2018 NFL Draft

Undrafted and undeterred: How one HBCU running back plans to prove the NFL wrong

Grambling State’s Martez Carter signs with Washington as an undrafted free agent

Martez Carter, throughout his NFL draft journey, had it in the back of his mind that he’d have to run uphill, likely overcoming some bumps in the road along the way, to get to his destination.

Why would his NFL voyage be any different from the one he had in high school or even as a college athlete? It is, after all, how things have always been for the Monroe, Louisiana, native who compiled 2,628 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns in four years at Grambling State.

“I’ve been in these types of situations my whole life,” Carter told The Undefeated. “Not knowing what’s next for me, whether there’s a possibility of a shot or not. That’s just been my story. I had to pick what college I wanted to go to … this is kinda the same situation.”

Carter spent the 2018 NFL draft with family and friends, occasionally peeking in to see if his name would be called. It wasn’t – not until after Day 3, when a familiar face, one who not only knew his story but who also understood the journey, pinged his phone.

“I know him. I was [coaching] at Grambling when he was at Richmond High School in Monroe,” said Doug Williams, a senior vice president of player personnel for the Washington Redskins who called Carter less than 30 minutes after the last pick was announced to offer Carter an undrafted free-agent deal.

“[The draft] didn’t go as planned, but it went as expected,” Carter explained. “Doug called and said Washington would be the best situation for me. I know those guys are stacked at running back, but I don’t think they have a returner like me. I don’t care how many running backs they have, I just feel like I can go there and maybe just jump out in front of some guys. I’m used to things being this way, so I’m good for it.”

Williams said Carter had been on Washington’s draft board all along. But after a trade with the San Francisco 49ers landed them LSU running back Derrius Guice in the second round, they knew they wouldn’t draft another back.

“We weren’t going to draft another back, but we wanted [Carter] to somehow come in here and sign him as a free agent if he wasn’t drafted,” Williams explained. “Quite naturally, I was hoping he’d get drafted, but through the seventh and eighth rounds, I gave him a call and let him know we’d like to have him in Washington and told him he’d be given an opportunity.”

Few NFL execs understand the pathway players from historically black colleges and universities face better than Williams, the Grambling State legend, Super Bowl MVP and Black College Football Hall of Famer.

“Somebody has to be there for these kids. We miss out on them [because] oftentimes we grade the school and not the kid,” said Williams, who also signed undrafted Southern University defensive back Danny Johnson, who also will report to Washington, D.C., on May 10. “The two kids I signed yesterday, I firmly believe that they have the ability to play in this league.

“It’s my job now. Somebody helped me. Somebody gave me a chance.”

For Carter, 23, who is one of 11 children (four children on his mother’s side and seven on his father’s), the journey has been long. Perhaps Washington is his final destination; perhaps it’s a stop on his route. At least here, he knows he’s got somebody in his corner.

“Doug told me he’d look out and that everything will be OK.”