Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun
Monday, May 30, 2011 | 2 p.m.
When Quinton Carter tells 225 children attending his free three-day football camp at Canyon Springs High that earning a college degree and eating proper foods are as important as athletic ability on the gridiron, he does so with firsthand experience.
Before Carter was selected into the NFL by the Denver Broncos or was an all-Big 12 Conference selection and one of college football’s best safeties at Oklahoma, he was just like several other teenagers growing up in North Las Vegas — talented and determined to reach his athletic dreams.
Along way, as the Cheyenne High grad’s aspirations became more of a reality, he stumbled upon another calling, that of helping children and low-income families. It’s something our Southern Nevada community, especially in Carter’s old stomping grounds of North Las Vegas, is a better place for.
Now in its third year in the Las Vegas Valley, Carter’s SOUL (Serving Others through Unity and Leadership) camp for children ages 11 to 14 was much more than skills and drills on the football field. It included classroom work and lectures about the value of education, eating right and making smart decisions.
Carter had a solid upbringing, with his parents relentless in delivering the same message, but he knows several at his camp aren’t as fortunate. He sees nothing but talent and potential in the children, and takes pride in showing them the right way.
“My mind was just blown away with all of the kids who are here and want to be involved,” said Carter, who in April was a fourth-round selection of the Broncos. “The only thing with kids, when they are this age, they don’t want to listen. It’s all about pounding the message into their heads and making sure they know what’s important.
“I tell them that five years ago, I was in high school and right in their shoes. It’s not that long. Time flies. They have to take care of their business.”
During his sophomore year at Oklahoma in 2008, Carter founded the nonprofit SOUL with intentions of helping low-income families, especially children. Carter, who graduated with a degree in criminology and political science, and a minor in nonprofit studies, approached running the nonprofit with the same passion and dedication he has in preparing for his next challenge in football — whether that was shining at Oklahoma or sticking with the Broncos.
He’s fundraised, set up free camps, hosted a benefit on Father’s Day to honor dads of low-income families for being responsible and made weekly visits to a KinderCare school in Norman, Okla., where the university is located. He also hosts camps in Norman and has plans to arrange a program to provide for free medical care for struggling families.
In a day and age where several athletes have their names attached to their charity organizations, or seem forced to become active in the community, the 22-year-old Carter cherishes his role of making the world a better place. It’s refreshing to see someone so dedicated and sincere to helping others, someone who holds education in such high regard and someone who would take the shirt off his back for those in need.
His rewards don’t come from a story in Sports Illustrated, a television profile during halftime of the Big 12 Championship game or being part of the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team — all of which he has received. Rather, it comes from seeing the smile on the face of a youngster at his camp or visits to a school, and knowing his or her life is a little better because of his charity.
“He is what we need more of,” said Hunkie Cooper, Canyon Springs’ football coach and a longtime neighbor of the Carter family. “He is passion-driven and purpose-driven. His passion is the kids and his purpose is football, and being the best of both.”
Carter, with help from a significant donation from UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, made sure the three-day camp was free. The children received two shirts, shorts, a bag and meals. On Monday, there was a cookout for their families.
The instructors were highlighted by several professional football players, including Marcell Dareus, the third overall pick of the Buffalo Bills, former Oklahoma star and Tampa Bay Buccaneer Gerald McCoy, Reggie Smith of the San Francisco 49ers and former LSU standout Kelvin Sheppard.
A similar camp would have cost upwards of $200.
“You just don’t find free camps nowadays,” he said. “It’s special for me to be able to give this to these kids.”
Carter has plans on bringing the SOUL foundation to the Denver area and knows the big stage of the NFL will assist in further spreading his message and good deeds.
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Carter trains with Coopers’ players at Canyon Springs during the week while waiting for the NFL lockout to end. Just like his camp, he often speaks to the prep players about the value of education, never needing to be asked by Cooper to be a mentor but simply happy to make a difference.
“The attitude he has, man, nobody outworks him,” Cooper said. “He is a physical specimen who only wants to get better. There is no quit in him. Just seeing where he is at, and being successful, is an inspiration to my kids.”