Former Lakers receive NFL contracts

Courtesy Photo / Gogle Images
Carolina Panthers

Courtesy Photo / Gogle Images Carolina Panthers

Emanuel Johnson

Despite being bypassed in this year’s draft, two former Lakers will still get the opportunity to live out their NFL dreams.

Kicker Todd Carter and offensive lineman Nick McDonald each recently signed free agent contracts to play in the NFL. Carter will see action with the Carolina Panthers while McDonald will play for the Green Bay Packers.

Carter, who graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2008, had a less-than-stellar career in terms of field goal kicking. He finished at GVSU having made only 15-of-24 attempts (62.5 percent) with a career long of 43 yards.

But GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell said it was Carter’s strong leg that enticed the Panthers into offering him a contract.

“He was one of the top reasons that we were good on kickoff when he was here,” he said. “In the NFL, there’s been more of a trend to have a different guy for kickoffs because it saves the extra-point/field goal guy’s leg, and that role fits Todd perfectly. I don’t know that he’s quite at the level to make field goals in the NFL, but they signed him for his leg strength.”

The Lakers certainly missed that leg strength last season as the kickoff team gave up more than 20 yards per return as well as two touchdowns on the season.

“Carter had probably the strongest leg of any kicker we’ve ever had at Grand Valley, and professional scouts love that,” said GVSU Athletic Director Tim Selgo. “A strong kickoff means fewer runback opportunities and better field position, and that’s a valuable asset at any level of football.”

McDonald finished his career at GVSU after a disappointing 30-23 loss to the Northwest Missouri State University in the NCAA Division II National Championship game last season. The 6’5”, 310-pound guard was recruited as an offensive lineman although he had not played on the line in high school.

“Nick was a bigger, athletic tight end coming out of high school,” Mitchell said. “We brought him in, red-shirted him and he just kept working hard and putting on weight. Everything that he’s getting right now is a credit to the amount of work he put in for us.”

The pair join Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr, Cincinatti defensive tackle Dan Skuta and Detroit wide receiver Eric Fowler as the current GVSU representation in the NFL. Carr, the most successful of the bunch, has started all 32 games since signing with the Chiefs and has tallied 126 career tackles and three career interceptions.

Selgo said that having athletes move on and thrive at the professional level is a great asset when it comes to recruiting power in that it softens the stigma that some recruits have against Division II athletics.

“Young people coming out of high school like to know that they might have a shot at professional athletics, however realistic the chance may be,” he said. “The fact that we’ve had some athletes go on and prove themselves in the pros is a testament that professional scouts will find you if you’re willing to work hard. And when scouts come to Grand Valley, they know they’ll find players who are used to winning and used to success.”

Carter will see preseason action when Carolina takes on Baltimore on Aug. 12. McDonald will begin his preseason efforts as Green Bay takes on Cleveland on Aug.14.

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