CANTON, OH—In his fourth year of eligibility, eight-time Pro Bowler Cris Carter, who scored 130 receiving touchdowns on 1,101 receptions over the course of his career, finally entered the Hall of Fame on Thursday by paying $21 for a ticket.
Carter was inducted by ticket seller Jennifer Mahoney, 26, who did not choose to speak on the occasion aside from saying "Welcome to the Pro Football Hall of Fame," thanking Carter for his $21, and directing him to the entrance.
Carter, who played in Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Miami, spending the most productive years of his career in a Vikings uniform, chose to enter the Hall in street clothes. Carter was admitted with 643 others Thursday, including insurance salesman Rodney Whitford, 37, and bicycle mechanic Sophie Mancini, 22, who also paid the required amount for a ticket.
"Thank you," Carter told the group of employees at the front entrance upon receiving his change. “Thank you very much.”
Carter, who is fourth on the all-time receiving touchdown list, has thus far been denied admission to the Hall on five previous occasions, four times between 2008 and 2011, when selection committee voters decided not to induct him, and an additional time last month when he arrived at the Hall an hour after closing time.
The newly enshrined Carter celebrated the honor by touring the Lamar Hunt Super Bowl Gallery with other paying customers, watching a retrospective on the 1958 NFL championship in the GameDay Stadium Theater, and purchasing a replica Hall of Fame bust in the gift shop.
Carter was also surrounded by throngs of football fans, some of them wearing Adrian Peterson Vikings jerseys.
"This is unbelievable,” a visibly stunned Carter said as he stood in front of the bronze bust of Redskins great Art Monk—the wideout who was inducted during Carter’s first year of eligibility and trails Carter in career touchdowns, receiving yards, and total receptions. “Literally unbelievable. It’s actually kind of crazy that this is real and I’m not dreaming.”
“Dammit,” an emotional Carter added after catching a glimpse of Steve Largent’s Hall of Fame bust. “I didn’t want to cry, but now here I am crying like a baby.”
Many football analysts said that while they agreed Carter should be in the Hall of Fame just like anyone else who can afford a ticket, they disagreed with the admission process.
"For a player of Carter's stature to have had to wait this long is outrageous,” Sports Illustrated football columnist Peter King said. "Surely there should be some sort of special express line for former players. And there is just something wrong when a legend like Carter isn’t at least given a 15 percent discount on tickets.”
“But after all that, at long last, he actually got in,” King added.
Carter agreed, saying that while the past four years have been a bit of an ordeal, he’s just happy to have been let into the Hall.
"It's wonderful to finally be here in Canton, alongside other greats such as Jerome Bettis, whom I just saw in the gift shop, and Andre Reed, whom I saw at the Canton Applebee's last night," Carter said in a brief statement during which he also thanked his family for waiting patiently for him at a nearby outlet mall. "I just want to say real fast, for the record, that I have 65 more touchdown catches than Michael Irvin.”
“And 68 more than Shannon Sharpe,” he continued. “Okay, thank you. Get me the hell out of here.”