The state of California holds a special place in DeAndre Carter's heart, in more ways than one.
The wide receiver is coming off a breakout season following years of finding his way through the NFL. Carter was on the active roster of four teams before signing with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2022. In L.A., he set career highs in receptions (46), receiving yards (538), receiving touchdowns (three) and punt return yardage (339).
Though Carter signed with the Raiders this offseason, it isn't his first stint, having spent time on the Oakland Raiders practice squad in 2015. He was briefly with the Patriots practice squad following the Raiders eight years ago, ultimately getting released at the start of the 2016 season.
It was at that point that he decided to step into the classroom.
The receiver's older brother and mentor was the head counselor at Martin Luther King Middle School in Hayward, California, located in Alameda County. The school had a teacher who was on maternity leave and needed a substitute teacher or two to fill in.
After getting the gig, he filled in for a few months while searching for his next NFL opportunity. Even once the teacher came back from maternity leave, the school found a way to keep Carter in a daily working capacity, tutoring students on an individual basis.
"It was a great opportunity. I wouldn't give that experience back for the world," Carter said of his stint as a substitute teacher. "I love those kids, that school and the principal, the staff that's there – all great people. I was just trying to be somebody that was in a rough area, and be somebody that the kids felt like they were comfortable with and could come and talk to about at-home stuff, stuff they're dealing with at school. Just trying to be someone that would listen to them and that they felt comfortable to come talk to."
It was easy for the students to relate to Carter, as he described himself as "the cool teacher" with many knowing he was an NFL player continuing to tryout. But before he made the active roster of an NFL team, he found himself having to practice what he preached in the classroom.
"In general, it taught me a lot about patience," Carter said of teaching. "You're dealing with junior high kids, so you never know what you're going to get from day-to-day. And it's kind of like that in the National Football League. Especially with the way my journey has been, being able to be patient and wait for your opportunity or wait for your time to go out there and show that you can make plays.
"The patience that I taught them, working with those kids in junior high, helped me with the road or the journey I've been on in the National Football League."
This will be the first of two times this season the former teacher will face his former team. He's already been able to make an impact for the Raiders special teams unit, averaging nearly nine yards per punt return and gaining 23 yards on his lone kick return this season.
The big question is: What are his emotions like going into this game?
"Same as every other game. You just go out there and try to put your best foot forward and it won't be any different this week."
Other notable connections
- Raiders assistant special teams coordinator Derius Swinton II spent one season (2021) with the Los Angeles Chargers.
- Raiders defensive tackle Jerry Tillery was drafted by the Chargers with the team's first round pick (28th overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft. He compiled 52 solo tackles, 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his four seasons with the Chargers.
- Raiders defensive lineman Isaac Rochell was drafted by the Chargers in the seventh round of the 2017 NFL Draft and spent four seasons with the team.
- Raiders safety Roderic Teamer signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2019, with a sack and an interception that season.
- Raiders cornerback Brandon Facyson signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He totaled 35 tackles, one pass defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in three seasons there.
- Raiders defensive backs Marcus Epps and David Long Jr. were born and raised in Los Angeles California, attending Edison High School and Loyola High School, respectively.
- Raiders offensive linemen Andre James and Kolton Miller were teammates from 2015-17 at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
- Raiders safety Isaiah Pola-Mao played at the University of Southern California (USC) from 2017-21.
- Chargers defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley spent one season (2018) as the Raiders defensive backs coach.
- Chargers linebacker Khalil Mack was selected in the first round (5th overall) by the Raiders in the 2014 NFL Draft. He notched 231 solo tackles, 68 tackles for loss and 40.5 sacks in four seasons with the team.
- Chargers linebacker Tanner Muse was drafted by the Raiders in the third round (100th overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft.
- Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco, Raiders Head Coach Josh McDaniels and Raiders General Manager Dave Ziegler all played football at John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio.
View the best photos from Thursday's practice at Intermountain Health Performance Center as the Raiders prepare for their Week 4 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.