Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson (3) runs past Florida defensive end Zachary Carter (17) and other defensive players for a 24-yard touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Former Gator Football Star Zach Carter Discusses Successful Rookie Year in Cincinnati

Former Florida defensive tackle Zach Carter will enter the second season on his four-year rookie contract with the Cincinnati Bengals this fall.

Cincinnati selected Carter with the 95th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Tampa native started nine games last season and appeared in every Bengals’ contest including their three playoff games. Carter made over 30 total tackles — one tackle for loss — and recorded half a sack.

Transition from College to NFL

After transitioning from a “struggling” college team in his last year at Florida to a Super-Bowl contender in Cincinnati, Carter felt a sigh of relief.

“It felt good to go from a struggling team to a winning team in the [National Football] League, and I feel like we’re going to be good for years to come,” Carter said.

Despite a successful start to his professional career, Carter compared his rookie year in the NFL to being a freshman again in school.

“Being a rookie is kind of a difficult experience, you know, it’s kind of like being a freshman again,” he said. “There’s certain things you’ve got to do like bring food on the plane or bring snacks.”

Carter explained how some other teams around the league demand more from their rookies.

“Our guys are actually chill,” he said. “Some teams have it worse than others, but we have a good group of guys, so it wasn’t that bad.”

Carter called the NFL a “different business” than college football due to the extra time professional athletes have to dedicate to studying film.

“Guys go to class and stuff during the day in college, but in the NFL, that is your class,” he said. “You sit in there watching film all day and then you go practice later, so it’s actually more time in the film room than it is on the actual field.”

The lack of college distractions not only allows for more time in the film room, but it also yields players more time to work on their individual craft.

“In the [National Football] League, you’ve got nothing to focus on but their craft, Carter said. “That’s what they’re paying you to do, it’s your job, so guys are just more technique sound and smarter and usually more athletic.”

Flawless Fit in Cincinnati

While he settles into his new home in Ohio, Carter appreciates the veteran leadership and support he’s received from his teammates.

“Obviously everything in the NFL is competition, but I think our guys did a great job of helping bringing me along,” he said. “I’m blessed to have a great [locker] room with great vets.”

Carter called Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow a “great dude” and praised his ability to lead by example on the gridiron.

“[Burrow’s] not a loud guy, but he shows it by the way he works and the way he carries himself,” Carter said. “You just know what he’s bringing to the table, so it makes you play hard with a guy like that.”

In addition to his teammates, Carter has already developed a strong relationship with some of his coaches — especially Bengals defensive line coach Marion Hobby.

“I’ve learned a lot from [Hobby], he’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve had,” Carter said. “He actually recruited me out of high school to come to Clemson — but I chose to go to Florida so I guess he got his opportunity to get me in the [National Football] League.”

Although he admitted the atmosphere at Paycor Stadium doesn’t quite compare to that at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Carter called the Cincinnati fans “great” and “loud.”

“[Fans] come to the jungle, they get loud, they get rowdy, they get loud, I love it,” he said. “I’m not going to lie it’s nothing compared to the Swamp, but it’s still a great atmosphere.”

Offseason Training

As the Bengals prepare to defend the AFC North for the third straight season, Zach Carter describes how making himself uncomfortable during the offseason alleviates some of the pressure throughout regular season.

“You train hard to make the games and make the football easy,” he said. “You put yourself in uncomfortable situations in the offseason — that’s when you put your body through hell — and then it makes training camp, it makes the season, it makes everything easier.”

About Griffin Foll

Hi, my name is Griffin Foll and I am currently a senior at UF studying journalism with a focus on sports and media and an outside concentration in political science. In addition to covering the 2023 UF men's and women's golf beats, I contribute weekly web and radio content for WRUF ESPN Gainesville. Be sure to check out some of my recent articles!

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