Football Short Story
"Where Do I Sign?"
From Ashes to Glory, Bill McCartney with Dave Diles (1995)
When future Colorado head coach Bill McCartney was an assistant coach under Bo Schem­bechler at Michigan in 1979, he was involved in the recruitment of WR Anthony Carter in Riviera Beach FL.
Anthony had staggering high school statistics, scoring 59 touchdowns, an All-American in both football and basketball. He's the fastest person I've ever seen on a football field, and he had so much speed in basketball that he'd get the ball at the end of the court on an in-bounds pass, and still beat everybody else down the floor on the fast break. He was playing basketball when I first saw him and talked him into coming to Michigan as one of his five on-campus visits.
That, in itself, was a major accomplishment, since he never seemed more than lukewarm about the whole thing. I'm sure he wouldn't even have agreed to a visit had not some of his close advisers spoken so highly about about the school and about Bo Schembechler. Besides, Anthony had already signed a letter of intent with Florida State, and that discouraged a lot of schools. But in those years, that signing wasn't binding on Big Ten schools, and we pulled out all the stops to ensure an impressive visit to the Michigan campus.
Everything cooperated except the weatherman.
It never got above zero the entire weekend! Knowing that Anthony was accustomed to the Florida sunshine, we decided to be as resourceful as possible. We got a special permit from the Wayne County Sheriff's Department at Metropolitan Airport outside Detroit and parked a jeep close to the spot where Anthony would exit the airport. And whoosh! Right off the plane, right into a vehicle that had been left running with the heater turned up very high. All weekend long, we did things door-to-door whenever possible, and when we did have to step outside with him, we jumped into one heated vehicle after another.
Not once during the entire weekend did I get any indication that Carter was giving Michigan a second thought. He was being accommodating, that's all. I took the plane back to Florida with him since I had to go there for additional recruiting, and I kept the conversation going by re­minding him of all the advantages that would be his by joining the Wolverines.
"There's one thing you'll have to overcome if you decide to sign with Michigan," I told him. "You'll have to face the fact we do have some winter here."
He turned and looked straight at me and said, "You know, it's not all that cold there."
I knew then our plan had worked, but we didn't seem all that much closer to getting Anthony Carter. In fact, I realized that we were a distant third behind Florida State and Texas. But when the national signing day arrived, Carter didn't sign with anyone.

L-R: Anthony Carter, Bo Schembechler, Bill McCartney
I arrived in town late Wednesday afternoon. I tried to get an appointment to see Anthony on Thursday but was unsuccessful. Friday afternoon I happened across Carter on the street. I was driving a rental, he was riding a bicycle. I pulled up alongside and asked if I could talk to him. He just stared at me and pedaled away.
His basketball team was starting state tournament play that night and won the game, mean­ing another game the following night. I stayed around, knowing I was playing a long shot. Carter's team was beaten the second night, a Saturday. I stuck around through Sunday and still hadn't even had a chance to make a final appeal.
Monday morning dawned. I wolfed down some breakfast and headed to Suncoast High School, trying one last time to see Anthony. I saw his coach instead.
"I've been here since last Wednesday, Coach," I pleaded, "and all I want is five minutes with Anthony. If he tells me no, or absolutely won't talk to me, then I'm on the next plane to Michigan. But I want to hear it from him."
The coach agreed to get Anthony between classes. In five minutes he returned, telling me Carter hadn't come to school that morning. The coach had called Anthony at home, encouraging him to give me just five minutes. While Carter had agreed, the coach alerted me that Anthony might not be in the best of moods. Apparently he'd been up all night. Anthony's girlfriend, who was going to college in another part of the state, had managed to get into town and Anthony, the girl, and a recruiter from another school had spent the night in the recruiter's car, talking.
But there was a part to the story that neither the coach nor I had discovered yet: It seems that Anthony's mother had gotten up in the early dawn to get ready to go to her job as a cleaning lady in a small motel in town. She found the threesome, still together after a night spent in the recruiter's car. It was then Anthony told her he had made his decision about college. And it wasn't Michigan.
Mrs. Carter, a tiny woman, looked up at that recruiter and told him, "You take that girl and dangle her in front of my son like that? I'll never sign for my son to go to your school."
Mrs. Carter was gone by the time I arrived and knocked at the door. Anthony came to the door, glanced at me for a second and, without saying a word, sort of shoved the screen door open. Then he walked away. It was clear to me what he was saying: Come in if you must, say what you have to, and then leave.
I'd had six days to get my spiel down, and I wasn't going to blow it then. I pulled up a chair and sat facing him.
"Anthony, I've been here six days now, and all I want is a chance to talk with you. I'm going to take just ten minutes and after that, if you don't like what I've said, you'll never see me again."
I did every bit of the talking. I never asked one question. I just told him what Michigan to offer—no special inducements, no prizes, no deals, just a chance to get a great education and play in a great program. And I told him everyone else had probably told him that Bo Schem­bechler was a running coach and that he'd be wasting his talents there. Bo's stubborn and Bo's a bear on defense and strong running and good kicking—but Bo's also a true pro. I assured Carter his talents would be utilized.
When I finished, I merely said, "That's it. What do you think?"
Anthony Carter, in cold, simple terms, looked at me and asked, "Where do I sign?"
I almost fell off the chair.
He said we'd have to go to the motel to see his mom. When we arrived there, Anthony told her, "This is the coach from Michigan. I'm going to Michigan. We need you to sign papers."
She signed them, but Anthony didn't. He said he wanted to go to school so his coach could witness his signing. Once at school, doggoned if we could find the head coach. I was frantic, thinking Anthony might change his mind before we could complete the transaction. After all, just a couple of hours earlier he'd been all set to go somewhere else. We finally located an assistant coach, and Anthony agreed to sign in his presence. Once his name was on the paper, I telephoned Schembechler. He was flabbergasted. He chatted with Anthony briefly, and then I told Bo he just had to come to Florida for the formal announcement. Bo was on the first plane leaving Detroit Metro.
You want a storybook ending to this? The first time Anthony Carter touched the ball as a freshman, he ran 76 yards for a touchdown with a punt return. He scored 37 touchdowns for the Wolverines, averaging a gain of 17.4 yards every time he came in contact with the football at Michigan. He gained more yards per play than any person who ever played college football. He became a three-time all-American, was named captain of his team and got his degree before becoming a millionaire with his extraordinary exploits in the National Football League.