spring of 1976, his final year (ninth grade) at Zumwalt Middle School. He just needed a target on which to focus his energies. Greg Graham became that target.

Carter had taken up the shot put the year before, teaching himself the basics of the event by studying whatever he could get his hands on, even scouring an encyclopedia at the local library for anything on the shot put. Eventually, he found a magazine that contained a sequence of images of Udo Beyer, the 1976 Olympic champion from East Germany who admitted to doping in 2013, from the start of his throw to the release. Carter didn’t have a coach, so he’d go out to a field at Zumwalt, draw a six-foot diameter circle in the dirt, and lay down the photos of Beyer at the back of the ring. He did his best to mimic Beyer’s form, squatting down to consult the pictures in between attempts.

That got Carter to 70-5 with an eight-pound shot at his district meet that spring, but it rained the night before the city championships, leaving the dirt ring a muddy mess. Carter, throwing in a pair of Chuck Taylors, hadn’t yet learned to control his uncommon speed in the ring, and Greg Graham beat him.

“That was the first time that I cried over an athletic competition,” Carter said. “And I told myself that would be the last time I’d ever cry over an athletic competition. I was so determined to prove that I was a good thrower, because some people went away saying that that [70-5] throw that I had the week before was a fluke.”

That fall, Carter, who grew up in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, was supposed to enroll at South Oak Cliff High School. But Carter’s father, Douglas, was a PE teacher and soccer coach at Thomas Jefferson, about 15 miles north, so Carter enrolled there instead. This did not sit well with Carter, because it meant that he would have to be teammates with the one guy he wanted to beat more than anyone — Greg Graham.

So Carter found a solution. When it came time for track practice, Carter had a rule: wherever he practiced, he would practice alone. If Graham was working on the shot put, Carter would head over to the discus ring. If Graham was working on the discus, Carter would head over to the shot put ring. Now that the fire was burning inside him, he didn’t want to put it out.

That fire only grew hotter during Carter’s first meet as a sophomore. Carter had lost to Terry Crouch, who would go on to be drafted by the Baltimore Colts as an offensive lineman in 1982, and as Crouch climbed the podium to receive his award, he put a hand on Carter’s shoulder and told him, “Son, as long as I’m here, you’ll never get up here.”

“Why did he tell me that?” Carter said. “Between those two events, it was just like jet fuel. I was working on jet fuel.”

***

Carter continued mostly coaching himself throughout high school. His high school coach, James Neeley, remembers making only one major correction, helping Carter reposition his right foot to avoid fouling. Otherwise, his main duty was making sure that Carter didn’t overwork himself. Carter continued studying the event, graduating from that one magazine spread of Beyer at the back of the ring to watching 16mm film of the world’s top throwers on his projector at home. Carter didn’t try to model himself on one specific thrower, instead picking and choosing the elements he liked best from each of the top throwers and incorporating them into his own technique. One of his biggest influences was former world record holder Al Feuerbach of the United States, particularly when it came to how Feuerbach used his legs.

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His practice routine became ingrained. On Mondays and Wednesdays, he’d throw the shot between 100 and 120 times, starting with standing throws with the 16-pound international shot before honing his technique with the 12-pound high school shot. When he was done, he’d walk over to the discus ring and take 60 throws there, again starting with the heavier international implement and finishing with the high school discus. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he’d flip it, taking 100 throws with the discus and 60 with the shot. On Fridays, he’d take fewer throws, using just the high school implements in order to rest up for meets, which were usually held on Saturdays.

Carter was blessed with speed — he was a sprinter in middle school before knee issues forced him to turn to the shot and claims he was once clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash — but above all, his technique is what allowed him to become great. By thrower standards, Carter, who stood 6-2 in high school and weighed in at roughly 245 pounds, was not a giant. He lifted twice a week, but didn’t put up crazy numbers — he never benched over 300 pounds in high school, and his best squat was in the mid-400s. But Carter didn’t care about one-rep maxes. Just like when he would throw in practice, he was all about technique in the weight room. Every time he squatted, he would come up quickly and explosively, mimicking the way he’d use his legs in the shot put. Carter made a concerted effort in practice to never “bench-press” the shot put — he wanted to make sure he was using the power generated in his legs on every single throw.

Carter honed his technique by working harder than everyone else. A typical day of practice would last between three and four hours. Outside on the athletic fields, it would grow dark, and his teammates would go home. The soccer team would go home. The baseball team would go home. And Carter would still be out there, throwing. He had to keep working until he got it right.

At the end of his first practice of the season, Carter would leave a marker where his best throw landed and cover it up for the night. If he bettered that mark the next day, he’d move the marker, allowing him to track his progress as the season went along. It’s not uncommon to hear of throwers throwing farther in practice than they do in competition, where they’re limited to just six attempts. But Carter says he never came close to his best marks in practice, topping out at around 73 feet by the end of his senior year.

“When you train with the international implement and then you go down to the high school [shot], it feels so light that everybody wants to forego technique and they just want to chuck it,” Carter says. “But you have to remember, you’re still focusing on technique in order to get it to get far. So that’s what I did. I never did try to go out there just to see how far I could throw it [in practice]. It all boiled down to one thing: technique. If you don’t have technique, you don’t have anything.”

Carter was a glider, which meant he would begin his motion hunched over, his back facing the front of the ring, with his right foot up against the back of the ring. Then he would fire his left foot toward the front of the ring, his right foot trailing behind and briefly touching down in the center of the ring before he exploded off it, driving the strength of his body through his right hand to push the shot put forward.

The biggest change Carter made to his technique during high school came between his junior and senior seasons. He was already a great shot putter, but wanted to get even faster across the ring and streamline his motion as much as possible.

“In the glide, when you come out the back of the ring, you want to hit your power position and then, as you turn to drive up, you want to turn your right foot in the direction that you’re throwing to get your hips around,” Carter says. “So I’m like, that takes a lot of time. What if I take out turning the right foot to get my hips around? What if I take that out and come across with my right foot already turned when I land?”

So that’s what Carter did. Instead of landing, turning, driving through the shot, and releasing, he took care of step two before he landed. And he drilled that technique, over and over and over again, until he mastered it.

Carter entered the 1979 season, his senior year, with lofty goals. As a junior, he had thrown over 71 feet; the national record, held by another Dallas native, Sammy Walker, stood at 72-3.25. Carter had unleashed a 73-foot toss at the state meet that had landed just outside the sector line, a foul by a few inches. He knew the national record was his as a senior.

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Carter didn’t just want to break Walker’s record, however. He wanted to obliterate it. Carter obtained a copy of the Thomas Jefferson High School track & field schedule, and next to their first meet, in mid-February, wrote down: “73-9.” His goal was to break the national record by a foot and a half in their very first meet.

But he didn’t stop there. Carter went down to the second meet, and next to that one, he wrote “74-3.” Next to the third meet, he wrote “74-9.” He kept doing that for all 10 meets on the schedule through the Texas state meet. His goal was to break the national record by six inches in every competition.

Thomas Jefferson’s first meet that year was held in cold, rainy conditions, and Carter “only” threw 69 feet. In his second meet of the season, Carter broke Walker’s record. The following week, he broke it again. And again. And again. But the fifth time Carter broke the record that season, at the UIL state qualifier meet in Abilene on May 5, he says he “screwed up.” At that meet, Carter went 77-0, improving his previous best by over two feet (that same day, according to Sports Illustrated, Carter threw 215 feet with one of his warmup throws in the discus — over five feet farther than the national record at the time — and, at an all-comers meet, threw the 16-pound international shot 66-4/20.22m, also a high school record).

Carter hadn’t planned on throwing 77 feet by the first weekend of May. The mark was so good — no other high schooler had ever thrown within four feet of it — that even Carter couldn’t improve on it at the state meet. He couldn’t improve the record in the first two postseason invitationals either, the Keebler International Prep Track & Field Invitational in Chicago and the Atlanta Track Classic. Only one more chance remained: Golden West.

***

Courtesy Michael Carter

Michael Carter was the star attraction at the 20th Golden West Invitational at Hornet Stadium. In order to give him as much exposure as possible, the Golden West organizers installed a portable shot put ring in the north end zone so that fans in the bleachers could watch the shot put competition play out.

Track & field was different in 1979 than 2019. Today, if someone throws 77 feet, there will be footage on YouTube the next day. Back then, for anyone in Sacramento, Carter was little more than an urban legend. From the moment he entered the stadium, Carter felt hundreds of sets of eyes on him. It didn’t matter if he was sneezing or stretching or scratching an itch, everyone wanted to catch a glimpse of the 77-foot shot putter.

“Everyone was just watching and gawking,” Carter says. “Someone throwing that far, they expect a huge guy, a guy 6-4, 6-5, 300 pounds. Back then, 300 pounds, that was huge. I was about [6-2], 240, 250, somewhere in there.”

Carter had flown to California with the goal of simply improving upon his national record. But the night before the meet, he called up his girlfriend (now wife), Sandra, from a payphone. Just before Carter hung up, Sandra told him she had a request: throw 80 feet, for me.

It was a ridiculous request, asking someone already so far ahead of his peers to outdistance his own best mark by three feet. But Sandra didn’t view it that way.

“I wasn’t comparing him to anybody else,” Sandra says. “That was just based on what I know he could do. I figured, okay, he’s thrown 77 feet, I mean, you know, three more feet and that’s just 80 feet. I said, you could do that.”

Until that point, throwing 80 feet had not even crossed Carter’s mind. But, young and in love, he didn’t want to disappoint Sandra. Without giving it much thought, he said, “Okay.”

“When I said okay, that basically just said, ‘Okay, you accepted it,’ and I accepted the challenge and I had to throw it,” Carter says. “I never thought once that was too far.”

After throwing 201-2 to win the discus, Carter began well in the shot put, reaching 75-1 in his first attempt. He edged out to 75-4.25 in round three and improved to 76-4.25 in round five. But with one throw remaining in his high school career, the national record remained 77-0.

The events preceding Carter’s final throw are the subject of some debate, the result of four decades of retellings. One thing all agree on: as Carter stepped into the ring and readied himself for his last attempt, the boys’ 880-yard final was nearing its conclusion and, as the crowd began to scream, Carter asked for — and was granted — permission to step out of the ring by the officials.

Neeley says that this happened two or three more times — Carter would prepare to make his final throw, only for PA announcer Bob Jarvis to interrupt, either by introducing another event or reading off results. The third or fourth time this happened, Neeley says, Carter was beginning to throw but stopped midway through the attempt, slamming the shot to the ground in frustration.

“You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears,” Neeley says. “He was mad…I’m going, Oh my goodness, he’s going to get disqualified.”

Jarvis, the PA announcer at Golden West from 1969-2018, says it’s possible this may have happened, but he doesn’t know for sure. While the shot put was the main attraction, he still had to introduce the other events as they came and couldn’t monitor everything happening in the shot put circle.

“Plus I was providing the only source of marks — they didn’t have a scoreboard,” says Jarvis, 80. “So whether or not he had stepped out on other occasions, I wouldn’t be able to say yea or nay.”

Carter, for his part, only recalls the one interruption, but points out that, after suffering four major concussions in the NFL, his memory is not always reliable.

“I’ll leave the house and I have [four] things I need to do and next thing you know, I come back and I’ve only accomplished two of them, I forgot about the other two,” says Carter, adding that other than the memory loss, he hasn’t experienced any lingering effects from the concussions. “You do forget a lot. A lot of stuff is based on what people tell me about what happened in high school. A lot of that I’ve forgotten.”

What happened next is not in dispute, and endures thanks to a grainy YouTube clip of Carter’s full series that day. When Carter was finally ready to throw, he took up the shot in his right hand, crouched down low, and exploded across the ring. When he had thrown 77 feet earlier that season, it had felt easy, almost effortless. This time, he felt the power coursing through his body, traveling up his right arm and transferring to the 12-pound shot in his hand.

Carter knew it was big, but he didn’t watch the shot fly through the air as he released it, worried he might screw up his follow-through and foul. Instead, as soon as he finished his motion, he spun around on his left foot and looked out to see where the ball had landed.

Had Carter watched, this is what he would have seen:

“It looked like the shot went straight up,” Neeley says. “Under normal circumstances, you’re talking about the projectile leaving his hand at somewhere around 29-31 degrees or something of that nature. That shot left, and it must have gone at 45 or higher. Because it went up and up and up and came straight down. And normally when a shot hits, it comes down and it rolls. This one came straight down and plugged.”

The shot had gone well beyond the small American flag officials had placed in the pit to mark 77 feet. The crowd let out a collective gasp, followed by silence, followed by substantial buzz as they waited for Jarvis to announce the mark. Eventually, an official on the infield radioed the distance up to him: 81-3.5.

“Oh my goodness, what have we just seen?” Jarvis asked the crowd as he announced the mark. Then he tried to put the mark in context, scribbling out the old and new records on a piece of paper and doing some quick math to figure out the percentage improvement (5.6%).

Jarvis recalls one of the other athletes in the competition, a boy from Arizona who had thrown a personal best of 63 feet, telling his coach how proud he was of his accomplishment. Even now, 63 feet is a terrific throw for a high schooler — fewer than 25 boys have bettered that mark in 2019. Yet the boy could not help but feel completely overshadowed.

“But coach,” he said, “I lost by 18 feet.”

Back in Dallas, Sandra was waiting patiently by the phone after receiving permission from her mom to accept a long-distance call from California. When Carter got back to his hotel, he dialed her number and told her that, as requested, he had thrown 80 feet. She assumed he was kidding.

News of the throw quickly spread south to Walnut, Calif., where the AAU championships — the US senior national championships — were being held. Dave Laut won that day, throwing the 16-pound shot 69-3 (21.11m). The rule of thumb when converting marks between the 12- and 16-pound shots is to subtract 10 feet from your mark with the 12 to get your mark with the 16.

“As we walked off the award ceremony, some guy from the press came up, and he said, ‘Did you hear Michael Carter threw 81-3.5 up at Sacramento just about an hour ago?'” says Walker, who was also competing that day. “And I never will forget the look on Laut’s face. Laut at that time was the #1 thrower in the world, there was nobody close. At the time, nobody was throwing that far. And he looked at that sportswriter, dumbfounded, and said, ‘Hell, I couldn’t throw it that far.’”

***

Ryan Crouser believes that, eventually, a high schooler will throw farther than 81-3.5. It might take 20 or 30 years, but it will happen. But one thing Crouser is certain about: there will never be another 80-foot glider. The spin has become the dominant technique among top American throwers; Crouser says that anyone showing the potential to challenge Carter’s record would transition to the spin, as Crouser himself did before his senior year.

During his days as a glider, the two throws Crouser studied the most were Carter’s 81-3.5 and Ulf Timmermann‘s 1988 Olympic record (73-8.5). Crouser would eventually break the latter in 2016, but he never got close to Carter’s record. Technically, Crouser believes Carter got everything possible out of his body on the record throw.

“For every individual and at any given point in time, you kind of have the perfect throw,” Crouser says. “For him, on that day, at that level he was at, that was definitely close to, if not the perfect throw.”

Listening to Crouser describe Carter’s record is like listening to a world-renowned painter describe the Mona Lisa. The subtleties that the casual track fan might miss stand out to a fellow master of the craft. A shot putter must strike a balance between being aggressive in their legs and lower body — where the power for a throw is generated — while staying relaxed in their upper body. Carter managed to accomplish both.

“[He had] the most active right leg and lower body that you really would ever see, even at the professional level, for anyone, just for how aggressive he was going after that,” Crouser says.

The other balance a thrower must strike is how long to push on the shot put. The longer a thrower pushes on the ball, the longer he can exert force on the ball and the farther it will travel. Release too early and you leave distance on the table. Release too late and you foul. On the record throw, Crouser says, Carter pushed the perfect amount, releasing the ball as far over the toeboard as he could without fouling.

“He couldn’t have gone one inch farther,” Crouser says.

Carter also pushed for a long time.

“I like to use the analogy of a bow and arrow,” Walker says. “If you take a bow with an arrow and the same angle, everything else exactly the same, and pull on that bowstring two or three inches further than anybody else pulls and you let go, the arrow is going to go farther. It’s just mathematics. And that’s what Michael did.  

“That’s one of the reasons he got the most out of his body, because he actually would put pressure on the shot longer than 99.9% of all the shot putters that ever threw.”

Ask the man himself, however, and he won’t admit that it was perfect. Or even close to perfect.

“I found at least three things wrong with that throw that I could have done better,” Carter says. “I didn’t get as much leg extension out of my right leg, I could have been faster, separation between my block (left non-throwing arm) and my put (right arm).”

***

Carter’s record turned 40 on Sunday. Outside of the rarely-run 10,000 meters, it is the oldest high school record on the books, male or female. Jack Shepard, the longtime publisher of High School Track, who has been compiling high school track & field rankings for over 50 years, called Carter’s throw “possibly the greatest single performance ever” by a high school athlete. Considering no one has come within four feet of it in 40 years, it’s a good bet that it will last 50, perhaps even 60 years. And Carter, now 58, has to reckon with a unique problem: outliving his record.

“If anyone’s going to break it, I would love to see someone break it while I’m still on the earth,” Carter says.

Carter says that all of the high school throwers he’s seen over the last four decades, Crouser was the only one he thought had a chance to break the record.

“I saw something in his technique and I saw him, how he moved as an athlete,” Carter says.

Courtesy Michael Carter

Indeed, surpassing 81-3.5 was Crouser’s goal as a senior. In February 2011, Crouser threw 77-2.75 at the Simplot Games to set the high school indoor record; overall, it was the second-farthest throw by any high schooler, indoors or out. In March, Crouser threw close to 80 feet in a practice meet back home in Oregon, but injuries to his back and adductor derailed his outdoor season and any shot at the record.

Six years later, Jordan Geist, who just finished his sophomore year at the University of Arizona, almost became the third member of the 77-foot club, getting out to 76-10.5 indoors. Earlier that season, Geist had actually broken another of Carter’s high school records from 1979, throwing the 16-pound shot 68-4 (Carter’s best was 67-9). He began to think he could break Carter’s record, and even says that he once threw 82 feet in practice. But Geist, unlike Carter, could never quite master the technique of throwing the 12-pound shot.

“I thought I could [break the record], but I think that thought made me try too hard and that’s whenever the technique started breaking down,” Geist says. “I had the athletic ability to do it. I just didn’t have the patience to do it.”

Even now, during a historically deep period for the shot put, there aren’t many professionals who could throw 81-3.5 with a 12-pound shot. For one thing, the ball’s diameter is smaller, so it doesn’t fit in the hand of a giant like Crouser (6-8, 320 lbs) as well as a 16-pound shot. For another, the arm speed required is more than what most throwers are used to, which could lead to injuries. But mostly, it’s just really freaking far. Geist estimates that there are around 10 men alive who could throw 81-3.5 right now. Crouser, who has thrown a 14-pound shot 25 meters (82-0.25) in practice, and earlier this year threw the 16-pound 74-7.25/22.74m, the longest throw in 29 years, is one of them, but says that most of his peers would struggle to do it.

“It’s on par with a 9.8 100 meters,” Crouser says. “If you had the whole competition [with a 12-pound shot], you’d make the finals at a World Championships or Olympics with that, with 81-3.5. It’s just at such a high level, that in terms of development, most people in their life as professional athletes will never get to that level, let alone as an 18[-year-old].”

Whenever an athlete does something historic in the shot put — an event in which the all-time list is littered with known or suspected drug cheats — there are going to be questions about performance-enhancing drugs, even for a high schooler. Carter has heard them for years, and says he’s done everything possible to prove he competed clean. He says he didn’t associate with people suspected of using drugs and that he took — and passed — every anti-doping test possible.

“I had no problems because I was clean, always been clean,” Carter says. “The running joke in my family, and what I tell people, is that when they test my urine, all you’re gonna find is hamburgers, chicken, and tacos.”

After winning seven NCAA titles at SMU, Carter made it to the Olympics in 1984, earning the silver in Los Angeles. That was the final shot put competition of his career; Carter began his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers that fall, and signing a professional contract forfeited his Olympic eligibility because of the IOC’s amateurism rules (which were lifted a few years later). No one in their right mind would turn down an NFL salary to compete as an “amateur” in track & field, but the great unanswered question of Carter’s career is what he could have done had he kept going in the shot put.

“If he’d have been just been a one-sport guy, he would very possibly be the world record holder himself,” Walker says. “When you quit at [23] years old, that’s real early in the career of a great shot putter.”

Carter went on to play nine years in the NFL, all with the 49ers, retiring after the 1992 season. As with many players from that era, the game took a toll on him. His memory is not as sharp as it was. Sandra, 58, recalls that, when Michael first began experiencing memory issues, something would come up in a conversation, something that Sandra or their children had told him, and Michael would grow irritated, feeling that they were keeping secrets from him. Sandra would have to explain: no, we told you this already — you just forgot.

“It’s very difficult, sometimes it makes me cry,” Sandra says, her voice catching. “It’s like if we run into somebody that we’ve known for years and sometimes, Michael doesn’t recognize him. He [doesn’t] know who they are. He’ll say, ‘they look familiar,’ but he [doesn’t] know who they are. And so that’s real hard. Really hard.”

Physically, Carter’s body carries reminders of countless battles in NFL trenches. Raising his arm up to scratch the back of his head is a difficult task; most of the cartilage in his rotator cuff is gone. He has endured two knee replacements and a hip replacement. Sandra knows how much Michael loved the game — and she loved it too, watching every snap and offering her critiques post-game — but says now that if they could do it all over, she would have preferred that he not play football.

“He would have played for free if he didn’t get paid, that’s how much he loved it,” Sandra says. “But when I look back on it, the sacrifice that he made, it was really too much. Really, he made a sacrifice that, when I look back on it, I feel like no one should make that kind of sacrifice to beat your body up like that. He [doesn’t] have any regrets, though. But it breaks my heart, because he’s not in the condition he used to be in. It’s a struggle for him every day.”

Michael and Michelle in Rio in 2016, where she claimed Olympic gold (Courtesy Michael Carter)

Despite his NFL success, throwing still runs through Carter’s blood. His oldest daughter, Michelle, 33, followed in his footsteps and broke the girls’ high school record in the shot put in 2003 (her record stood for 11 years). With Michael coaching her, Michelle went on to claim the 2016 World Indoor and Olympic titles. A flair for the dramatic runs in the family; in both competitions, Michelle was trailing in the final round, only to unleash an American record on her final throw to win. Michelle’s sister Dee Dee, 31, was the NCAA champion in the discus at Texas Tech in 2009.

The fact that one family produced three NCAA champions in the throws may not be a coincidence, but it wasn’t due to any prodding on Michael’s part. Carter was taught to be humble from a young age. He keeps his Olympic medal locked away in a safe; the walls of his house in the Dallas suburbs are bare of any of photos from Carter’s NFL or shot put days. A few weeks ago, Carter was at a track meet and someone asked him what football team he played for. He told them Thomas Jefferson High School.

So when Michelle came home from middle school one day asking about throwing the shot put, Michael demanded to know who put her up to it. But once he realized she was serious about the event, he agreed to coach her. Now Michael, Michelle, Dee Dee, and Carter’s son Michael Jr. all coach with the Texas Throwbacks Track Club.

Carter remains proud of his record throw, and he’s happy to talk about it, should you ask. But he’s never been one to brag.

“If you knew who I was, you already know what I did,” Carter says.

In 1979, the track & field world found out who Carter was. Forty years later, they still know what he did.


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