It was something the Emerald Ridge High coaching staff was eagerly awaiting.
Throughout his prep career, defensive end Brandon Carter had been crawling toward fulfilling his potential.
Carter finally took a giant leap during his senior year at Emerald Ridge — especially on the football field — earning a spot on The News Tribune’s all-defensive first team for 2014. Carter doubled his sack numbers in one season, finishing with 12.5 sacks for the year to lead the South Puget Sound League — both North and South divisions.
Finally, the real Brandon Carter — the one ER coaches knew about all the while — showed up on Friday nights.
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“Most definitely, because the past few years the (previous) Brandon Carter was shy — not really knowing my talents,” he said. “Even in other seasons, (Troy) Halfaday kept pushing the belief inside of me. They wanted me to succeed … they wanted me to be better than myself”
Now Carter is heading to the College the Siskiyous in Weed, California, about 50 miles south of the Oregon border, to play football at the junior college level.
On the football field, Carter finally started to tap into his immense potential on defense as he tore through the SPSL South, helping Emerald Ridge claim its first league championship in the program’s history.
“We came together as a team,” Carter said.
For some reason, there was a disconnect with what mattered to Carter during his early stages of his high school career. It wasn’t personal issues being brought to the field that Carter faced — it was just the simple nature of what many teenagers go through as they navigate toward adulthood.
The lack of academic success hurt Carter during the recruiting season, forcing him to choose the Eagles.
“I’m a sociable person and I like to talk (in class),” Carter admitted. “I like to have fun, but doing that hurt my team early in my career. It’s hard sitting there and focusing on your (school) work … I want to keep playing this game, and I’ll have to do better with my grades in college.”
Many things can distract a person on a day-to-day basis, and for someone with Carter’s disposition, it becomes a giant obstacle to overcome.
“I worked harder than I ever did to be out there with my team,” he said.
One of the first steps into adulthood for many teenagers, especially athletes, is seeing how one’s actions take on a ripple effect. After a slip-up about midway through the season, Carter missed an Oct. 10 game against Bethel due to academic issues.
It was a lesson he didn’t wish to be repeated.
“The biggest step he made was becoming a leader on this football team” Emerald Ridge co-coach Troy Halfaday said. “It started with D-Day and it just continued during the year. Brandon became a leader on this team, which helped the younger players to understand what it takes to play in our system.”
The world is a pond and everything is connected somehow. That’s what Carter learned the hard way as he ventured through his education process.
“I just learned that my actions affected the team — I didn’t see that my first two years,” Carter retorted. “I learned last year that I had to work hard both on the football field and in the classroom … I didn’t want to let my team down last year. Grades are important.”
The move Carter made in putting the Emerald Ridge football team first helped propel the Jaguars to their league title. His work ethic began reshaping what the Jaguars’ defense could really become — both last season and in the future.
“The biggest area he improved in was he did his job,” Halfaday said. “He freed up and allowed other players to do their job. When you’re not where you are supposed to be, it forces someone else (on the field) to do your job for you.”
The lessons of helping people — both teammates and the community at large — has inspired Carter to be something more in his community. Carter intends to study criminal justice with the goal of becoming a police officer in the future.
After all, it’s the real nature of Carter to protect those he cares about most.
“I want to be out and help people in the community,” he concluded. “I want to give back … I want to give back to my hometown someday because it’s the place I love. I grew up here and want to help out my community in the future.”
Go to Puyallupherald.com for Brandon Carter and Brady Winter’s take on the 51st annual East/West all-star state football game held at Central Valley High in Spokane.