University of Oklahoma free safety Quinton Carter is an All-American defensive back, known for being a tough, physical player out on the field. He had a career-high 17 tackles against Texas Tech this season, and came up with two interceptions at the Bedlam game in Stillwater in November. He’ll likely hear his name called early in the NFL Draft this spring, but the legacy he will leave in Norman reaches far beyond the football field. The senior business major from Las Vegas has long been one of the team’s most active community servants. In fact, his self-professed passion is for helping others, and what he has accomplished in the community is just as impressive as what he has accomplished on the field.
Carter announced his plans to launch a charitable foundation while still a sophomore, and his SOUL Foundation—Serving Others through Unity and Leadership—has been up and running for about a year. Through the 501(c)3 non-profit, Carter has organized and run two free football youth camps in Las Vegas. He put together a Father’s Day benefit for low-income fathers living in Norman’s Transitional Housing Program. For Thanksgiving, Carter and SOUL organized over 50 volunteers to put on a community Thanksgiving meal in Norman for about 500 people. The SOUL FULL event was open to anyone in the community without a place to go for the holiday, and Carter was there with his own family—along with several Tvs showing various football games—to make it feel more like home. Last Christmas, Carter got the names of several needy families from United Way of Norman, and personally went door-to-door delivering gift baskets that included Wal-Mart gift cards that had been donated to the SOUL Foundation.
Dedication in the Community
Carter’s work with SOUL barely scratches the surface of his community work. In addition, Carter has been a weekly presence at a Norman KinderCare facility, where he has been volunteering his time since last spring. Director Wanda Ramirez says she often gets OU athletes willing to help out, but no one has put forth the regular effort that Carter has. “We call him Mr. Q,” she says. “He always makes time, and he even calls ahead to find out what the theme is in the classroom for the week.” Carter would play sports with the kids, participate in classroom activities, and has helped them plant flowers and work on class projects. “He interacts very well with the children, and he has really taken the time to get to know the parents, too.”
Ramirez admits she and everyone else at KinderCare will miss Carter, especially the class of four year olds he took under his wing. This spring, Carter will be preparing for graduation and the NFL Draft, and recently, the center held a party honoring Carter for his contributions. “We had about 80 people there. He will be missed. Mr. Q has been a great mentor and a real hero to us,” says Ramirez. “Acts 20, Verse 35 quotes Jesus saying, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ That just sums up the kind of person he is.” Freshman defensive back Julian Wilson will be taking the classroom reins from Carter, who has mentored him for the last several months. “We’re very happy to have him coming aboard,” states Ramirez.
Wilson is, by all accounts, equally happy to take over for Carter. “Quinton has played a big role in my life. I never thought that in one year I could become so close to someone that I met in the summer of 2010. He helped me stay strong when at times I thought football wasn’t for me. At KinderCare, I plan to keep the tradition that Carter has started going. I do not want something this good to end,” says Wilson.
Dedication like that demonstrated by Carter is hard to imagine, given the demanding schedule of a college football player. Between regular time on the practice field and in the weight room, film study and offseason training and the demands of his coursework, finding the time to run a non-profit organization seems like a near-impossibility, but Carter excels in all of those areas, and gives virtually all of his spare time to SOUL.
Family Commitment to the Community
How does a young man of 22 come to think so selflessly, to work so hard to make a difference? Carter grew up in inner-city North Las Vegas, and is the middle child of Sondra and Clemon Carter. There he attended Cheyenne High School, where he played football and excelled at quarterback. His parents both grew up in underprivileged households, and as adults tried to provide help where they could when folks around the community needed a hand. When Carter arrived at the University of Oklahoma, he eagerly took part in the athletic department’s outreach program. He enjoyed the work he was doing, but wanted to expand that role, which is how SOUL came to fruition. “I always felt like it was a calling, to help others. The impact we as student athletes can have on a project or area is important, and I’d like to see people create a synergy to help others be successful and give back to the community,” says Carter.
Upon arriving at OU, he met Cecil Rose, a former OU track athlete who is now a Ph.D. candidate in non-profit management. Rose calls himself a volunteer, and works closely with Carter and SOUL. “Carter is extremely impressive. He makes time for everything, and he touches the lives of everyone he comes into contact with,” says Rose. What’s remarkable about Carter is that “he’s really taken an interest in all kinds of outreach to different populations and age groups. He just wants to help as many people as he can.”
In 2009, Carter staged the first Elevated Play Football Camp in Las Vegas with the help of his uncle and the event drew approximately 150 youth. This year’s camp drew more than 200 players and featured instruction from Cincinnati Bengal (and former Sooner) Roy Williams and former Sooner linebacker Ryan Reynolds, among others.
In addition to his work with SOUL, Carter has taken it upon himself to act as mentor to five Oklahoma City boys growing up in single parent households. He frequently takes them swimming or bowling, or will just let the boys hang out with him and his teammates. “A lot of kids that come to the football camp are from areas with no role models,” Carter said. “The kids I mentor in klahoma City, same story. They really don’t have any positive male role models.”
It was when he began volunteering with Central Community Action, a branch of the United Way that provides housing to lowincome families that he was inspired to organize the Father‘s Day Celebration as a thank you to those low-income fathers who were making the effort. Nichols Hills clothier Spencer Stone Co. Donated new suits to the dads, and two local restaurants donated lunch for the benefit. Said Carter, “It’s rare to have fathers in their children’s lives nowadays. It’s an appreciation thing.” SOUL aims to make the Father’s Day celebration an annual event as well.
He recently participated with a new venture called Pros 4 Vets in an effort to reach out to service men and women who are wounded, disabled, or are in long-term care. In December, Carter visited the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Norman and handed out gift baskets, along with a giant Christmas card signed by the entire 2010 OU football team. He has also been working closely with the Whitten Newman Foundation, a nonprofit organization that has partnered with the University of Oklahoma and the Sam Noble Museum to offer science education opportunities to underprivileged youth.
A Bright Future Ahead
In September, Carter was named to the American Football Coaches’ Association’s Good Works Team. He was a finalist for both the Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy, which recognizes community service and athletic achievement and the Coach Wooden Citizen Cup, an award given to the most outstanding role model among college athletes.
When asked what he feels is most rewarding about his outreach efforts, Carter is relatively modest. “Just meeting new people, and how appreciative they are is great,” he says. “With our efforts at Central Community Action and especially KinderCare, I have developed life long relationships. These people know that I am there for them and vice versa.”
With Carter poised to enjoy a lucrative professional football career, the NFL will almost certainly allow him to expand SOUL beyond the borders of the Oklahoma and Las Vegas metropolitan areas, and by all accounts, he is ready to take his work to the next level. “In my heart, I really feel God put me in this 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.” The world looks forward to watching his accomplishments both on and off the playing field.
Shannon Fields is a regular contributor to MetroFamily Magazine.