The Cincinnati Bengals began the 1995 NFL draft with a bang, trading their first (No. 5 overall) and second (No. 36) round selections to the expansion Carolina Panthers (with Bill Polian as the general manager) for the first overall draft pick. It took Cincinnati all of 38 seconds to select Penn State running back Ki-Jana Carter.
"We think it's a very good deal for us," Bengals president Mike Brown said at the time. "Ki-Jana Carter should be a player that will come in here and impact our team very quickly."
Cincinnati signed Carter to a seven-year deal worth $19.2 million and a $7.125 million signing bonus.
"This is sweeter than winning the Heisman," said Carter, who finished second in the Heisman voting. "I grew up with the Bengals and the Browns. I'm very excited because my family and my friends will be able to watch me play."
Unfortunately Carter's career was another in a long list of injury-plagued players with the world's worst luck.
On the third preseason game of the year during his rookie season, the Bengals called a lead draw with Carter. The stud running back planted his left foot and cut to his right. Detroit Lions defensive lineman Robert Porcher tackled Carter high, which causes his knee to buckle. Tests during the following day discovered that Carter had completely torn his ACL.
"I planted my left leg and I think it got caught in the turf. I didn't think it was too serious. I just knew it was sore. I was thinking, 'Aw, Ki, no.' It was a freak thing. That's like the worst thing you ever think of happening to somebody's leg. You just see so many stories about it."
Today Carter has found his footing, founding a company named ByoGlobe that's "geared the industry by providing totally GREEN solutions for our environment". Carter was recently featured in a story by The Big Lead.
“I’m not going to hold no regrets,” Carter said. “Do I wish my career would have happened better? Hell yeah, I do. I was expecting a lot more. I’m sure a lot of fans were, too. But at the same time, am I going to sit there and sulk and complain about what happened? No. I did all I could.”
Cincinnati released Carter in June of 2000, six months after dislocating a kneecap during a private workout in January, concluding his five-year career with the Bengals rushing for 747 yards on 227 carries and 16 rushing touchdowns.
"We never got to open up the present to find out how good he might be," Bengals president Mike Brown said.