'A lot of high expectations': How Oklahoma State's Logan Carter is making most of return from back surgery

Jacob Unruh

STILLWATER — Oklahoma State tight end Logan Carter considers himself both stubborn and ambitious, not necessarily patient.

That’s why shortly after undergoing a major back surgery in late July, he made his goal known to new football physical therapist Dan Lynch.

Carter wanted to be back on the football field by Sept. 18 at Boise State, 53 days after surgery for a herniation of his LF-S1 disc.

“There’s no way that’s happening, Lynch said, “but we’ll try.”

Lofty expectations or not, Carter took it as a challenge. He tried to be patient. He often overworked himself, leading Lynch to tell Carter to slow down.

Thirty days past his goal, Carter was back on the field at Texas.

“The entire process was without a doubt a humbling experience,” Carter said. “I had a lot of high expectations coming into this year for myself, for this team, which, thankfully, the biggest thing is the team is meeting the high expectations.”

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Logan Carter (87) warms up before OSU's win against Kansas on Oct. 30 in Stillwater.

Four games into his season, Carter is finally meeting his own ambitions. Coming off his most impactful game of the season, he’s again a key part of the Cowboys offense heading into Saturday’s matchup at Texas Tech.

He’s only caught two passes — both at West Virginia — but he’s a reliable run blocker. In Saturday’s 63-17 rout of TCU, he wasn’t even targeted in the passing game but he was crucial in the ninth-ranked Cowboys rushing for 447 yards.

“He’s still 80% maybe at the most from where he was,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “But he gets a little bit more each week.

“That was the first game that he’s played where he’s productive on the field. He’s been in some games for us, but really wasn’t productive. He was just kind of out there. We were trying to find out where he was.”

Carter, a redshirt senior from Henrietta, Texas, caught eight passes for 84 yards and a touchdown last season. He was expecting bigger things this fall.

But he suffered what he deemed a “freak incident” during summer training. He was lifting weights when he got hurt.

After a period off to see if the injury would heal, Carter underwent surgery on July 28. 

The initial hours were painful as the medications subsided. But very quickly he noticed a difference.

There was no pain shooting down his leg.

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Carter still had to wait a few weeks before doing any athletic activities. He was supposed to be home for two weeks. Instead, a few days into recovery he made his mom, Misti, drive him back to Stillwater.

He had to be near his team, even if he could not participate.

“I just couldn’t stay away and do nothing,” Carter said.

Six weeks post-surgery, Carter was cleared for activities. His doctor said he was hopeful in three or four weeks he could return to football activities. 

Three weeks later, OSU’s offense was stuck in a rut as injuries mounted in the receiver corps. The Cowboys had squeaked out a few wins anyway. Carter asked Gundy if he could get back on the field. He wanted to help in any way.

But he just wasn’t ready.

Finally, during the bye week practices, he returned. He made his debut at Texas, seeing limited action behind Braden Cassity.

Carter said he has felt no pain in his back — even after getting hit accidentally in his first practice despite wearing a green no-contact jersey or after taking a big hit on a catch and run at West Virginia after Cassity suffered an injury.

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Oklahoma State's Logan Carter (87) scores a touchdown against West Virginia in 2018.

“The body’s fine,” Carter said. “I feel like all the finite details of playing football are coming back to me.”

Carter has just a few games left in his final season.

He’s thankful to be on the field. He tried patience — though, that was tough — and it worked out. He never considered he wouldn’t play.

Now, it’s about making the most of what remains.

“I knew it would be a struggle to get back to being how I was beforehand,” Carter said. “But I wasn't scared of any of the work that it took to do that. And I feel confident in myself and the Lord permitted I've returned back to playing football how I can and how I’m capable of and it seems like that's kind of the route it's headed towards. 

“So hopefully, I get to show that next few Saturdays.”

Jacob Unruh covers college sports for The Oklahoman. You can send your story ideas to him at or on Twitter at @jacobunruh. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

OSU at Texas Tech

KICKOFF: 7 p.m. Saturday at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas (Fox)