XFL 2020: Meet Mr. Excitement, Martez Carter; here's why the new league needs more players like him
The Los Angeles Wildcats running back is the type of personality the league needs more of
Like all great folklore, the story of Martez Carter's place in the XFL began with a rumor.
Fox Sports sideline reporter Jenny Taft caught up with Carter, a running back for the Los Angeles Wildcats, after his first touchdown in the Week 3 shellacking of the DC Defenders. Word around the complex was that Carter, a freakish athlete, could do backflips. What, Taft asked, would it take for him to give the fans in Dignity Health Sports Park a look at that performance?
"Gimme one more in the box!" he proclaimed. Then, in the third quarter, he delivered on an 18-yard dump-off pass from quarterback Josh Johnson. Going airborne head first, Carter front flipped his way into the end zone. It may not have been a back flip Carter promised, but he also wasn't done. In the fourth quarter with the game well in hand, Carter reached the end zone for the third time and, as promised, delivered a gymnastics-like flip to a gasping crowd.
That's how Mr. Excitement, as he has been called since his high school days, vaulted his way into XFL stardom as one of the league's biggest personalities. "It's definitely not a bad thing, especially when things are going your way," Carter told CBS Sports. "For fans to see who you are as a person, not just someone on a football field, it's great."
One of the truly special things about the XFL is the in-game access. The live mics, along with the in-game interviews with players and coaches, are differentiating factors. While this version of may be far more about football than the antics-driven one from 2001, this is still the XFL. It doesn't just want personality. It needs it. (It may just have to edit out a curse word or 10 in the process.) And so the XFL could use as many players like Carter as possible.
"It's good for people to get a feel for who you are and what you're thinking," Carter said. "It's good for the league when you're thrown a curve ball."
Indeed, the in-game interviews can be a wild card. Some players don't want to peel back any curtains with their answers -- which is fine. It's their prerogative. It's just a lot better when they do. The other thing about these interviews is they do not discriminate based on score or performance. That means having to speak with players in the heat of the moment when things aren't going as well. This goes against more traditional reporting. There's a reason players have a 10-minute cooling off period after a game before reporters are allowed to speak with them -- and that's just for the winners. The losing team gets longer.
The best-case scenario in tough situations is something diplomatic, like Dallas Renegades quarterback Landry Jones politely saying he needed to play better after throwing his second interception in his first start. But the other scenario is something like New York Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin setting an entire offensive game plan aflame out of frustration. The set-up of a sideline reporter sticking a microphone into an angry player's face isn't ideal in a vacuum, but it's compelling television all the same. If nothing else, McGloin was honest; what he said is probably something he would have said normally, just out of earshot of a mic.
Getting WWE-style answers out of players is a lot easier -- or, at least, more common -- when they're winning because they're having fun. In the case of Wildcats wideout Tre McBride, it was also a culmination of weeks-long frustration and being traded from the Defenders during training camp. That storyline also made for entertaining camera time.
For Carter, it wasn't just that the Wildcats were on their way to notching their first win of the season (and over a heavy favorite, no less). It was that he had such a large role in that win with more than 80 total yards and three touchdowns. "Just to have a chance to win at that level and to have a lot of success within the scheme of that win," Carter said. "But once you get that win you can't describe it to people."
In a lot of ways, showcasing your personality in the XFL can be a needed release. Football is supposed to be fun, but the path to get on the field oftentimes isn't. The fact remains everyone is in the XFL for a reason -- reasons that prevented them from being in the NFL. The life of a pro football player on the fringe can be filled with letdowns. After playing at Grambling State, Carter was waived by both Washington and New Orleans. Ironically, Carter -- he of the backflips and sideline promises -- learned that maturity was the way to have a successful pro football career.
"I just [learned] not to do what I did before. It wasn't the correct way to go about it," Carter said. "I needed to take that time to mature. You need take care of yourself and your mental self. It's a balance of being the best version of you on the field and off the field.
"Then you put it all in one pan and bake it."
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