Former Tennessee football star Dale Carter’s son, Nigel Warrior, will be a senior for the Volunteers this year. He has lived up to his dad’s level.
As he enters his senior season for Tennessee football, Nigel Warrior is a mark of stability in the Vols’ secondary. He is the glue guy Jeremy Pruitt will rely on to keep everybody in line. In doing so, Warrior lives up to the legacy his father left on Rocky Top in opposite fashion.
Dale Carter, Warrior’s father, was a superstar known for big plays. He would not follow the rules of fundamental football, most notably breaking the cardinal rule against the Florida Gators in 1990 by fielding a kickoff that was going out of bounds. Well, he turned that rule break into a score by running it back for a touchdown. That was his breakout game as he hauled in two interceptions.
That was Carter’s style. Joining Tennessee football in 1990 as a junior college transfer, Carter was part of a loaded cast of superstars for Johnny Majors with names that included Carl Pickens, Alvin Harper and Chuck Webb, Johnny Majors.
Over the course of two years, Carter had five interceptions in 1990 and four in 1991. He averaged nearly 10 yards a punt return, over 25 yards a kickoff return. And in the process, he was a two-time All-American before going to the NFL, where he played for five teams over 14 years and made four Pro Bowl appearances.
Now, decades later, his son is elite with Tennessee football in his own right. But he’s elite in the fundamental way. While the Vols have elite sophomore cornerbacks in Bryce Thompson and Alontae Taylor, guys who could blossom into stars, and potential star power at the other safety spot, Warrior is the glue guy.
He is by far the smartest player on the team, and with Baylen Buchanan out now, he’s also the only guy who can provide the veteran presence to keep everybody together. One reason Warrior stands out is his versatility.
When the season begins, he may be penciled in as a strong safety, but there’s a chance he plays star now that Buchanan is out. Pruitt and Derrick Ansley will be looking to move him around where they need him to keep the secondary unit sound.
This is who Warrior is, though. While his father was a playmaker for Tennessee football who racked up stats and became a superstar, Warrior is the quiet glue guy who will move to wherever he is needed to be effective. Both types of players are important for a football team, but it shows how many different ways there are to be an effective player.
Being a team guy who keeps people focused on a mission is a coach’s dream, even if he doesn’t rack up stats. This is why Warrior was on the Coaches’ Preseason All-SEC team this year but not the media one.
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In 2016, Warrior almost certainly didn’t expect to undergo a major coaching transition as a four-star commitment to Butch Jones. He has been asked to wear more hats than most defensive backs are asked to, and just as he was beginning to blossom, he had to switch schemes. Nobody ever wants to do that.
But through it all, Warrior remained a leader and a very effective player. While he will remain that this year, don’t count out his chances of becoming a splash player too. The cornerback slot is more locked up, and there may be more stability at the other safety position if Trevon Flowers emerges as an elite cover guy.
Should that all happen, Warrior has shown in the past that he’s versatile enough to be a playmaker. In 2017, he had a sack, three and a half tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and a pick-six. Could he build on that during his senior campaign?
At that point, he’ll be a coach’s and a media member’s favorite type of player. But if he’s not, he has still lived up to the Tennessee football family legacy set by his father. It didn’t come in the same way, but it happened nonetheless. And as he enters his senior year, Warrior should be commended for that.