DJ Dozier vs. Ki-Jana Carter: Who is more worthy of College Football Hall of Fame enshrinement?

With Dozier and Carter eligible for the Hall of Fame, who would I choose?
Ki-Jana Carter
Ki-Jana Carter / Stephen Dunn/GettyImages

D.J. Dozier and Ki-Jana Carter are now eligible for the College Football Hall of Fame, so the natural tendency is to ask which former Penn State running back is more worthy of enshrinement? Ultimately, both Dozier - who was a Consensus All-American in 1986, and Carter - who was an Unanimous All-American in 1994, will likely both be enshrined in Atlanta at some point. With that being said, it wouldn’t be any fun to leave it there, so let’s settle a debate, who is more worthy between Carter and Dozier?

The Case For DJ Dozier

Dozier was the first Nittany Lion running back to rush for over 1,000 yards as a freshman as well as the first running back in Penn State history to lead the team in rushing for four consecutive years. He was also a two-sport athlete, excelling at baseball.

After gaining national attention from a superlative freshman campaign, Dozier’s ability to play up in the big moments is what kept him in the spotlight. Notably, the 1985 encounter against Alabama where Dozier had 85 of the 198 rushing yards in a 19-17 win in Beaver Stadium. 

His career momentum continued into the 1986 season, where Dozier was named a consensus All-American. His first signature moment came on the road against No. 2 Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium, arguably Joe Paterno’s biggest regular-season road win in his entire career. After the Crimson Tide connected on a Van Tiffin field goal, Penn State physically dominated a Crimson Tide defense that had Derrick Thomas and Cornelius Bennett and capped the drive off with a Dozier touchdown that set the tone for the Nittany Lions as they scored 23 unanswered points to put away the Crimson Tide. 

Dozier’s biggest moment came in the Fiesta Bowl against Miami in front of a national audience that NBC estimated to be over 70 million. Following a Shane Conlan interception that set the Nittany Lions up deep in Hurricanes territory, Dozier went into the end zone for the deciding score to put the Lions up 14-10. Dozier earned Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Game honors in the Fiesta Bowl with his 99 yards on the ground and deciding touchdown. He also made two catches for 21 yards in the thriller over the Hurricanes.

The Case For Carter

Ask any Penn State fan about Ki-Jana Carter’s signature moment; they would most certainly take you back to the 1995 Rose Bowl against Oregon. 

It has almost become mythical in nature to Penn State fans. It was Penn State’s first Rose Bowl of the Joe Paterno era, the 1994 team was trying to secure the program’s third national championship, and the offense was loaded with NFL talent that averaged 47.4 points per game. 

You had Keith Jackson’s opening line to the game, “We’re about to see what a lot of people bought tickets for - the Penn State offense."

All Ki-Jana Carter did was put an emphatic exclamation point on Jackson’s observation, running 83 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the Rose Bowl. It was Carter’s first of three rushing touchdowns, to lead Penn State to a 38-20 win. Carter’s Rose Bowl performance wasn’t forgotten as he was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame by the Tournament of Roses Association in 2014.

Carter’s 1994 season was littered with many epic performances, rushing for 137 yards and four rushing touchdowns against Ohio State in a 63-14 victory or 227 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 27 carries against Michigan State and was the central figure of a historic offense. Along with Carter, Penn State had quarterback Kerry Collins, wide receiver Bobby Engram, and tight end Kyle Brady that steamrolled Big Ten defenses weekly, never failing to score less than 31 points.

Verdict: Carter

After being snubbed for the national championship, the 1994 team has been respected by the national media who look back favorably - notably being the highest-ranked team that did not win a national championship team in ESPN’s 150 Greatest Teams ranking at No. 16. Carter was a major reason why Penn State was dominant as Carter averaged  7.2 yards per carry in his career at Penn State including 7.8 in 1994.

The eye test is extremely favorable to Carter, to me he was the most explosive running back I saw at Penn State and that is with all due respect to Saquon Barkley. 

While Carter was snubbed of the Heisman Trophy, losing to Colorado’s Rashaan Salaam and splitting votes with Collins, and a shot at the national championship, Carter nationally resonated more than Dozier ever did. Frankly, Dozier's backfield running mate Blair Thomas was a better back in my opinion. Carter is my selection here.

Next. 10 greatest running backs in Penn State history. 10 greatest running backs in Penn State history. dark