Reggie Carter joined a horde of teammates in trying to collectively tackle Tennessee running back Carlin Fils-aime.
During the effort, Carter was shoved and his helmet collided with Volunteers’ offensive tackle Trey Smith. He found himself in a bear-crawl position and his face planted in the dirt.
It was a feeling that Carter knew all too well with it being his second concussion suffered at Georgia. This time, he thought it was possible to walk it off. Then his body started to veer to the right.
“Get down,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart yelled to the senior linebacker, with his gesture being all Carter could see.
Carter, in what Georgia deemed to be an “undisclosed injury,” didn’t return that game and was out of action for the following two contests. Due to the nature of the collision, it became fairly obvious that it was a concussion.
The head injury became a “tough” and untreatable situation for Carter. All he could do was rest, so he placed a black curtain over his window for the following few days, making his bedroom completely dark. Also, he couldn’t watch Netflix, his main form of entertainment, as his goal was to get back on the playing field.
During the two-plus weeks that Carter was sidelined, he had time to reflect. Not only did it prohibit him from staying in shape, but it took a toll as he saw his defensive counterparts play without him.
But one thing kept him going.
“My coaches and teammates,” Carter said. “They trust me and I trust them. They’re like family to me, and they motivate me to come back out and play each and every day.”
Whether it be a shoulder, knee, or a head injury, Carter has a history of being sidelined due to ailments since his junior year at South Gwinnett.
Being held back again raised the concern of those around him. Despite the records of recurring concussions ending athletes’ careers and the conversation surrounding chronic traumatic encephalopathy, Carter insisted that retiring early was never a thought. He didn’t want to “quit on his family.”
“I had people that I knew on campus that weren’t related to me and they were worried, so of course my mom was,” Carter said. “But she knew I’d bounce back.”
Carter’s injury happened less than a week prior to the arrest of junior linebacker Natrez Patrick, so the Bulldogs all of a sudden found themselves thin at the position. Juwan Taylor and Monty Rice filled the role alongside Roquan Smith in the interim. Georgia’s depth was bolstered once Carter made his return against Florida.
If Georgia holds true to its four-game suspension listed in the student-athlete handbook, Patrick will be slated to return Nov. 11 against Auburn. But with Carter bouncing back from yet another injury, it brings a sense of relief to the position group.
“He’s an incredible kid when you think about it,” Smart said. “He’s been banged up (in the past), but has always been a really good player. He has come a long way and is a really good leader for us. He’s not very emotional, but he gives you his best each day. It shows how resilient he is to come back from the injuries he’s overcome.”
Carter earned the start against Florida — alongside Smith — and had near-instant significance in the game. In Georgia’s 42-7 victory, Carter was the team’s fourth-leading tackler with four tackles and a pass breakup.
Carter also showed he wouldn’t be tentative. On Florida’s third drive, Carter read a screen pass to Brandon Powell and buried the Gators’ wide receiver behind the line of scrimmage.
That was when Carter knew he was back in his element.
“I know I’m OK, and if I weren’t then I would still be on the ground,” Carter said. “When I got up, I said, ‘Yeah, it feels good to be back.’ ”