By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Many high school student/athletes have to face the life-changing decision of where to attend college.
In the case of Tipton-Rosemark Academy’s Carter Weakley, he had the additional pressure of picking between football and basketball. Then Hendrix College, out of Conway, Ark., popped into the recruiting picture.
Warriors Head Football Coach Justin “Buck” Buchanan and Hendrix Head Basketball Coach Thad McCracken told Weakley they both had spots waiting on him.
“There’s no other word than just relief,” Weakley said of his signing. “The recruiting process and just deciding.
“I enjoy football and my heart is in basketball,” he added. “I got the offer for both and I wonder would they allow me to play both basketball and football. They said they would be perfectly fine with it. Both coaches were cool with it and said they would take me as the athlete I am. It’s a dream come true. I get to be one of the few to be a two-sports college athlete.”
On May 4 in the TRA Lobby, Weakley signed both letters of intent to Hendrix with parents Jeff and Lisa by his side. Also present were his older brother and former TRA Rebel two-sport standout Darian.
With a lobby full of family, friends, administrators and teammates, Carter’s prep coaches spoke to the gathering about Weakley’s accomplishments.
TRA Head Basketball Coach Cedric Anderson talked about Weakley being an All-Region shooting guard and Ultimate Prep Sports All-Star Selection. Rebel Head Football Coach Colin Pinner noted Weakley’s AutoZone Liberty Bowl All-Star caliber play earning All-State honors and national recognition as a kick returner.
After transferring back to TRA, Carter knew basketball was going to be a part of his Rebel future.
“When I left Christian Brothers, I was a known athlete there,” Weakley said. “I actually ran cross country and played varsity basketball. When I came back, it was just basketball season and we were concentrating on basketball.
“Johnnie Sanfratello, who used to go here and I played with a few other guys like Darian and AJ Hightower,” he continued. We had a great season and finished off the season losing to the eventual State champions Harding. Leaving CBHS, they gave me the tools and everything I need in my work ethic. Everything I needed to be successful. So I just played the cards.”
Pinner added to Carter’s deck by asking him to come out to play football.
“Carter just has a different air about him,’ he said. “He is athletic and he had this confidence, this swagger about him. You knew before he got on the field he was going to be athletic enough. He was going to have enough confidence in himself.
“The biggest question playing football was could he take the punishment as well as dish it out,” Pinner added. “Within the first few days of practice, he wanted to be in there and mix it up.”
Weakley grab national headlines with his kick and punt returns. Pinner noted Weakley displayed natural gifts returning kicks of vision, movement and an ability to escape.
“Having to come back to TRA, gave him a little bit of humble pie,” Pinner said. “And I think that was nothing but just fuel for him. He blew up after his sophomore year. He came in at a great time. He went off and got a chance to see a great program and how they do things at Christian Brothers. He got a chance to witness those things and bring some of it back.
“I bring a different mind set that he had never seen as far as football,” he continued. “Coach Ced coming in was a Godsend for him. Coach Ced was really hard on Carter. That was awesome because it was through the summer. So when he comes back to me as a senior, I am allowed to coach him harder than I did before. It was kind of the perfect storm for Carter.”
After Carter wrapped up a 7-3 regular season with football and hosting a playoff game, he jumped right into basketball to participate in Anderson’s first season.
“He’s the cornerstone,” Anderson said. “I think he embraced that responsibility and there’s a lot that comes along with that. He handled it quite well from the beginning — through the ups and downs of the season. And he was a great leader for us. He accepted the responsibility and handled it with a great deal of dignity and pride.
“As we go forward with the program, he will be remembered as the guy who helped lay the foundation and was responsible for the catapult of success for the future program,” he added.
Rebel Basketball finished as Region runner-up and earned a home Sub-State game.
“Senior year, when I look back on it, it’s going to bring tears to my eyes,” Carter acknowledged. “It was a story year. Great year for Tipton Rosemark as a whole.”
Carter helped bring Rebel Basketball and Football up to the level of TRA Baseball, Softball and Volleyball. Two people who knew Carter was born to accomplish greatness were Jeff and Lisa. When Lisa was carrying Carter, he was so active he caused her two hernias. His consistent movement like a jumping bean earned Carter the family nickname of Beans.
“He has a drive that is just incredible,” Jeff said. “It started as a young kid and he wants everything to be perfect. He worked hours and hours in the driveway just practicing. He would set up cones to work on drills. He would invent drills to work on his own skills.”
Lisa said her son’s Midas touch was developed with hours of work and a never-say-die mindset.
“He’s so active,” she noted. “He’s always been really hyper and he’s so determined. Any sport he’s ever played in, he has excelled in. Behind the scenes, he is non-stop. He is really dedicated and competitive. He would watch it on TV and study it. Then he would go outside and work on it. Same moves, over and over again until he got it.”
Jeff and Lisa said that work ethic came from their son accepting nothing but the best.
“If we’re speaking just about him, when I think of him I think, ‘Expect the best,’” Lisa said. “Always expect the best out of him and he always expects the best out of others.
Anderson said witnessing those leadership skills in person made a lasting impression on Weakley’s team.
“He was willing to put the extra time in,” Anderson said. “He gave 110 percent at practice. He treated practice like the game. He didn’t go through the motions. He wanted to be here extra days, early mornings or late in the afternoon.”
Pinner said the lasting legacy of Carter for Rebel Athletics will be him staying genuine in all situations.
“What I love about him, he comes back from Christian Brothers and he struggles to fit in just a little bit,” he recalled. “We’re a very different school. And he has a huge personality. He is a unbelievably charismatic kid. I finally set down with him one day and said, ‘If you learn to use your charisma and personality, the sky is the limit for you.’
“He started to get the kids behind him and became a leader,” Pinner added. “He was able to get the coaches and our staff behind him. For him that was huge.”
Pinner will also remember Carter getting in his jump shots just moments before hitting the weight room for football practice.
Signing to play two sports in college will add to the legend of Carter Weakley. But for those who played alongside him, Carter hopes they remember having a good teammates no matter the activity.
“To bring this foundation was very important to the school,” Carter said. “Hopefully I was a great example to these kids that look up to me. Those kids especially ask me, ‘How do I work on my shot form? How do I run faster?’ I’m like, ‘Hey you have to do this. You have to put your arm like this. You’ve got to do this and this. You’ve got to tuck that elbow in and extend up. You’ve got to workout your legs and do calf raises to get that lift.’
“I hope when the name Carter Weakley pops up, they think about the off days that I have which were rare or none,” he concluded. “The seven days a week, 24/7 is what I dedicated my life to. On top of that the school work and being an honors student, taking dual enrollment classes to earn college credit. It’s a lot of pressure and a lot of work. But you can’t let it get to you. You have to say, ‘I’m better than this.’ If you want to be known, you’ve got to go out there and get it. It’s just not going to come to you.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.