Hilltopper Athletics Hall of Famer, All-American Center David Carter dies

Story courtesy of WKU Athletics
Photos courtesy of WKU Athletics Archives

WKU Athletics Hall of Famer and All-American center David Carter died Saturday at the age of 67.
Carter was a four-year starter for the Hilltoppers from 1973-76 while also serving as the team’s snapper on special teams. As a senior in 1976, he was chosen as a team captain and went on to earn AP Second Team All-American honors. He was named WKU’s Athlete of the Year for the 1976-77 campaign.
Carter was inducted into the WKU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1996. He was also named to the Hilltopper Football All-Century Team prior to the 2018 campaign.
In his four seasons, WKU had a combined 34-11-1 record, including Ohio Valley Conference titles, Grantland Rice Bowl championships and NCAA Division II National Runner-Up finishes in both 1973 (12-1, 7-0 OVC) and 1975 (11-2, 6-1 OVC). He earned All-OVC honors in 1974 and was later named to the league’s 40th Anniversary Team in 1988 and Half Century Team in 1998.
A dual-sport athlete in high school, Carter was able to play catcher and designated hitter for the Hilltopper Baseball program during the spring 1974 and 1975 seasons, going 48-for-146 (.329 batting average) at the plate with 29 runs scored, 34 runs batted in and four homeruns. In 1974, he set a school record with eight doubles, while also leading the team with 24 runs batted in.
During his WKU Athletics Hall of Fame induction in 1996, Carter thanked his Lincoln High School coaches Bill Curry and Ray Mills, who were also former Hilltoppers themselves, for helping him understand the game of football and teaching him how to make the deep snap.
A Vincennes, Ind., native, Carter was recruited by WKU head coach Jimmy Feix and offensive line coach Butch Gilbert. When Carter first got to campus, Feix and Gilbert told him he had “potential,” but he only knew potential as “that French word that means you’re not worth a damn.”
Carter gave Feix and Gilbert credit for teaching him “the art of playing center and the offensive line.” Also recalling the famous Feix line of: “There is no such thing as luck. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
Carter redshirted in 1972 and, after the Hilltoppers’ starting center suffered an injury in the second game of the 1973 campaign, got his opportunity. He stepped into the role and stayed the remainder of the year, helping WKU to a 12-1 overall record – which remains tied for most wins in a season in program history (later matched in both 2002 and 2015).
According to those who followed the team, Carter never missed a single snap on punts, field goals or extra points since he was inserted in the starting lineup in 1973 throughout his four seasons. Following his senior campaign, he became the first WKU player to ever play in the Shriners’ North-South All-Star Game.
Following his collegiate career on The Hill, Carter was selected 165th overall in the sixth round of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. At the time, he was the second-highest NFL Draft selection from WKU following the AFL-NFL merger (Virgil Livers was 83rd overall in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears in 1975).
Carter went on to produce a nine-year NFL career, in which he played in 121 games and started 42. He spent the majority of his time with the Oilers before concluding with the New Orleans Saints. Although he was the 165th pick in the 1977 NFL Draft, he played the 43rd-most career games of any player selected that year. Carter and Dale Lindsey (played for the Cleveland Browns from 1965-73) have the longest NFL playing careers of any Hilltopper; the 2021 season will be Jack Doyle’s ninth as a professional.
During Carter’s tenure with the Oilers, the team enjoyed its most successful run after moving from the AFL to the NFL in 1970. From 1978-80, Houston went a combined 32-16 and reached the back-to-back AFC Championship games in 1978 and 1979, losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in both years. The franchise did not advance that far in the playoffs until the Tennessee Titans finally reached Super Bowl XXXIV during the 1999 campaign.
Carter moved to the Saints in the middle of the 1984 season and retired after playing four games for New Orleans in 1985. He moved back to Houston following the conclusion of his football career. He and his wife, Beth, had three sons; Brett, Clay and Tyler. Funeral arrangements have not been completed at this time.