I am excited to continue to share the experience and knowledge of many of my incredible friends and colleagues with you. I’d like to introduce you to Sports Analyst, 14-year NFL Veteran, Super Bowl Champion and Philanthropist, Kevin Carter. Kevin is a client and dear friend of mine. We’ve known each other and worked together for 19 years.
Kevin spent 14 years in the NFL playing for four different teams: six years with Rams, four years with Tennessee Titans, two years with Miami Dolphins and two years with Tampa Bay. After retirement he stayed in Tampa, FL, but travels quite a bit for work and in support of his charity.
I had a chance to catch up with Kevin to talk more about his career and advice he has for young professionals. I encourage you to catch the two-part episode on the Goal Posts Podcast, but here’s a shorter version of our conversation.
Q: When you retired from the NFL, what was it like to start a new chapter?
A: The hardest challenge for professional athletes, or for anyone that has a career that is so intense but short lived, is to redefine themselves after the lights and the cheering end and you take off the cleats for the last time. I was just 38 years old and I had a degree in Zoology, which I thought I would never use. After 14 years of football, I was really searching for what my contribution would now be to this world. And, thanks to you Tresa, you helped me to find my brand, my voice and the platform with which to give back. You really helped me establish my legacy through my philanthropic efforts and events like Waiting for Wishes Celebrity Waiters Dinner, which is now 19 years in the making.
Trying to redefine myself was not easy. There were a lot of days where I would stand in the mirror, look at myself and ask: “What do I have to offer to this world? Who can I be? What is my voice? What is my contribution?”
For me, it came in the form of being in front of a camera and using my brand and my influence, not only from a charity standpoint, but to find my voice professionally. I found my voice through broadcasting.
I was fortunate that I started inserting myself into broadcasting well before my playing days were over, so I had an advantage. Then, after retirement, I started my broadcasting career at FOX Sports South, then I moved on to ESPN. I was the resident Studio Analyst for College Football for ESPNU for six years. Then, two years ago, I moved to CBS Sports and it’s been just a match made in heaven.
Q: What advice would you give your 25-year-old self?
A: If I could give advice to my 25-year-old self, I would tell him to not be afraid to embody all that God has blessed him with and who you are. I think at that age we’re still growing up. When I was 25 years old I was talented, impulsive, smart, quick to speak, quick to anger, didn’t have the discernment or the patience or the longevity to know who I was or what I had or how much thunder I had in these hands. And that’s the thing I would tell any young person, you’ve got thunder because you’ve got time.
I’m an expressive and fiery personality. I think sometimes we mute ourselves and, for me, I’m a larger black man, so when I’m expressive or loud in a public place, people react differently. I’ve always been aware of that and I’m always metering myself because of it. But at 25, that’s the time to make waves. It’s your time to make noise, declare your space, claim it, and step into the light. Those who are bold and don’t fear, don’t ask for permission, those are the people who make things happen. I’m certainly not telling you to go out and do something wrong or offend people, but you’ve got to discover your own voice. Do not be small. Be big, be out there, be everything that God has made you to be. Put your best foot forward and let the chips fall where they may. If you don’t go out there and take the chance, you’ll always regret it.
Q: How did you transfer the skills you learned playing professional sports into your career?
A: There is no substitute for hard work and the grind. For me, when I played football, I had to constantly tell myself that there are a lot of great athletes, they are all big, strong and fast. On paper, we all looked the same. What was the difference? The difference is in your own mind and heart. I tell my son this all the time, we are all lumps of flesh that are animated by a spirit and soul, but if it is not on the same page as your mind and your heart, things aren’t going to work out. People separate themselves from their ability to either persevere or overcome something.
I was a high school freshman who didn’t make the Junior Varsity football or basketball team. I got out on the field the only way I could… through the marching band. I was the kid who came back again, out on the football field after growing 6 inches over one
summer and grabbing hold of a dream and never letting go.
Professional sports taught me that it was a cutthroat industry both on the field and in the organization. People were people always trying to take your job, thinking they can do a better job than you. That is the reality of the NFL on a daily basis. So you have to be the person that self-advocates. You have to be your own cheerleader constantly telling yourself that you can do it in the face of challenging circumstances. That overcoming of circumstances is what makes you who we are, and it happens all the time. Someone’s going to do it. Someone is going to be that person, why not you?
Q: How did you try to prepare for your next chapter?
A: People tell you when you’re playing in the NFL that you really need to make sure that you plan for when the game is over. That can be really scary to think that someday I won’t be doing this and who will I be then? It’s hard for a lot of players to take themselves out of their own skin, in their own mindset and circumstance and fast forward ten years in the future when there’s no football. But that’s a reality that we all have to face. You can’t summon up this power to turn the page and know what’s going happen ten years from now unless you’re constantly working and rebuilding.
My dad always told me it’s easy to do the wrong thing, it’s harder to do the right thing. It's hard to be disciplined, it's hard to study, it's hard to be where you’re supposed to be. Going through people trying to take your job, people writing about your character off of the field, all of the distractions of the circus that the NFL is, is where I learned those skills. That’s where I learned the ability to say, “If someone’s going to get a national broadcasting job and be a resident anchor at a network, it’s me.”
I’ve been blessed with a lot so I feel like I need to do as much and give as much as I can. I always walk around feeling like I have something to prove, something more to rediscover to give to this world.
Q: Why is giving back so important to you?
A: To me, your legacy has very little to do with your accolades you achieve. It has everything to do with the lives you’ve touched, the people you affect, and the change you’re able to bring about. We’re here to help other people. We’re here to fight for those who can’t fight for themselves. We’re here to make the world a better place. Creating a legacy was paramount to who I was. When I got on this journey a long time ago, all of my accolades were not my legacy moment. It’s not about overcoming my speech impediment in elementary school. It’s not about becoming an All-American in college, it’s not about those.
It was taking all that I had done on the football field and matching it with the person I was on the inside. Being that person that says “This is what I stand for and this is who we're going to help and because God has touched my heart in this way.”
Year after year, we’re going to affect change and help people. We are the sum total of all of our cumulative experiences that we’ve incurred in life. Everything we’ve been through in life, that’s who we are and that’s what we have to give in life. Being able to present that on a platform through the Kevin Carter Foundation’s Waiting for Wishes Celebrity Waiters Dinner event is probably one of the most important things I’ve done in my life. I was honored that my co-host Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts joined me in 2005 to help co-host this event so we could broaden the reach. All of that makes something so wonderful happen. And it justifies everything else, all of these jerseys I have on the wall, my life and me.
Thank you, Kevin, for sharing your journey, your insight and giving advice to those who are trying to find the same for themselves. Well, that’s all I have for now!
For the full podcast episode, listen here.
To watch The Goal Posts Podcast Interview on YouTube, watch here.