Traci Braxton, singer and producer, tells students how important the film "Carter High" is in terms of its message about the impact of choices at the Howard University Blackburn Center on Nov. 2. Photo by Roy Lewis
Traci Braxton, singer and producer, tells students how important the film "Carter High" is in terms of its message about the impact of choices at the Howard University Blackburn Center on Nov. 2. Photo by Roy Lewis

WASHINGTON — It’s one of the most storied, yet tragic tales of high school football history – one that unfolded in the State of Texas.

In 1988, the David W. Carter High School football team in Dallas seemed a story of success and boundless promise, the stuff of legends. As the Texas 5A state champion, rated one of the best teams in the nation and possibly the best ever in Texas history, its players had limitless options. One would even go one to become a five-time pro bowler in the NFL.

But poor decisions derailed the team’s legacy, brought shame to the school and its community and landed five of the team members behind bars for armed robbery, including its star player.

Writer and producer Arthur Muhammad said he wanted to drive home the serious notion that decisions, good or bad, have consequences in his new movie, “Carter High,” which screened at Howard University on Monday, Nov. 2 and opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 13.

“I want to help these youngsters make better choices,” said Muhammad, 44, who played wide receiver on the team and consequently knows the story intimately.

Muhammad said he made the film with the hope that current Black youth will be deterred from the mindset of popular culture and Hollywood by watching a true, non-glorified story where wrong decisions changed lives for worse forever.

As Muhammad tells the story in the film, five of the team’s players were irresponsible teenagers who often got into trouble. They started food fights, gambled excessively and generally had disregard for the rules and others. But on the field, with their self-acclaimed “11 Man Posse” defense, they could do no wrong.

Their victory over the Permian High School Panthers on the way to the state championship would later be depicted in the 2004 film “Friday Night Lights.”

Days after taking the state championship, things began to unravel. Six of the players faced charges of 21 armed robberies. Five of the young men were found guilty.

Upon sentencing, District Judge Joe Kendall told the teenagers that they had committed “more armed robberies than Bonnie and Clyde did in their lifetime.”

Muhammad factors into his film his belief that the boys’ sentences were unjust: Derric Evans, sentenced to four 20-year concurrent terms; Gary Edwards, sentence to three 16-year concurrent terms; Keith Campbell, sentenced to four 25-year concurrent terms; Carlos Allen, sentenced to three 13-year concurrent terms; and P.K. Williams, sentenced to three 14-year concurrent terms.

The harsh sentences registered with the Howard students.

“The court scene was emotional for me,” said Howard student Gerald Doe of Ridgeland, S.C. “It was so touching and just a really great scene.”

Today no record exists of one of the most talented Texas high school teams ever assembled, its state title stripped from them in January 1991, the trophy returned and the record book revised.

It’s all gone because of youthful indiscretion, Muhammad noted.

At the end of the movie, former Carter players Campbell, Williams and Evans were shown giving advice to youth to always make good choices. After seven-and-a-half years, all five players were released.

Ashley Blake of Washington, one viewer in the audience, said all youth should see the film.

“It was a very influential movie,” Blake, 25, said. “If young African-American men could see this movie, it would definitely be effective. The timing is perfect and the message is great.”

Muhammad said he’s pleased with the discussions and reactions the film has generated.

“We just released the movie in Dallas and the feedback has been tremendous from young people,” he said. “They said the movie has helped change their lives – that’s the point we wanted to make. You can impact your destiny based on the choices that you make.”

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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