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‘That’s in the Past’: Penn State LB Abdul Carter Ready for Encore

Penn State LB Abdul Carter
Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Abdul Carter (11) November 12, 2022 David Hague/NSN

Abdul Carter’s Penn State got off to a dubious start.

A player getting ejected is never a good thing, but having it happen isn’t terribly unusual.

A guy getting ejected in his first game is more of an anomaly.

A blue-chip linebacker getting ejected on his first defensive play? Well, that’s just one heck of a story.

That’s what happened to Carter in Penn State’s 2022 season opener at Purdue.

The first play of Carter’s career was on special teams. On his first defensive play, he was called for targeting Purdue’s Tyrone Tracy Jr. and got kicked out of the game.

Penn State players can have moments when they realized they aren’t playing high school football anymore.

It could happen at a practice or in a meeting or even just walking around campus.

Carter’s moment— which he described to reporters last Tuesday at Penn State’s second-year player media availability as a “wake up call”—  was broadcast to millions.

That moment was seen my many as a negative.

But it also showcased Carter’s aggressive playing style. That aggressiveness helped him become one of college football’s best true freshmen by the end of the year.

Carter finished the season with the team lead in sacks (6.5), tackles for loss (10.5) and finished second in solo tackles (36). He was one of four finalists for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award.

To do this, Carter needed to adjust to playing DI-caliber talent every week, which was something he didn’t have to do at LaSalle College High School near Philly.

“In high school, you can basically just use all your athleticism just making plays,” Carter told reporters last Tuesday. “But in college, they’re athletic, just like you. So what’s that extra thing you’re going to do to get an advantage?”

Other college players are athletic, but not many linebackers have Carter’s speed or his physical build.

“He already was kind of college ready in terms of his body (6-foot-3, 233 pounds),” coach James Franklin told reporters the day before Penn State’s Rose Bowl win over Utah.

There probably aren’t many college players who turned their living room into a weight room, either.

“He literally had a bench press and a power clean in the living room as soon as you walked in the house,” Franklin said, “which I think (Carter’s) mom was happy when he came to Penn State, that she could get her living room back.”

Penn State started its winter workouts last Tuesday— the same day Carter talked to reporters— and has currently completed half of its eight scheduled sessions. So does the jacked Carter feel he needs live up to his reputation as a weight-room warrior?

“I don’t think I have anything to live up to…” he said. “I just want to work hard, be the best I can be and help me, myself, my family, my teammates, everybody that’s around me.”

Last season, Carter went from the guy who got ejected on his first defensive play to one of Penn State’s best players.

But he understands that those days are over, and what matters is 2023, not 2022.

He plans on playing a lot more than one defensive snap Sept. 2 against West Virginia at Beaver Stadium, and he plans on making an even bigger impact in Year 2.

“I did what I did in the past, and that’s in the past,” Carter said. “But what can I do in the future? What can I do right now to get more.”

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