OU's Quinton Carter has second passion: Giving to others in need
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Writer
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
12/21/10 at 3:29 PM
Guerin Emig blog:
visits children at a
KinderCare on Monday.
ONE SIDE of Quinton Carter can break bones.
A typical hit from Oklahoma's senior free safety can leave enemy receivers with ringing ears, rolled-back eyes and bleeding noses. This is a guy who used to get kicked out of practice for hitting his teammates too hard.
That's football, and that's Carter's calling card.
But there's another side of Quinton Carter that few people see.
That side gives gentle hugs to preschoolers, hands out holiday meals to the hungry, provides caring mentorship to little gridiron warriors and delivers care packages of socks, cookies and dignity to elderly military veterans.
"This is kind of my passion, to help out people," Carter said. "I feel like God put me in this position to give back and help others and change others' lives. That's kind of the motivation around it."
Quinton Carter is an All-American defensive back. The senior from Las Vegas is a three-year starter at OU. He's a feared hitter. But all that he has accomplished on the football field is simply a doorway to his true greatness.
"It's really close to his heart, helping other people," OU coach Bob Stoops said. "He's really a neat young man. Not only a tough player, but really an active leader in the community."
Carter founded and runs the SOUL Foundation - Serving Others through Unity and Leadership. The nonprofit, 501(c)3 foundation accepts charity contributions and turns them into a meal, a gift basket or a football camp. But it's Carter's personal involvement - a handshake, a smile, a hug, or just an attentive ear - that turns another run-of-the-mill sports-figure foundation into something special.
"He's taken it to another level," said Cecil Rose, who calls himself a SOUL volunteer but really is Carter's right-hand man.
"Sometimes athletes have foundations and they just want to use it as a tax write-off, but he's very passionate about this," said Rose, an ex-OU track athlete who is working on his Ph.D. "He's a genuine person. That's what makes it fun. And he's encouraging all his teammates to get involved. To me, he's been like a standard bearer."
SOUL has been up and running for about a year. But Carter has been giving and giving since he was a child.
"That's what I enjoy doing in my free time," Carter said. "It's my recreational activity. I don't play video games."
When the Sooners get to Arizona next week to prepare for meeting Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl, Carter will make at least two trips - one with teammates, one on his own - to visit a Phoenix-area veterans facility, which is an offshoot of his most recent project.
In conjunction with a new venture called Pros 4 Vets, which launched this fall after several ex-Sooners, including Tommie Harris, Roy Williams, Mark Clayton and Adrian Peterson, started Pros for Africa in 2009, Carter has begun reaching out to service men and women who are wounded, disabled or are in long-term care.
Last week, Carter visited the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Norman and handed out gift baskets that included socks, cookies and a giant Christmas card signed by the entire 2010 OU football team.
"He was touched by the work he got to accomplish here in Norman," Rose said.
Last Christmas, Carter got a list of needy families from United Way of Norman and went door-to-door hand-delivering gift baskets that included Walmart gift cards that had been donated to the SOUL Foundation.
Want to see the true spirit of Christmas? Then follow Carter around and watch the faces light up when he hands out the Walmart cards.
"They're happy," he said. "I don't think they really expect what they're getting. You know, United Way probably hands out little food baskets, but you get a $50 gift card to go get whatever you need, maybe buy a gift or buy some groceries, it changes their whole attitude on the holiday."
In September, Carter was one of 11 football players from the Bowl Subdivision named to the American Football Coaches' Association Good Works Team. He was a finalist for the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy, which recognizes community service as well as athletic achievement. Last week he became one of five finalists to receive the Coach Wooden Citizen Cup, an award given to the most outstanding role model among all college athletes.
Carter continues to mentor a small group of Oklahoma City boys from single-parent homes, taking them bowling or swimming or just hanging out. He also volunteers whatever time he can to a group of preschoolers at KinderCare day care center in Norman, reading to them or playing with them or showing them how a Sooner All-American writes the alphabet.
"Even if he was just a benchwarmer or an All-American, they love him just the same," Rose said. "This transcends football."
Said Carter, "I like to be hands on and have a hand in everything we do. Just try to ... show my face and make a change wherever I can."
Also, with the help of his uncle Danny, Carter has run a free youth football camp in his hometown of Las Vegas, now in its third year.
He gets help from more than 50 volunteers, including family, classmates at OU, Norman North High School's Rotary Interact Club, the McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church and others.
Carter likely will be drafted next spring and should have a lucrative career in professional football. That's when SOUL really will take off.
The time demands on a college football player are ridiculous, from putting in the regular work on the practice field, in the weight room and in film study to doing the extra strength and conditioning training in the offseason to going to class, studying for tests and doing homework to having any kind of social life. Carter not only excels at all that, he gives whatever spare time he can conjure up to SOUL - from attending meetings to visiting vets to helping his uncle cook Thanksgiving dinner that he said was his greatest undertaking yet.
Carter said it became a class project. Students made and hung flyers and also created a Facebook page to publicize the dinner, which Rose said cost about $5,000 for food, facility and other activities. It was open to anyone from Norman, with an emphasis on international students and veterans.
So imagine what good he can do with the time and resources of a professional athlete.
"In my heart, I think God really put me in a position," Carter said. "Not only is it a dream come true, but I'm in a position to help others. I'm going to take advantage of my position."
To request more information on the SOUL Foundation, e-mail email@example.com.
FIESTA BOWL: NO. 9 OU (11-2) VS. NO. 25 CONNECTICUT (8-4)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 1
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430
Original Print Headline: Heart and Soul
John E. Hoover 581-8384
OU football players Kevin Brent (center) and Quinton Carter greet Ross Bonner as team members visit the Oklahoma Veterans Center with Carter's SOUL Foundation on Thursday in Norman. STEVE SISNEY / The Oklahoman
OU senior Quinton Carter is an All-American defensive back and a three-year starter for the Sooners. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
OU free safety Quinton Carter visits with Dr. Gail Beckett while Carter and members of his SOUL foundation visit the Oklahoma Veterans Center on Thursday in Norman. STEVE SISNEY / The Oklahoman