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Inside The Chart: Within Reach

by By Andy Demetra (The Voice of the Yellow Jackets)

He could have reacted with a nod and a knowing smile.

Malachi Carter instead reacted with a shrug and a look of puzzlement.

“I had no idea about it,” the fifth-year senior said.

The topic was Carter’s longevity – and a streak unknown even to Carter himself.  The 6-3, 192-pound wide receiver has played in all 47 games of his Georgia Tech career dating back to 2018, the last 24 as a starter. By season’s end he could smash the school record for games played, currently shared by four players at 54.

Most career games played
Jamal Golden  (’11-15): 54
Jemea Thomas (’09, ’11-13): 54
T.J. Barnes (’09-12): 54
Rod Sweeting (’09-12): 54

Getting an additional year of eligibility due to Covid-19 will certainly help in that pursuit. But until last week, the Lawrenceville, Ga., native had no idea he was approaching a record. Durability in football should never be taken for granted, yet when asked about his streak, Carter sounded more Iron-meh than Ironman.

“It’s definitely taking care of my body every chance I can get. And the man upstairs, definitely,” he said of the secrets to his good health.

Durability has its perks, though: no Georgia Tech wide receiver has finished with 100 career receptions since the late Demaryius Thomas (113, 2006-09). After tying for the team lead with 37 receptions last year, Carter sits at 76 entering the season.

“To be in line with somebody as important and special to this Institute as Demaryius Thomas, that’s a blessing in itself also,” Carter said.

He’ll resume his chase of those milestones Monday when Georgia Tech opens its season against No. 4 Clemson at Mercedes Benz Stadium (8 p.m. ET, Georgia Tech Sports Network from Legends Sports). And with it, the career of one of the steady, understated cogs of the Georgia Tech offense will continue as well.

Malachi Carter is just eight games shy of becoming Georgia Tech’s all-time leader in games played.

 

“Just the multiplicity of what he can do, the skill set – he’s made a lot of really big plays for us over his career,” said head coach Geoff Collins.

Carter has earned a reputation for reliability with his intangibles, too.

“He’s always positive. He builds a relationship with each person on the team. He’s just always that dude that’s going to lift you up when you’re down. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team,” said quarterback Jeff Sims.

His dependability could be even more critical as Georgia Tech’s receiving corps grows into its own. Here’s another stat Carter didn’t know about: After him, no Yellow Jacket has more than 19 catches at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Most career receptions – FBS level
Malachi Carter: 76
Luke Benson 19*
Peje’ Harris 17
Dylan McDuffie** 17
*-Syracuse
**-Buffalo

Lack of catches doesn’t necessarily denote a lack of talent – sophomore Nate McCollum has repeatedly drawn praise in the preseason, and 6-7 transfer E.J. Jenkins has 52 career catches between stints at South Carolina and FCS St. Francis. But as the Jackets adjust to new coordinator Chip Long’s scheme, and as they try to capitalize on a three-year starting quarterback in Sims, does Carter feel any extra pressure to produce?

“It’s just something I embrace. I love my teammates, especially my receivers, the young guys under me. They definitely make feel more and more comfortable in that leadership role,” he said.

He also finds himself in a peculiar spot as Georgia Tech’s most tenured player. For all the catches Carter has made, he still has to prove himself to Long and new wide receivers coach Del Alexander. Both appreciate his veteran presence. But neither holds his status sacred.

“He is a leader when it comes to contributing and having stats, but again, having a clean slate also means proving it to me. I try not to pass judgment without the opportunity to evaluate. Whatever he did in the past is great, but I am asking him to do things every single day,” Alexander said.

“I expect him to go out there and play at a high level. It’s his senior year. You hope he’s going to do it himself,” said Long, adding, “If he’s out there rolling, we’re going to roll with him. If not, we’re going to find someone else who can do it. That’s kind of the way it is.”

And that’s fine by Carter, whose response – understated and unimpressed by himself – fits neatly with almost every answer he gives about himself.

“That’s just the nature of football, you know? After this year when I get to the next level, it’s going to be the same. It’s something I’ve always been used to,” he said.

There was nothing modest about the catch Carter made at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last year. Of his 76 catches, it may rank as the gaudiest: a leaping, pirouetting grab for a 27-yard touchdown in Georgia Tech’s 45-22 win over No. 21 North Carolina. Running a fade route down the Tech sideline, Carter caught the ball over the head of his covering defensive back, then toe-tapped a foot inbounds to secure the score.

VIDEO: Malachi Carter Mosses UNC Defender

“If I didn’t get that toe down, who knows how that game would have gone? But it was an amazing play, an amazing catch, and I hope to have a lot more of those this season,” Carter said.

(For the record, Carter doesn’t wear No. 7 as an aspirational homage to touchdowns. It’s actually a nod to family – both he and his younger brothers, Mathias and Messiah, have seven letters in their first names.)

He’ll return to the scene of that catch Labor Day night. Georgia Tech’s most tenured player, the one who could break an all-time record for longevity, still has plenty left to prove.

Said Carter, understated as ever: “I’m just ready to play.”

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