The top-ranked player from the state appears to be nearing a decision. Kentucky is in a great spot with Martels Carter Jr.
Ranked as the No. 173 overall player in the 2025 recruiting class, according to the On3 Industry Rankings, Carter does not speak publicly too often. He made an exception to chat with On3’s Phillip Dukes on the Five Star Flex.
Joined by his father, Martels Carter Sr., the two discuss the unusual path taken during this recruiting process. Originally from Rome, Georgia, they moved to Chattanooga when Senior took a position as the head coach at Brainerd High School. His son was an instant success as they built up the program. Carter Jr. starred on both sides of the line of scrimmage and trained with the prolific NPA (the 7-on-7 team Cutter Boley and Boo Carter played with).
Everything was on the up and up when their life turned upside down last summer. Carter Sr. suffered a stroke. To get his health in the right direction, the family moved closer to his doctor in Paducah, Ky. It was a difficult move.
“Every father wants to give his son the world, whatever he wants, and I had to take him from that because he had everything he wanted,” Senior told On3.
Despite the difficult move, Carter Jr. is thriving at Paducah Tilghman High School. The talented athlete makes play in all three phases of the game as a wide receiver, safety, and returner. With almost 50 offers, he’s narrowed his list to only a handful.
Carter Jr. Discusses his Top Five Schools
Kentucky is the leader in the On3 Recruiting Prediction Machine (RPM) but they have some competition.
Oregon: Coach (Chris) Hampton, texted me today, just got off the phone with him just saying he can’t wait till I get up there. I can’t wait to look at the environment and (see) what Oregon is as a football (program). Growing up, you always see Oregon. It’s beautiful. It’s an honor to me. That’s been one of those I looked up to as a kid.
Clemson: The Clemson atmosphere is amazing, just the aura you get when you get in there, especially me. It’s family-oriented. They make me feel like family. They took my family in, so when I first went, it was so smooth. I knew everybody.
Tennessee: I got some boys there. Shout out to Boo Carter, repping the 423. Talking to them and how they like the process, how they’re treating the players, and I just talked to Coach Heupel yesterday.
Kentucky: Another family-oriented feel. The connection is strong with me and all the coaches there. I just talked to Coach Marrow, Stoops. It’s family-oriented.
Auburn: Coach Freeze, he’s been hitting me up, “You having good thoughts?” I sent him my 7-on-7 things from Miami, and he was like, “Too cold.”
A Shorter List
When asked for his perspective on his son’s final schools, Martels Carter Sr. narrowed that list down to three. His son, who’s often simply called ‘C4,’ agreed with the final three: Kentucky, Oregon, and Clemson.
“I love the way Kentucky has been,” said Senior. “We were just there last week. His sister got a headache and it wasn’t about recruiting him. It was about making sure his sister was fine. Was there something they could do?
“When you investigate Kentucky, we’re a family-oriented thing, just like if you call me right now, I’m on the road to get to you because we’re family and we value that high. A lot of people don’t understand that the Kentucky coaching staff, three of the coaches played high school ball together. We’re talking about a family connection and being around, that’s a different kind of aura and mood.”
The elder Carter said Clemson was similar in that aspect. He also respected Oregon’s modern recruiting approach throughout the process.
“I like what Dan (Lanning) and the boys are doing up there. I know the recruiting game is a new game now. It’s a business. To me, you gotta be intentional when you come to Paducah, Kentucky. It ain’t like you’re in Georgia, you fly into Georgia and you can recruit who you want to recruit and then drive up and hit the Chattanooga area. It ain’t D-I athletes like that around here in Paducah. You gotta really plot and plan on getting here. The way they turned around with back-to-back (visits) in open period weeks from one week to the next to get here, and the way they do the recruiting, having the whole family in one text message group, just signing off on that.
He continued, “I was just impressed with the way they recruited. They actually had somebody watching the film when he was up here, and I guess to streamline it, when we got in the car on the way back from the game, they knew he had returned two punts, like five minutes after the game.”
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