UGA Football

Lorenzo Carter thought hard about being a two-sport athlete

Lorenzo Carter puts a hit on the quarterback during Georgia’s game against Samford.
Lorenzo Carter puts a hit on the quarterback during Georgia’s game against Samford. Georgia Sports Communications

The same physical traits that make Lorenzo Carter unique on the football field ended his basketball career.

Entering Carter’s senior year at Norcross High School, he and his mother, Lisa Carter, had a frank discussion about his basketball future. At the time, Carter was 6-foot-6 and over 200 pounds. On the football field, his size gave him an advantage at defensive end. On the basketball court, he projected as an undersized power forward.

“If you don't get any taller, you're the size of a point guard in the NBA,” Carter’s mom, Lisa Carter, told her son. “Let's talk about this realistically. You look at LeBron (James), and he's bigger than you and he's a guard. You don't handle the ball that well, son. You can play down low, but down low is bigger than that.”

Carter and his mother decided if he got taller — a possibility with Carter’s family history — he would pursue basketball in college. If not, he would play football.

Carter didn’t grow. Four years later, he’s a senior outside linebacker on Georgia’s football team with a team-leading four sacks. On Oct. 30, Carter was named one of 15 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, which is annually presented to the nation’s top collegiate linebacker.

“He obviously made the right choice,” Georgia head basketball coach Mark Fox said.

Before Carter decided to devote himself to football, he said schools such as Tennessee, South Carolina, Tennessee Tech and Georgia recruited him as a basketball player.

On the court, Carter was a post player who lived around the rim, though Norcross head coach Jesse McMillan said Carter could also handle the ball and shoot well from the perimeter. McMillan said multiple schools, including Georgia, Tennessee and Florida State, considered letting Carter play both sports in college.

Fox couldn’t remember if he and former Georgia football coach Mark Richt discussed the possibility of allowing Carter to play both sports at Georgia, but “part of me thinks we had that talk,” Fox said.

According to Lisa Carter, her son “desperately” wanted to play both sports for the Bulldogs.

“Coach Richt really didn't want him to and he had a very valid point,” Lisa Carter said. “They wanted Lorenzo to get bigger. Every time Lorenzo ran, he would lose the weight.”

With a fast metabolism he gets from his father, Carter already has a difficult time gaining and retaining mass. Plus, Carter wouldn’t have been able to join the basketball team until after non-conference play. Instead of reaching his potential on the football field, Carter would have been average at both sports. The idea was abandoned.

So, when Georgia’s basketball team season now underway, Carter, who plays basketball occasionally during the offseason, will be with Georgia’s top-ranked football team in Auburn, Alabama. If Carter attends a Georgia basketball game this season, it will be as an ordinary fan.

“I wish there was some kind of way it could have worked out,” Lisa Carter said, “because I was crazy about Coach Fox.”