Background and college
Born August 1, 1968 in Amityville, New York, Carpenter played at Amityville Memorial High. Carpenter was recruited as a quarterback at Notre Dame but transferred to Syracuse after his freshman year. In 1989 he used his passing skill to throw a 69-yard pass to future fellow Jet Rob Moore. "It was fun," said Carpenter about his time in college. "Two guys up there from the same area, running around on the field catching passes and scoring touchdowns. That's always fun, and to come back now and be doing the same thing? That just adds to it." Carpenter was one of a relatively small class of underclassmen, headlined by Ragib Ismail, to be approved in the NFL's second class of players allowed to declare themselves eligible for the draft despite remaining amateur eligibility. He ranks among the all-time leaders in Syracuse University receptions in most statistics despite only playing for them for for two seasons. He ranks fifth in career yards (1656), ninth in touchdowns (10), ninth in receptions (93), seventh in yards/catch (17.8) and second in yards/game (72.0).
Before the Jets
Carpenter was picked by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round (109th overall) of the 1991 NFL Draft. After a successful preseason with the Bengals, he was cut. Expecting to be signed to their practice squad, he was instead signed by the New England Patriots. Carpenter played in eight games for the Patriots. He started one game, caught three passes for 45 yards and then was left unprotected on Plan B and was picked up by the Jets in March 1992.
As a Jet
Carpenter, despite appearing in every game of the 1992 and 1993 season, was never anything other than a back up, and missed more than he caught. In 1992 he was used mainly as a punt returner, and in 1993 only managed 6 catches. In the summer of 1994, the Jets signed Art Monk, which moved Carpenter even further down the depth chart. After playing in 3 games of the 1994 season, Carpenter was waived by the Jets in order to get under the salary cap to sign Tony Casillas.
After the Jets
In 1995 Carpenter signed for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he had a decent season, playing in all 16 games, and making the playoffs. He finished third (after Fred Barnett & Calvin Williams) in receptions and yardage among wide receivers for the Eagles. Carpenter and Kelvin Martin shared the punt return duties. He had two receptions in each playoff game, one for a touchdown.