Defensive tackle Kam Carter’s football career has been anything but conventional.
But after joining his fourth college team in as many years, including a stop at a community college known for its football program that made him a star of a Netflix show, the Germantown, Md., native believes he’s finally in a place where he can focus on the sport he loves and maybe one day play in the NFL.
Carter was one of the top prospects in the state out of Gaithersburg High School in 2015. He signed a letter of intent to play at Penn State that spring. Less than a year later, he was dismissed from the team for violating team rules, which led him to the NJCAA powerhouse East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss., where he was one of several players highlighted by the popular Netflix show “Last Chance U.”
Though he took issue with how he was portrayed during the show’s second season, Carter said his year at East Mississippi was unequivocally a positive experience.
“It was definitely a positive,” Carter said on Glenn Clark Radio July 19. “From a life standpoint, from a maturing standpoint, football standpoint. All around, it simplified it.”
After arriving at East Mississippi, Carter sat down with head coach Buddy Stephens, who wasn’t interested in Carter’s past. Instead, he wanted Carter to focus on two things: “books and ball.”
“He said, ‘I’m going to let you know what my expectations are and if you don’t live up to those expectations then I won’t have you here because I can get anybody else,” Carter said of his conversation with Stephens. “His expectations were books and ball and that’s exactly how he said it. It simplified my life and kind of relined my focus so that I could put myself in the best position to be successful in life and even in football.”
His lone season at East Mississippi was a success with the team winning a regional championship, but more than that, playing in the Deep South in the oppressive heat for a demanding coach with other players who were also seeking a second chance at football changed him, he said.
“My teammates kind of held each other to that standard. They said, ‘Up north, you are good players but you’re not dogs,'” Carter said. “Like the heat changes you. You’ll get to that mental block where a good player might be like ‘Oh, it’s too hot.’ Where a dog is just happy to be playing football. It’s another opportunity to showcase how good I am and that’s one thing I didn’t realize. I was a good player when I went down there but when I left, I was a dog.”
After East Mississippi, Carter returned to Division I to play at Pittsburgh. Why did he choose Pitt over other offers he had?
“I honestly picked Pitt because they were the only scholarship offer I had that was going to play Penn State the following year,” Carter said, “So, of course, I wanted to play my friends and stuff.”
But Carter’s college sojourn wouldn’t end there. After posting eight tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and a fumble recovery for the Panthers in 2017, Carter transferred to nearby Duquesne to play out his final two years of eligibility.
He played in 13 games (12 starts) with the Dukes, posting 22 tackles (5.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks).
“I’m living the life, honestly. I can’t even explain it,” he said. “I’m just happy how I’m living right now playing football. Sometimes when you get caught in the mix of the big program and the coaches in the Power 5, sometimes you lose sight of how much you didn’t really love this game. So, getting back to Duquesne and getting that love for the game again and just being able to freely play and showcase my talent that I feel like I have and I always had, honestly I’m living the dream.”
Carter’s 1.5-year-old son, Kane, has also had a significant impact on his life.
“Kane, he’s my everything. We do everything together,” he said. “It just kind of matured me to that next level that I really needed and probably should have been at when I went to Penn State.”
When asked if his path might have been different had he been a father earlier in his life, Carter said, “I’m not sure and I’m not one that things like that I definitely believe that everything happens for a reason.
“I just know that the way that it played out and where I was when I was at Penn State and where I am now, I feel like everything happens in perfect sequence. I just feel like it matured me at the right time, and I like where I’m at right now as a person and as a football player.”
This was updated to correct Carter’s 2018 statistics.
For more from Carter, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics