Former Maryland linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr. is entering his fourth season with the Carolina Panthers, and he credits former teammate Luke Kuechly for helping him become an impact defender in the NFL.
The 6-foot, 225-pound Carter played for the Terps from 2014-2017, racking up 330 tackles, good for 16th in program history. He also had 29.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and an interception during his college career. He was drafted in the fifth round (No. 161 overall) by the Panthers in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Carter mostly contributed on special teams as a rookie in Carolina, but he was given more responsibilities defensively from 2019-2020 while maintaining his role on special teams. He started seven of the Panthers’ final eight games at linebacker in 2020. This year, he figures to start at linebacker between Shaq Thompson and Haason Reddick in the Panthers’ 4-3 defense.
Carter has piled up 794 special teams snaps, 90 tackles and a fumble recovery during his first three years in the league. Not bad for a player who wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine.
“I grew up watching NFL games every Sunday. It was a dream of mine. I always wanted to be in the NFL,” Carter said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 19. “A lot of people said that I probably would go undrafted, so when I did get drafted, it felt great. When I was able to start a couple games these past couple seasons, that felt even better. It’s just amazing. It keeps me grounded.”
It also helped that Carter fell into a good situation in Carolina. Kuechly, a five-time first-team All-Pro linebacker, played for the Panthers from 2012-2019 before retiring at the age of 28. Carter got a chance to learn from Kuechly during his first two years in the NFL, a thrill for him since he watched film of Kuechly in college and considers himself a “football junkie.”
Carter started six games next to Kuechly as well.
“He just helped me take my game to the next level,” Carter said. “It’s helped me this year tremendously because I’m hoping for a starting position right now. I’m battling for a starting position. Last year I started [seven of the last eight] games, and I used all the knowledge that I gained from him. It really helped me out.”
What did Carter pick up the most from Kuechly?
“He just comes to work every day. He’s always prepared,” Carter said. “He’s always watching film. That’s the biggest thing that I picked up from him, his film habits — just to watch TV copies of games and pick up on verbiage from the offense. That was probably the biggest thing I picked up from him, some of his study habits and stuff like that.”
Carter touched on some other topics as well, including …
On why he believes Maryland will take a step forward this year:
“I’m excited about what Coach Locksley’s doing at Maryland. For one, he recruited me to Maryland. He was one of the main recruiters getting me to come to Maryland. He just does a great job of recruiting, so he’s got a lot of good guys, a lot of good recruits to come in. All he needs is those guys to buy in. I think they’re going to buy in coming into the next season of the program. One thing I always felt like we were missing at Maryland was a quarterback. [Taulia Tagovailoa], he’s a beast. The games that we did play, he showed out. I look forward to watching those boys next season and I can’t wait to see them.”
On why he believes Michael Locksley is the right man for the job:
“He’s a real guy. He’s genuine. He’s from Washington, D.C., so a lot of times you’re joking around with him, he knows some of the slang, the terminology. He’s just somebody you can communicate with, you can connect with. He’s seen some of the similar things, he’s been through some of the similar things being from Washington, D.C. I think a lot of the guys like that, especially when you’re homegrown. … He means what he says. That’s one thing you can appreciate about a coach.”
On the play of Panthers wide receiver and former Terps star DJ Moore:
“He was a great receiver in college. He played with about six different quarterbacks my senior year [in 2017]. He produced then and he’s producing now, so I don’t understand why he doesn’t get the love that he deserves. I feel like he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber guy, and this season hopefully he takes another leap and shows the world that he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber guy.”
For more from Carter, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox