There have been many different paths taken to become a member of the Tennessee State football team. Some have come from high schools around the country and some have transferred from FBS universities or JUCOs. However, there is perhaps not a more unique journey than that of Oshay Ackerman-Carter.
Ackerman-Carter starred at Trinity HS in the middle of the recruiting hotbed of Florida. As the starting quarterback, he threw for 2,607 yards during his junior and senior campaigns and completed 58.1 percent of his passes. He also tossed 36 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions, including a 22-4 ratio as a senior.
The Jacksonville native’s production had colleges lining up from far-and-wide to be their quarterback of the future.
“Tennessee State was the third team to offer me a scholarship in my sophomore year,” Ackerman-Carter remembers. “Coach Osita Alaribe really wanted me to commit, but some of the bigger offers came rolling in during my junior season. I got looks from teams like Florida Atlantic, Troy, Central Florida and Mississippi State, and I was just really excited to play at the highest level.”
One offer came from Georgia State, an up-start program in Atlanta, Ga. Ackerman-Carter committed to play for the Panthers despite the school having a team for just two seasons and a 1-10 record during his senior year.
Ackerman-Carter’s pledge was to be one of the hallmarks of legendary head coach Bill Curry’s tenure at Georgia State, until Curry announced his retirement following the 2012 season.
Curry’s departure coupled with academic concerns weighed on Ackerman-Carter and caused him to waver on his decision.
“I committed to Curry, and the new GSU coaches kept in touch with me, but the only downfall was my ACT score,” Ackerman-Carter said.
Ackerman-Carter, who was an A-B student in high school and once had Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) aspirations, was now left in limbo. His decisions came down to: go to a prep-school, enroll in a junior college or quit football.
Not wanting to end his career before it even started, Ackerman-Carter chose option A so that he could become eligible faster (Prep Schools require one year of play while JUCOs require two). Ackerman-Carter enrolled at Georgia Prep Sports Academy in Atlanta.
“Everything was so new to me,” Ackerman-Carter said. “It was like a college set-up where we woke up early to lift and do conditioning and practiced in the evening. Once I stepped foot on campus, the recruitment process started all over again and some of those schools that originally offered me, offered me again.”
The most consistent looks came from TSU’s Alaribe whose interest never waned in the 6-foot-2 pocket passer he visited as a sophomore. It also helped that one of the Sports Academy’s coaches was legendary TSU quarterback Brian Ransom.
Alaribe could point to Ransom, among many others, who parlayed a spot on the Big Blue into lifelong success.
“A lot of things attracted me to Tennessee State including its history. I met Claude Humphrey, Golden Tate and Richard Dent and heard stories of Ed “Too Tall” Jones. It was something that I wanted to be a part of,” Ackerman-Carter said.
Ackerman-Carter decided to put his name alongside those greats and sign with TSU in 2013. Having endured a tumultuous path to get to a Div. I program, Ackerman-Carter’s journey was still not over.
Entering the 2014 season, the Tigers had two proven quarterbacks in Mike German and Ronald Butler. Ackerman-Carter eventually became the odd-man-out and was forced to redshirt last year.
“There was always a chance that if one or both of those guys went down, that I would get the call to play. That opportunity never came, but I got the chance to learn and get better.
“Growing up, I was never the kid that sat on the bench, so this was a humbling process. In the end, I think redshirting benefitted me because I could mature.”
Ackerman-Carter got to see German break the school-record for career passing yards with 8,664 and Butler play in six games.
German has exhausted his eligibility but Butler will be back this upcoming season, setting up what is sure to be a contested competition between the junior and Ackerman-Carter.
“I expect a really good battle from Ron. He has a lot of game experience and is very athletic, so he is dangerous to opposing defenses. I am more of a pocket passer and I like to throw the ball down-field,” Ackerman-Carter said.
After so much waiting, Ackerman-Carter is just ready for the upcoming season and a chance to be on the field. That does not mean that he has not begun acting like a leader.
“I feel like having a good relationship with every single player can only make this team better because positivity carries over. If we are all a family then we can get the job done. I want to be cool with every one of my teammates,” Ackerman-Carter.
Ackerman-Carter has also been a leader in the classroom as well.
“In high school I was a little bit lazy, but I buckled down after under-performing on my ACTs. My mom told me ‘grades first and football second’, so I feel like if you get it done in the classroom, then you can get it done on the field,” Ackerman-Carter said.
From a highly-touted high schooler, to grayshirting, then to redshirting, Ackerman-Carter has been through a lot. Where he goes from here is up to him, but he wants to accomplish the same goal that his mentor Brian Ransom was able to– win an OVC Championship.