Vicksburg’s Montgomery signs with Valley, Carter with South Alabama

Published 1:23 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Malik Montgomery had been dreaming about this day for six years, and Tyler Carter for only two. Even if they took different paths to get there, however, the destinies of the Vicksburg High football teammates converged one more time.

Montgomery, a running back, signed to play at Mississippi Valley State and the defensive end Carter at South Alabama during a signing day ceremony Wednesday morning at VHS.

“It’s really a blessing. My mom and my dad don’t have to pay for school. I’m going to school for free. This is the least I can give to them for everything they’ve done for me. This is my payback to them,” Montgomery said. “Since I was a kid I’ve been dreaming of this moment. Now it’s finally here. It’s a special moment for me.”

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Montgomery has been a part of Vicksburg’s football program since he was in seventh grade, and with the varsity team since 2020. He became a starter as a sophomore and rushed for 2,414 yards and 33 touchdowns over the past three seasons.

A shoulder injury caused him to miss about half of the 2023 season and limited him to 465 yards and six TDs. He wound up one touchdown short of tying Vicksburg High’s career record.

“It was very disappointing, I thought I was going to break that record. But I guess God’s got other plans for me,” Montgomery said. “But it played out for me, especially signing a DI scholarship.”

Montgomery picked Valley over offers from Southern Illinois, Grambling, Lane College and Mississippi junior colleges Holmes and Coahoma. He’s hoping to make an impact right away in Itta Bena.

“I’m trying to go in and start as a true freshman. I think I’ve got a good chance to come in and make a difference early,” he said.

Carter, a defensive end, took an unusual path to signing day. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder quit football for two years to focus on basketball, then returned to football as a junior and immediately gained attention as a Division I prospect.

Carter had five sacks in 2022 and 6.5 more in 2023. He was the Defensive MVP of the Bernard Blackwell Mississippi All-Star Game earlier this month.

“I really didn’t see basketball working out for me, so I just decided to come back and play football and everything worked out,” said Carter, who is also a starting first baseman for Vicksburg’s baseball team.

Carter committed to Mississippi State earlier this year, but decommitted in early December. He said Mississippi State’s coaches seemed to lose interest in recruiting him as the year went along — head coach Zach Arnett was fired in November ­— and the feeling became mutual.

“It was the relationship. They just kind of faded away. I felt left out,” Carter said. “It was disappointing, but it is what it is. It’s their loss.”

And South Alabama’s gain. Carter said the Jaguars’ coaching staff, which includes Vicksburg native and former MSU assistant Jay Hopson, continued its recruiting efforts throughout the year.

Once Carter soured on State, South Alabama was waiting with open arms. Carter picked them over other offers from Georgia Tech and Alcorn State.

“They never gave up on me during the recruiting. Even when I was previously committed to Mississippi State they still recruited me hard. They kept applying pressure and made me feel wanted,” Carter said. “Like my dad said, go somewhere you’re wanted and not somewhere you’re tolerated. They made me feel wanted instead of just another person that they could just go easy and recruit.”

Carter and Montgomery are at the front of what’s expected to be a solid signing class from Vicksburg. They were the only ones to sign as December’s early period opened, but several others are expected to do so during the traditional February period.

The Gators’ Class of 2024 led the football team to great heights. They made four consecutive playoff appearances, won the program’s first region championship in more than 30 years, and reached the MHSAA Class 5A semifinals in 2022.

They’re also excelling in the classroom. Montgomery and Carter both plan to major in engineering at their respective schools — Carter has a 3.7 GPA and Montgomery a 3.9 — and were proud to represent the Gators off the field as well as on.

“As a group, as a class, I think we’re one of the best classes to ever come through here,” Montgomery said. “I feel like we can compete with anybody. I’m really proud of the other guys. I want to see what they’re going to do, too. It’s a good accomplishment for all of us.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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