Ravens rookie DeAndre Carter fulfills promise to deceased brother

It would represent quite an accomplishment if undrafted rookie DeAndre Carter made the Baltimore Ravens' 53-man roster as their returner this season.

Carter is among the shortest players on the team at 5-foot-8, giving away 10 inches to fellow rookie receiver Darren Waller. He also comes from Sacramento State, which is known more for producing an Academy Award-winning actor (Tom Hanks) than NFL players (former quarterback Ken O'Brien is the most notable one).

While Carter has plenty to prove over these next few weeks of organized team activities, he couldn't help but reflect on the significance of signing a contract with the Ravens and putting on an NFL uniform even if it was for a recent rookie minicamp.

In August 2013, Carter's younger brother Kaylan went into cardiac arrest during a weight training session and died at the age of 17 after being in a coma for two months. On his brother's death bed, DeAndre Carter vowed to his brother that, no matter what, he was going to reach the NFL for both of them.

"I made him a promise and we're here," Carter said. "Now, I made him another promise that I'm going to make it in this league and I'm going to have a long career here."

Football kept Carter grounded in his final two seasons at Sacramento State. He prayed to his brother before every game, and he paid tribute to his brother after every touchdown -- all 31 of them in 2013 and 2014 -- by hitting his chest and pointing to the sky.

Carter put up prolific numbers in college, leading the Football Championship Subdivision with 99 catches and 1,321 receiving yards in last year's regular season. But he was not among the 35 wide receivers drafted and ultimately chose to sign with the Ravens over the Steelers, Dolphins, Cardinals and 49ers.

"This is my dream and has always been my dream, but it was his dream as well," he said of playing in the NFL.

Carter is hoping to become the next undrafted rookie to make the Ravens' season-opening roster, joining the likes of kicker Justin Tucker, wide receiver Marlon Brown and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. He was among the most impressive players at the team's rookie minicamp with his explosiveness off the line and out of his breaks.

The biggest knock on Carter is his size, and that's why he's always looked up to Steve Smith. Carter admires how Smith uses his size to drive him to become a smarter and fiercer receiver.

"I just want to pick his brain as much as I can, anything that can make my game better," Carter said.

For Carter to make the team, it likely won't be solely on his ability to play wide receiver. He'll have to make an impact on special teams, especially as a returner.

The Ravens didn't sign an experienced returner after cutting Jacoby Jones this offseason, and coach John Harbaugh has been noncommittal on who's going to fill that role. Carter didn't return many kicks in college, but he did score a 65-yard touchdown off a punt return last season. His speed and elusiveness makes him a strong contender for the job.

Harbaugh acknowledged that the team's next returner could be a rookie. The Ravens had seven of them fielding kicks at the rookie minicamp.

"A few of them looked good enough to catch it at this level, so that’s a foot in the door for some of these young guys," Harbaugh said.

When asked about Carter, Harbaugh said. "DeAndre has done a good job."

Carter's NFL journey is just beginning, and he's excited to see where it leads. What will push him along the way is the memory of his brother.

"I hope he's proud of me of getting to this point right now," Carter said.