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Tony Carter enjoys return to NFL as Lions assistant coach

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Tony Carter knew he always wanted to be a coach. And just as he was building his career in college football, his opportunity stopped.

“Last year I was blessed to get a job at Jacksonville University coaching cornerbacks,” Carter said. “I enjoyed the teaching aspect of it and the mentoring, the relationship that a coach plays. And they decided to end the program abruptly. We didn’t know about it. Nobody knew it was coming. It was unfortunate for a lot of those kids and those guys that have families and some of the kids who were there to play football.”

That December day was a tough one. Carter was in his first-full time coaching job following internships with the Oakland Raiders before also spending time as an intern with three SEC schools: Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi State. After that, Jacksonville University took notice. 

Carter reached out to friends and colleagues in the coaching community and said he was “blessed with the opportunity with the Lions,” where he is Detroit’s assistant defensive backs coach. Five years after he retired from the NFL, Carter is back as a coach.

“Film is obviously a big part of it,” said Carter, who played in the NFL from 2009-15 with Denver, New England and Indianapolis. “Just using some knowledge that I have to teach younger guys how to watch film, teach players how to be a professional is something that I do. I’m a defensive assistant working with the DBs, so whatever needs to be done. I’m the guy that the defensive staff calls on to get things done, whether it’s doing something with the players or behind the scenes. I’m enjoying it and learning a lot.”

Carter is just 34 and has plenty of experiences to share. At FSU, Carter accumulated 138 tackles and nine interceptions from 2004-08. Signed as an undrafted free agent by Denver, where he spent five seasons, and had 49 tackles and three interceptions in his career.

Coaching was always in the plans. Carter recalled sitting down with his position coach, Mickey Andrews, seeking advice as he jumped into his new career.

“Coach Andrews definitely played a major part in me as a coach,” Carter said. “He has definitely been a mentor of mine and someone I looked up to since I was in high school. Just his approach and attention to detail is something I’ve always focused on and admired him as a coach, playing for him. 

“After I was done playing, I reached out to coach Andrews and I went to his house and we talked about coaching and how to go about it. He told me to be myself. Anything that I could pick up from all my other coaches that would be in my comfort zone to be able to do it. His attention to detail, his care for his players and also being a leader by example, not just talk, getting the best out of his players.”

Carter’s Lions play at Green Bay on Sunday afternoon.

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