Allendale — Marty Carter has to be considered a front-runner for the Harlon Hill Award, which goes to the Division II Player of the Year.
And, if not Carter, than it should be his Grand Valley State teammate, 6-foot-6, 220-pound junior quarterback Bart Williams, who has thrown for 7,549 yards and 79 touchdowns in two-plus seasons.
The Lakers have high expectations for the 2017 season with a pair of All-Americans leading the way, a reason they are favored to repeat as Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions and are a solid choice to make a run for the national championship.
Carter had a dream season last year, a reason he is predicted by Lindy’s to be the Most Valuable Player in all of Division II football this season.
Carter was named D2football.com Offensive Player of the Year and was a Harlon Hill Award finalist last season after leading the nation in rushing with a single-season school-record 1,908 yards and 20 TDs to help the 12-1 Lakers reach the national quarterfinals, a 47-32 loss to GLIAC rival Ferris State.
Carter enjoyed re-writing GVSU’s record book, also setting the single-game rushing record with his 298-yard performance (20 carries) against Northern Michigan.
“That was a great season for us, just wish we could have gone farther,” said Carter, icing his knees after a recent practice earlier this month. “Due to the stats I had a great season, due to the publicity, but I’m never satisfied.
“It’s always great when you can get awards, noticed for what you do, but I give credit to the offensive line, knowing it’s a team thing, so I look at it as maybe I can get more (yards, TDs) next year or at least the same thing.”
Grand Valley returns three starters on the offensive line to protect Williams while opening holes for Carter.
“Our team is a big threat because if the running game is not there, then the passing game’s there, and if the passing game’s not there than the running game is,” Carter said. “We make things work. We just have to stick together because once we do that we’re a real strong, dominant team.”
So, what is Carter’s strength as a 6-0, 200-pound running back? He has 4.4 speed.
“I just judge off what the defensive end or defensive tackles does,” he said. “I’s my vision,and once I see him make his type of move I’m able to make that quick step. Once the offensive line gets me past the D-line, my mindset is to never let a DB or a linebacker tackle me one-on-one. I just really keep a mindset that this is my type of field right here, my zone and attack it like it’s my last (play).”
Grand Valley coach Matt Mitchell has high praise for Carter.
“He had a great year last year,” Mitchell said. “He has great vision and breakaway speed. His top-end speed last year was 21, 22 mph, and the top running backs in last year’s Senior Bowl had comparable top-end speeds. Once he gets into that second level it’s very, very difficult to catch him and get him down, and that’s why he had a lot of explosive runs last year, because of that top-end speed.”
Mitchell isn’t concerned with Carter’s knee problems.
“He’s coming off a knee injury where he didn’t go through spring practice and stuff, so right now he’s getting his legs back underneath him,” Mitchell said. “After we played the entire season he just had kind of a nagging injury, and it was an injection, a non-surgical procedure and with that we held him out (of spring ball). He had some strength and conditioning and training and rehabilitation in the summer and he’s full-go right now.”
Carter is majoring in sports management, but his goal is to play in the NFL.
“The NFL is my main goal right now,” Carter said. “I really pray and hope that someone takes a chance on me if I have a big year.”
Carter hopes that big year includes a pair of wins against Ferris State. Grand Valley earned a 35-23 regular-season win over the Bulldogs before losing in the national quarterfinals.
“The rivalry is all hype,” Carter said. “I understand each school doesn’t like each other. The Ferris game brings a lot of energy. It’s one of my favorite games of the season because everybody’s hyped up and ready to go. I’m sure they’re hungry and want that Cup (Anchor-Bone Trophy) back.”