Kentwood High School coach Jonathan Foster called Shyheim Carter into his office after the 2014 season.
The Kangaroos had lost in the Class 1A semifinals for the second consecutive season. Foster wanted to inspire his star player, so he used a recent Heisman trophy winner as motivation.
“I said you’re going to be the Marcus Mariota of Louisiana high school football,” Foster said. “He’s that talented and dynamic, and he’s proved it. There’s not a better player in the state.”
Carter, the do-everything superstar for 12-1 Kentwood, has his team on the precipice of its first state championship in 17 years. Kentwood plays Haynesville at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Mercedes-Benz Superdome to decide the 1A title.
Foster’s comparison of Carter to Mariota is hard to argue.
Carter plays both quarterback and defensive back for Kentwood. He has 2,443 passing yards and another 1,648 on the ground. He’s also recorded 57 tackles, intercepted five passes and broken up 13 more. He’ll participate in next month’s Under-Armour All-American Game.
In a quarterfinal win over against Logansport, Carter had more than 300 yards passing and 100 yards rushing before halftime. He also returned an interception for a touchdown and sat out the second half.
Carter remains humble and deflects praise, understating the importance of this weekend.
“There’s no pressure on me,” Carter said. “We’re just going to come out and play ball like we always do.”
Carter calls his ability to remain calm under pressure God-given. Foster said it just comes with the territory.
Carter has received acclaim since he was a freshman in high school. Even at that age, Foster said he was Kentwood’s best player by a wide margin.
He’s stayed on top of the world ever since and is now one of the state’s top college recruits. He’s a consensus four-star prospect and a top-five cornerback nationally.
That draws attention from colleges coast to coast and adds something else to his already full plate.
These past two weeks have been college football’s contact period. That means coaches can visit schools to speak with recruits and go even go in their homes to meet with families.
Carter’s only met with coaches from Ole Miss recently, though several others have called asking to come by. He’s had to turn down a lot of those coaches because he simply doesn’t have the time.
The recruiting process has to wait for now, because he only has one more opportunity to wear that Kentwood uniform.
“Win or lose, I’ll never get another chance to play with the people I grew up with,” Carter said. “I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”
And Foster only has one more chance to coach him. That makes Friday bittersweet, and he hopes it ends on a high note.
“You’re not just going to miss the football player,” Foster said. “You’re going to miss the person. You hate to see them go, but you want to see them reach that next stage in life. He’s on the right track.”
That next stage could be at Ole Miss. It could be at Georgia, Alabama or any one of the many colleges working for his services.
Wherever he does go , there’s one thing he plans to do. And that’s the same thing he intends to make happen Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“I don’t want to lose,” Carter said. “I expect to win. Losing is not in my vocabulary.”