Big-time quarterbacks at the University of Georgia aren’t hard to find throughout the years. Aaron Murray is the most prolific on the stat sheet, while Matthew Stafford rode his talent into becoming a No. 1 overall pick. Occasionally forgotten in that conversation is one QB who flashed God-given talent on the field few others could match.
Quincy Carter had it all; A rocket arm worthy of Major League Baseball’s attention; The reigns of a classic Southeastern Conference program; All the glory that comes with leading “America’s Team.” Unfortunately, a dark specter hovered above the star quarterback and spiraled Carter’s life into a dangerous place.
Quincy Carter’s Early Life
Quincy Carter rose to stardom at Southwest DeKalb High School in Decatur, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. The three-sport star shined in all phases, but football was his calling — Carter led the Panthers to the 4A State Championship and was named Georgia’s Gatorade Player of the Year. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets earned his signature on a national letter of intent, but wearing Tech Gold and White wasn’t meant to be.
Baseball came first.
The Chicago Cubs drafted Carter in the second round of the 1996 MLB Draft. His minor league baseball contract included a $450,000 signing bonus, but stipulated he not be able to play football for four years, according to a 1998 article in The Daily Press.
Carter struggled as an 18-year-old outfielder, hitting .215 in 56 games of rookie ball his first year. He didn’t get much better, managing a .211 averaged with 34 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 105 games for the Single-A Rockford Cubbies in 1997. He fell out of love with the game and began his transition back to college football.
No. 17 Takes Over at Georgia
A long appeal to the NCAA began to get Carter out of his NIL with Georgia Tech. (Frustration with then-head coach George O’Leary was the main issue.) Eventually, the University of Georgia Bulldogs and coach Jim Donnan landed his services. Carter won the starting job as a 21-year-old true freshman and never looked back.
After 2,484 passing yards and 12 touchdown passes, Carter took home SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
He improved as a sophomore, throwing for over 2,700 yards and leading UGA to an 8-4 record and No. 16 ranking in the final AP Poll. Most notably, Carter rallied Georgia from a 25-10 halftime deficit to beat Drew Brees and the Purdue Boilermakers in the 2000 Outback Bowl.
Carter’s magic ran out his junior season, struggling with inconsistency and injuries. He managed just 1,250 passing yards, six touchdowns and 10 interceptions in seven games before declaring for the 2001 NFL Draft.
Carter still ranks sixth on Georgia football’s all-time passing yards list (6,447), seventh in touchdown passes (35) and tenth in total touchdowns (46).
Carter Joins the Dallas Cowboys
With the 53rd overall pick in the second round, Dallas selected former Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Quincy Carter as the heir apparent to the recently-departed Troy Aikman.
After a strong preseason showing, and reported pressure from owner Jerry Jones, Carter was named Dallas’ starting quarterback for Week 1. Growing pains were obvious as Carter managed just a 3-5 record with 1,072 yards and five TDs against seven INTs. Dallas’ revolving door at quarterback that year included starts from Anthony Wright (who), Clint Stoerner (huh) and Ryan Leaf (yikes).
By 2003, Carter was the Cowboys No. 1 guy. He started all 16 games, throwing for over 3,300 yards and 17 touchdowns, helping Dallas to a 10-6 record and playoff berth under first-year head coach Bill Parcells.
That was the last time Carter’s football career was noteworthy, at least on the field.
A reported failed drug test before training camp in 2004 landed Carter in free agency after being cut. He signed a one-year deal with the New York Jets, appearing only in spot duty as backup to Chad Pennington, but he wasn’t resigned.
Carter’s addiction issues began to surface. After being released by the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes in 2006 during an attempted comeback, Carter was publicly angry about the decision. One CFL club reportedly told the Montreal Gazette they avoided signing him citing “a serious marijuana problem.” Forgotten stints on independent and indoor football teams like the Bossier–Shreveport Battle Wings, Kansas City Brigade, Abilene Ruff Riders, and Corpus Christi Fury were riddled with various arrests from DWI to possession charges.
Rock bottom. Carter needed to save his life.
Where Is Quincy Carter Now?
Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, a former Dallas Cowboys linebacker, helped Carter begin his road to recovery by mentoring and advising him to move to Austin, Texas, and join Alcoholics Anonymous. Months of intense dedication paid off.
Leaning on faith, friends and his family, Carter found his way to sobriety, recently celebrating his one-year mark on social media.
Carter told Good Day Atlanta that his battle with addiction started at 17 years old after smoking marijuana for the first time. Years of being “medicated off marijuana” spanned from his Dawg days to his years with the Cowboys and beyond.
Carter found his calling in a mentorship and leadership role by founding the QC Quarterback School. Now based in Texas, Carter’s message to the young football players he teaches is simple:
“Life is hard enough already. Why make it even harder? You do not want these roads that I traveled down to get back to where I am right now, to pick my face up off the ground. Just do it the easy way, man. Life’s going to give you ups and downs anyway, don’t make it harder.”
At 42 years old, the former Cowboys quarterback is living proof that from the highest highs to the lowest lows, help isn’t far away and changing your life begins with taking that first step.