Sept. 24, 2008
By Mike Leary
UCLA Sports Information Assistant
For three years Reggie Carter has waited patiently for his chance to become the leader of the UCLA defense and gain some recognition. This season he gets that chance as he moves from the weakside linebacker position to middle linebacker. Many would consider the switch too daunting and demanding, but Carter has been waiting for this moment and relishes the challenge.
"It's a lot more responsibility," Carter says. "I have to not just know my assignment, but I also have to know everyone else's assignment, lead the defense and tell everyone where to go. It's a bigger task physically, too, and all around I think it's a challenging position, but I'm up for it."
Carter brought that positive attitude with him when he stepped on the UCLA campus in 2005. Despite not playing in a single game that year, Carter still managed to make a significant contribution at practices. He earned the Charles Pike Memorial Award for Outstanding Scout Team Player on defense, just as former middle linebacker Christian Taylor had won the year before.
After a year of waiting, Carter finally got his chance to play, starting in 12 of the Bruins' 13 games in 2006. He tallied 48 tackles and six tackles for a loss, earning him first-team Freshman All-America acclaim from rivals.com and second-team Freshman All-America honors from collegefootballnews.com and scout.com.
In 2007, Carter began the season on the Butkus Award Watch List for outstanding linebacker and continued his success on the field. He played each game with a unique passion, a quality he emulates from his favorite player, Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens.
"I love Ray Lewis," Carter says. "He makes plays, and he's very passionate about the way he makes plays. He's excited and fired up after he makes a big play, and I just try to be that same way. It makes the game that much more fun, and the fans love it."
Carter finished the 2007 season with 62 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, all while playing most of the season with an injured right knee. Yet he was still relatively unknown to Bruin fans, as his play was overshadowed by the big year Taylor had. However, Carter continued to stay positive and knew he would have his chance to shine after Taylor graduated.
Carter starts this season on the watch list for the Bronco Nagurski Award, which is given to the best defensive player in the country, as well as the Lott Trophy, which is awarded to the defensive player who exemplifies the best combination of character and athletic excellence.
He already made his presence felt in the first game against Tennessee, making five tackles and a key forced fumble on the Bruins' six-yard line to prevent the Volunteers from scoring in the third quarter. But most importantly, Reggie Carter is now the starting middle linebacker for the Bruins and the unquestioned leader of the defense. It looks like his patience has finally paid off.