From the time Kyle Carter came to Penn State, he waited and worked.
That patience and practice paid off Saturday.
In his first career collegiate contest, Carter, a tight end, was second on the team in receptions as he hauled in six balls for 74 yards against Ohio. The redshirt freshman said he wasn’t exactly sure how often he’d get the ball thrown to him entering the game, but was hoping for some looks.
“I mean once you get into the game, whoever gets the ball thrown to them has to make the play,” Carter said. “I got the ball thrown to me a lot, fortunately I was second [on the team in catches]. I mean, I wasn’t sure exactly how many catches I was going to have or how involved I would be, but I’m glad I was.”
Working with the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at the tight end position, many people surrounding the Penn State program were anxious to see how head coach Bill O’Brien would use his tight ends in the Nittany Lions’ attack.
The 6-foot-3, 247-pound Carter — who said he probably would have had to put on some extra weight to play tight end under Penn State’s old coaching staff — was no exception.
“I was probably one of the most happy people in the world [when O’Brien was hired],” Carter said. “I was excited, a lot of people were texting me saying ‘You got a tight end coach.’ ”
But just because the production of Penn State’s tight ends would likely increase with the addition of O’Brien, Carter wasn’t just expecting to get catches because he was a tight end on the roster.
“I still knew I had a lot to do, I still knew I had a lot of work to do just so he would use me in games,” Carter said.
The hard work for Carter first paid dividends for him in June when he was listed as the starter at the “F” tight end position on O’Brien’s first depth chart at Penn State. Carter was even ahead of Kevin Haplea, a junior who had the only touchdown by any Penn State tight end last season and has since transferred to Florida State.
Carter said he was pleased everyone else could see his work pay off when he was listed as a starter. He added though he never played a game in college he worked every day to close the gap between him and other tight ends on the roster to ultimately reach his goal of starting by the season opener.
“I worked dumb, crazy hard for that [starting spot],” Carter said at Penn State’s Media Day on Aug. 9. “I knew I was going to start a lot lower on the depth chart than I would have liked, because it’s a whole new coaching staff and I didn’t establish myself to them yet.”
Garry Gilliam, the Lions’ other tight end, said Carter, who is 19, really understands his role and knows his assignments.
“Every chance he got, and every opportunity that he has in practice to make a play, he definitely made it,” Gilliam said. “He shows a lot of maturity for his age.”
In O’Brien’s head coaching debut, it was finally revealed how often Penn State would actually use its tight ends. They were featured quite a bit in the 24-14 loss to Ohio as Matt Lehman also made one catch, good for a 14-yard touchdown, to go along with Carter’s solid afternoon.
At his weekly press conference Tuesday, O’Brien said Carter really cares about being good both on and off the field. Even though he’s now the starter and has one good performance in the books, Carter’s work ethic doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
“He goes out there on Saturday and has a productive game for us and really can’t wait until Monday to practice again because he knows how much better he can get,” O’Brien said.