Mona Shield Payne/Special to the Sun
Monday, May 31, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Quinton Carter is living the dream.
He's a star player for one of college football's most storied programs and likely will be selected into the NFL next April.
However, the North Las Vegas native doesn't want to be defined solely by his performances on the gridiron.
Rather, the Cheyenne High graduate is equally proud of his work in the classroom and community.
Carter, a second-team all-Big 12 Conference safety for Oklahoma, is on track to graduate in December with a degree in sociology and a minor in nonprofit-organization studies. More importantly, the nonprofit foundation he formed two years ago is accomplishing one of its primary missions — helping others.
Carter's nonprofit, SOUL (Serving Others through Unity and Leadership), is hosting a free three-day football camp over Memorial Day weekend at Ed Fountain Park in West Las Vegas. Roughly 200 kids are in attendance, being taught some of the sport's basics by Carter, a handful of former teammates from Oklahoma and several local coaches.
Watching the children run through drills Saturday evening, Carter reminisced about his childhood as a youth player in Las Vegas. Ironically, his first game was at Ed Fountain, playing for a Pop Warner team coached by his dad and uncle.
"It was grass then," Carter said, pointing to the park's now-sport-turf surface. "I had a lot of great memories out here when I was a kid. We played sports 365 days a year. I would be on two teams at the same time, going from a basketball game to a football practice."
Despite a hectic schedule — he's preparing for his senior season with the Sooners, and final semester of school — Carter had no reservations about allocating the time needed to organize the camp. This is the event's second year.
"I didn't get to go to my first football camp until I was in high school," Carter said. "This is something the community needed."
Given his status as a star football player, it would have been easy for Carter to use his name in promoting the organization — the "Quinton Carter Foundation" instead of SOUL.
But that is not his style.
He said the nonprofit isn't about bringing attention to his good deeds. Instead, making the world a better place and helping to give children structure are his motives.
"Just to see him out there doing something like this blows me away," said Sondra Carter, his mother. "He's always been inspired by helping others. You could tell at an early age that he was (giving)."
Ryan Reynolds, a Bishop Gorman High graduate and Carter's teammate the last four years at Oklahoma, was one of the volunteers who helped at the camp. He said Carter's humble personality helps set him apart.
"He's a great leader on and off the field," Reynolds said. "He is out here doing something he is passionate about."
The camp was partially organized by Carter's family in Southern Nevada, with everyone from his parents to younger sister volunteering time.
"Everything you see from him is because he is a great human being," said Dannie Carter, Quinton's uncle. "He has just always had that gift."
Quinton Carter also has been gifted athletically.
A member of the Sun's all-decade high school football team, Carter was one of the area's top football and basketball players at Cheyenne. He's continued to shine at Oklahoma, recording 88 tackles and four interceptions last year.
He's been mentioned as a likely early-to-middle round selection in next year's draft.
"I try not to talk about the NFL, even though I'm thinking about it every day," Carter said. "It's such an exciting time. I look at each opportunity I've had in football as a blessing."
Regardless of what his playing career has in store, Carter knows his future will include continuing to work with his foundation. He plans on making the camp an annual event in Las Vegas.
The camp will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday at Ed Fountain Park. There will be a barbecue afterward.