Hey, where'd you go?

Kerry Carter - former Seattle Seahawks, Montreal Alouettes and Stanford RB/FB

January 13, 2021 Collin Kushner / Kerry Carter Season 1 Episode 2
Hey, where'd you go?
Kerry Carter - former Seattle Seahawks, Montreal Alouettes and Stanford RB/FB
Chapters
Hey, where'd you go?
Kerry Carter - former Seattle Seahawks, Montreal Alouettes and Stanford RB/FB
Jan 13, 2021 Season 1 Episode 2
Collin Kushner / Kerry Carter

After spending parts of his childhood in both Trinidad — and Toronto, Ontario, Kerry Carter left to play college football at Stanford University. But on October 28th, 2000 vs. the University of Washington, a dreary day in Palo Alto, two lives would change forever. In this episode, we talk about Kerry's childhood, his football career at Stanford University, how a freak accident changed his life and perspective, playing in the NFL/CFL, his current position as the Chief Operating Officer at Atavus, and so much more. Kerry's life has come full circle now — trying to inspire and instill hope one day at a time. 

Show Notes Transcript

After spending parts of his childhood in both Trinidad — and Toronto, Ontario, Kerry Carter left to play college football at Stanford University. But on October 28th, 2000 vs. the University of Washington, a dreary day in Palo Alto, two lives would change forever. In this episode, we talk about Kerry's childhood, his football career at Stanford University, how a freak accident changed his life and perspective, playing in the NFL/CFL, his current position as the Chief Operating Officer at Atavus, and so much more. Kerry's life has come full circle now — trying to inspire and instill hope one day at a time. 

Kerry Carter:

Honestly, I still can close my eyes and like, I still feel the hit. Like, I , I, you know, people ask me about that all the time and you know, it's like , Oh , did you go shoulder to shoulder helmet to helmet? I was like, Oh , I felt his ho I felt his helmet through my shoulder. Like I felt that hit. So that's, that's something that, you know, it was , you know, it sticks with you.

Collin Kushner:

Welcome to the "Hey, where'd you go?" Podcast... I'm Collin Kushner. The goal of my podcast is to catch up with former high school collegiate and professional athletes showcasing what they're doing today. This week's guest played college football at Stanford. He also played in the national football league, the Canadian football league. And now he's the chief operating officer over at activists , uh , tackling analytics, education and consulting firm based in Seattle, Washington, please welcome Mr. Kerry Carter. Kerry, first off, how are you? My friend, how's life up in Seattle.

Kerry Carter:

I'm doing well, man. You know, it's , uh, it can't say it's too, too sunny today, but you know, my FISCA no complaints, man. All things considered, you know,

Collin Kushner:

Ever sunny in Seattle. It's always sunny in Seattle. That's a new show, right?

Kerry Carter:

We'd like to tell people that it's not sunny here all that much as we want to keep the population down, you know, we've been having all these folks come up here from the Bay and , and, you know, increasing our housing prices and stuff. So for the general public, yes, it's, it's always raining here.

Collin Kushner:

I appreciate you taking the time to , to chat with me and Kerry, I want to start from the very beginning you were born in Trinidad. What was life like over there?

Kerry Carter:

I grew up with my mom, dad , um, my , uh, in a house that my grandfather had built. So, you know, up top, my, my grandfather, grandmother , um, aunts and uncles lived up top and there were two kind of apartments downstairs myself. My mom and my dad lived in one and my, you know, her sister and her husband and son lived in the other. And yeah, I mean, growing up in TryNet is, was great. You know, I had , uh , you know, being around so much family , um, a lot of love. Um, just remember I just have great memories of just playing outside with friends and family and, you know, dancing and playing everything from cricket to soccer. The sports was always big for us growing up. Um, but those dancing. So, you know , I think that helped a little bit with my , uh , my foot work. And later on in life,

Collin Kushner:

How does being born in Trinidad, right? Spending part of your childhood there? How does American football factor into that

Kerry Carter:

Early on in my life? I don't even think I saw a football game, maybe, maybe one or two where I was like, why do they keep running into each other ? It's run around it. It wasn't until I moved to Toronto. Um, I was about 10 years old and when we moved up to Toronto, then a couple of years later , um , I got into football actually, you know, of course you go to Canada, you're gonna, you're gonna play a little hockey. So, you know , started playing some hockey and other things. But once I found football, probably in around six or seventh grade was the first time I started playing. Um, and it was mostly because my , my little brother wanted to play because his friends were playing and my mom was like, well, well, he's not going to go by himself. So you better go and sign up to . And so we went and signed up for this league called the North York bandits. And I was, yeah, that was, that was kinda the start of it. And , um , where my, my obsession and, you know, the passion and everything kind of grew from there.

Collin Kushner:

It's crazy to think, carry that your passion for football happened to be in Ontario, right? Cause like you just said, hockey reign Supreme. I remember I was there with my brother. It was during bowl season. And you know , we want to find out what happened in the Clemson game, what happened in this game? And you want to know what they led with regular season hockey and as a hockey fan, I love it. But I find that extremely fascinating. When did you know that football was , was going to be your main sport?

Kerry Carter:

Honestly, it didn't come till later on in my high school career, my math teacher, my English teacher were both coaching football. And at first I didn't play in high school cause I was playing in my , my like summer league and they actually didn't want us to play both. And um, you know, but he kept asking me about it and said, man, just come out to one practice. Right . Just come out to a practice, you know, see how it goes. And so as a freshman I went out there , uh, went out to practice , um, you know, got the ball around a couple of people over and then I had to leave. Cause I had to pick up, I have two younger brothers and they had to go pick up one of them from daycare. So I was like, coach, I, you know, I got to go. It's like, all right, man. I mean, are you going to come back though? And I was like, yeah, you know, yeah. I'll talk to my mom and see if we can work something out. Um, then ended up coming back and , and really enjoying it and, and having a lot of success specifically in, in high school. Yeah. So that was my freshman year. And then my sophomore year, we ended up going to our equivalent of a state championship , um , and winning. And so that, that I think is what kind of sparked everything for me, just seeing the success I was able to have early on in my career. And, and um, you know, even though I was still involved and loved playing other sports football was the one that had, I had the biggest upside Kerry

Collin Kushner:

A recruiting process, like coming out of high school in Canada. What was that like? Were you receiving offers from Canadian institutions as well? Strictly from the , from the ,

Kerry Carter:

In Canada, you got to do a little bit more to get, get some more exposure. And so , um, I actually wrote a letter to about a hundred schools in the U S and you know, that's a little date myself, but you know, send all these letters out and then they, you know , uh, and then I sent out the highlight tape, right. So send a highlight tapes and then they would write you back or contact you to get more information, more tape, you know, invite you to camps and things like that. But it was initially because of that initial outreach that I think what sparked it. Um, and, and them seeing the , uh, the highlight tapes and things like that. I got my first offer or first, you know, kind of call and talk from North. And , um, but you know, as when I started talking to them, they asked me like, how many, you know, have you gotten in touch with schools? And I was like, well, not yet. And they saw my film . He as like, Oh yeah, you're not gonna , you're not going to come. You're not going to come here. And I was like, Whoa, what , what do you mean? Why wouldn't, I mean, you guys were the first ones to give me an offer and he's like, yeah, once the other schools see you, you're not going to come in here and you'll get every offer. You need

Collin Kushner:

North Texas telling you this. Yeah . That's not a great recruiting scat , uh , strategy.

Kerry Carter:

It was interesting to me once people see you you'll start getting offers and that's kind of how it went, ended up going to Ohio state and Michigan state, Michigan, Wisconsin, and then Stanford was my last visit. Um, but yeah, I've almost, I made that trip out to Palo Alto made it, made it tough, you know, being an Island boy loving the sunshine. It was, it was , uh , kind of refreshing to be out there and like December and it's, it's sunny and they take you down the two 80 and drive you a Palm drive and they make it hard. It's hard to say, no,

Collin Kushner:

Can't blame you, Kerry. Like you said, I mean, you get that sunshine. I mean, it's so beautiful too , on the peninsula. And again, you go from Trinidad, then you go all the way at Ontario, which I'm sure you're like, Hey mom and dad, where are we going? And what are we doing? Um, and then you made the call to go to Stanford for obviously for football and a fantastic education at the same time. What was that Stanford experience like initially

Kerry Carter:

Moving across the country to go to college away from, you know , all your friends and family and stuff. It's, it's a difficult thing to do. But I think I was, I was also very focused on the opportunity and you know exactly what you said, Stanford and the ability to attend Stanford. Wasn't about a four year decision. It's a 40 year decision. When I was on my recruiting trip, I would always ask the same questions to the players and ask them about what they want to do after football or what they want to do once they finish college. And, you know, a lot of those schools, it was, you know, I want play in the league and I love that. And that's what I want to , but hardly ever did. It was only at Stanford where , where , where , when I asked that question, they would tell me, well, you know, all I'm majoring in electrical engineering and this is what I want to do. And yeah, if I get a chance to play in the NFL, it'd be awesome. So they kind of the order of that matter to me in a sense, like I knew I'd go out, I know I play a great ball and get an opportunity there, but you know that at some point that ends in, in , you're going to have to rely on all the other things that you, you, you know, you've done in your education and background and things. So that kind of made it a , uh , an easy decision for me. I still have great fond memories of being on the farm and, and having a lot of success early in Stanford was, you know, Rose bowl my freshman year and then kind of a down sophomore year. And then I think we went to the Seattle bowl, my , um , junior year and then kind of down my, my , um, senior year. So it had been kind of up down October

Collin Kushner:

28 , 2000 university of Washington came to Palo Alto to play you guys, you know, one of those rainy, dreary Bay area days as you and I both know though they're cold and it's, it's, it's not the best scenario. What, what do you remember the most about that day in particular?

Kerry Carter:

Hmm . Yeah, that's obviously that's a memorable one for me. Um, I would say, you know, it was , uh , it was the, so that was my sophomore year. The first time Washington came down there. Um, oddly enough, I think I, we went up to Washington my freshman year and I got hurt in that game. So I was really looking forward to playing them. Cause I think that was the only game that I missed. Um, and then, yeah, it was just, it was just one of those kind of cold rainy days. And we knew we were in for battle, we're playing against Marcus to Assa SoPo and , and you know, this kinda , really vaunted team that had a ton of success over the last few years. Um, but you know, I think that the, you know, that everything kind of came to a head that day for me coming through, I believe it was a second quarter running through, running through the line of scrimmage. Um, you know, took her, took her hand off and went through the line, kinda broke a tackle. And then the safety came up and put my shoulder down , um, you know, got tackled and went down to the ground and then got up and start walking back to the huddle. Then when I looked back, I noticed that, you know, the safety wasn't, you know, he didn't get up and then they were, you know, calling folks onto the field and, and, you know, didn't realize it at that time, but you know, what had happened, it kind of dropped his head as we're going into contact and, you know, lost all feeling, you know , in his arms and legs and, and end up being rushed to Stanford hospital where he was, you know, they said he was seen as paralyzed and Curtis Williams was his name number 25 for university of Washington. And I think, you know, in the heat of it, you don't realize how much it affects you. Cause you know , you got adrenaline you're still going. You don't know the extent of what's happened because he's just taken off the field. Um, but I think, you know , that moment for me was, was it was probably after the game. And then, you know, kind of hearing about what had happened and finding out where he'd been taken and, you know, all those things is where it really started to hit me. Like, you know, no one wants to be involved in something like that. But I thought about Curtis, I thought about his family and you know, this, this game of football that we all love and it's giving me this opportunity to be at one of the best institutions in the country. Um, also has a lot of risks, right. And , and that was, to me, one of the worst things that could happen to anyone involved in the game is to, you know , you know, lose your ability to first of all, play the game, but you know, how it affects your ability to just work and function and walk and all those things. So, you know, my heart went out to Curtis and his family. And I think at the time , um, you know, it was 19 years old and, and my coaches coach Tyrone Willingham and all the coaches wanted to do a good job of protecting me, you know, so they kind of shielded me from everything. They didn't allow me to go visit them in a hospital or contact his family. Um, which, like I said, at the time, I think was the right thing. You know, me still a kid. Um, but looking back on it, I wish I had the ability to do some of those things because it's just, it's, it's not in my personality to not address something like that. You know, that's, you know , such a, such a huge deal and affects someone in their family and their livelihood so negatively. So it , as much as I remember that day and that feeling and like, honestly, I still can close my eyes and like, I still feel the hit. Like I, you know, people ask me about that all the time and you know, it's like, Oh, did you go shoulder to shoulder helmet to helmet? I was like, Oh, I felt his ho I felt his helmet through my shoulder. Like, I, I felt that hit. So that's, that's something that, you know, it was , you know, it sticks with you. And I think it was about , um, maybe about a year or so later, or not, probably not even a year where I was training. I was at a training facility and I remember , I remember I was warming up on the bike and I actually looked up and I saw on sports center that, you know , Curtis had passed away. Um, and I think that that's where a lot of the emotions really, you know, kinda came out. Um, so it was a really tough thing to hear and deal with. And I think it was compounded for me because I never really got to address it with him. I never really got to, you know , go check on, on him and see him or get to know him better just because of my involvement in that. Um, and it , it, wasn't something, you know, I didn't want to sit and blame myself and that's what everyone has kept pushing them . It's like, Hey, it's not your fault. You're just running the ball and you're just doing your job. And yeah, that's, that's the right response. That's the football response. But, you know , from a human perspective, I mean , it didn't matter. It was just, you know, I was involved in that and it affected somebody else's life and it was something that I wanted to address and deal with. It never really got to . So that, that's what I think made it , uh, the toughest thing for me and still sticks with me, you know, to this day,

Collin Kushner:

How do you not personalize something like that, Kerry, because again, like you said, there there's two sides. You have the football side and then you also, you have the human side. Um, so how do you, how do you kind of navigate those roads, especially, you know, as a, as a teenager, I think, I think that's, that's an awful lot to try and process, especially when you have two completely different sides.

Kerry Carter:

Yeah, no, I, I mean, I can't say that I didn't personalize it because it , it, me kind of, it made, it made me take a harder look at everything that I was doing. Right. I mean, obviously going to Stanford, I love that. I love, I love playing football, but it also made me look at well, is this, you know, what's, what's important about this game to me. And , um, I think it just made me take a long and hard look at myself and my, my kind of goal and my purpose, you know? Cause when you think about mortality and you think about, you know, what, what could be an end, you know, the legacy that you're leaving in this world and things like that, it's, that's all personal, right? That there's no amount of , of kind of deflection or protection could change that for me. So yeah, it became a very personal thing and something that a hell is kind of near and dear and I wanted to find a path in my life to , um, you know, I , I think my mantra became like inspire and instill hope, right? If I can do that too , in any situation, in any setting and with people that I meet and I can have a positive effect on every, you know, everyone that I interact with, then that's part of my contribution to this world and it's bigger than football. And I think that's where, you know, I think it was always bigger than football, like going to Stanford and all those things. But I think that experience even more so made me focus on, well, how am I gonna , how am I going to take this and use it for something positive in my life and turn it into something positive in my life because you know, Curtis won't have that ability to , and so I felt like it was my responsibility to take it and do something with it and not, you know, not let it, you know , just be another incident that happened that, that, you know, nothing good came out .

Collin Kushner:

I think that's a fantastic way to look at it. Right. You know , how to live a life with purpose. And, you know, I think don't get me wrong. You know, when, when you have success on the Gridiron, people will remember that, you know, but I think the , I think it's, it's middle of the pack, right there, there are higher and more impactful things that you can do with your life that, that people will, you know, I think my parents always used to say, you call on them . No one's ever going to remember your bank account. You know, no one's ever going to remember what's in your savings. They're going to remember, you know, the kind of person that you are and the things that you do to help others and to impact them , uh , in a positive way,

Kerry Carter:

People remember how you make them feel more than anything, you know? So that's why that this idea of like positively affecting other people in any situation, I've always been an optimist and probably even more so than most. Um, but I think that it's, it's, you know, you, you kind of owe it to yourself and you owe it to the world to live a life of meaning and purpose. And, and , you know, I think that's part of the reason why we're put here, you know, just from a spiritual, spiritual perspective, it's, we're put here to add some value to this world and to make it better in some way, shape or form and kind of our goal. And our mission is to figure out what that is, and then really go all in on it and make that your life's work. And some of us find it, you know, not everyone does. And some of us find it for shorter periods than others and some longer. Um, but I think that is the mission and the goal.

Collin Kushner:

If you had to send a message to a 19 year old Kerry Carter or not even just yourself, but you know, the youth today, maybe someone's in a similar situation as you were in back in 2000, what advice would you give them?

Kerry Carter:

You know, one of the things that, that I think we take for granted is our platform, right? We all have a platform nowadays. Like that's one of the benefits in my mind of having this connectivity and, you know, social media and being able to connect with people around the world. We've been given this gift of a platform and it's , it's really about what you do with that. It's how you utilize the platform to further your, your, your goal, your mission , um, you know, the things you want to accomplish in life and your vision of success. Um, but I think a lot of people, they look at it, you know, in a way that's somewhat skewed, right? Like if you don't have a huge audience, then you can't really have an effect. If you're not, you know, the rock with hundreds of millions of followers, they are , what can you do? But, you know, you think about any action that happens. It starts with like you yourself and the people closest to you and the people right around them. And so I think we all have this like propensity to affect change more than we realize just by using a platform that we have. And that may be your audience on Twitter or Instagram, but it also just may be, you know, your , your book club, it may be, you know, the Facebook group that you're involved in, that's really around your , your neighborhood in your community, maybe your church. So I think in just finding what that platform is for you and utilizing it to its fullest effect. And if that platform just so happens to be, you know, football, you know, don't lose sight of that, right. You know, you're building the platform, it starts with the foundation. If , if one of those foundations is football or basketball or volleyball or whatever it is, focus on that and be the best at that, because it will afford you so many opportunities in other areas. And that, that for me, is what football has done. It's given me a platform to do all these other, you know, awesome things in , in life and experience all these other great things. So that's , that's probably the advice I would give for anyone, you know , at that time is use what you have and use it to the best of your ability, because it's a gift and, you know, positive or negative, it's really about what you do with it and how that can affect positive change in this world.

Collin Kushner:

Very well said. And you touched on such a poignant point in my, from my perspective that it doesn't matter if you have 500 million followers to followers, you know, if you can impact, change and help at least one person, or, you know, my mantra is if I can make one person laugh, you know, each day, then, then I've done my job and, you know, friends and family and, and other outside sources are just like one person, you know, that's a really low, and I was like, at the end of the day, like if you could do it for one person and maybe they'll light up and then maybe they see three people, cause they're feeling good. And then it just kind of spreads that way. I'm a big, big advocate of that. And I could see that, that you are as well, which is, which is fantastic. After Stanford, you went off to the national football league, you signed with the Seattle Seahawks and you played with Sean Alexander . What was that moment like for you when you knew you're finally making it to the pros?

Kerry Carter:

There's no one that goes into the drafters thinking I'm just going to go in and be a free agent and everyone wants to be drafted and hear their name called. And, you know, I wasn't fortunate enough to have that happen under the circumstances, but I felt like I got into a good situation with , uh, with the Seahawks because , um, you know, I met, I met with them at the combine and, you know, their , I think their GM at the time was probably one of the only ones that, you know, said, Hey, we're, we're, you know , really like, you really like what you do, all those things. And so , um, it gave me a little bit of confidence and, you know, talking to some of my coaches in college, they run, they ran a similar offense. So ran West coast offense with the same verbiage, which for me like it , it gives me a real advantage going in there and knowing what, you know, 22 protection is or red formation, you know, these things that you'd normally have to go in and learn a complete offense. Now I go in and I'm already ahead of the curve, so I can just go in and play. And so I didn't, there was no guarantee for me. I came in as an undrafted free agent on a team that had, you know, one of the best running backs in the league future, you know , league MVP. And they've always had, you know , you know, just, they just drafted a running back in the second round that year before Maurice Morris from Oregon. Um, so, you know, there wasn't, I didn't have any pressure for me. It was just, I can just go out and play. And I just, you know, coming off of everything that had happened with, with Curtis and then, you know, we had a really tough senior year. I think we won like two games my senior year. Um, so it was almost just a refreshing change for me to just be, you know, in the NFL and to have this experience. But it was, it was, it was challenging. It was fun, all of the above. Um, and then I had great guys to work with, like, you know, like Sean Alexander , max strong who's who's , uh, uh, you know, I'm a big fan of Mac . He kind of took me under his wing and taught me how to be a pro and you know, how to conduct myself around the locker room. And, and, and I think that all those things were, you know , even more memorable for me.

Collin Kushner:

You signed with Seattle, you were there for a couple seasons, then you tagged on with Washington. Uh , unfortunately you suffered a torn ACL, which, which kind of shortened up your, your stay there. At what point did you pivot to the CFL?

Kerry Carter:

I knew that the Alawites Montreal had drafted me the year previously and had my rights. I started thinking about the prospects of either, okay, well, do I sit out and wait for training camp and see if, okay, I get an opportunity then, but then I also had to make sure I was, you know , a hundred percent ready to go. And I just wasn't confident that I wouldn't be because I had to come back to Seattle and just do all the rehab and training and stuff on my own. So I waited until training camp started to see like, okay, after a week or two, am I getting any calls? And, you know, nothing was nothing of note was really coming through. So I gave my agent to go ahead and I was like, yeah, man, I, you know, I'll try it, I'll go up there for a year, you know, do my thing. And then just come right back to LA to the NFL, but then it didn't quite work out that way. Honestly, the first year was, was, you know, a little bit hesitant, just coming back, we're going to embrace all those things. And I think the team as well was going through some, some changes put going into the next year they brought on , um, Mark Trestman and, you know, we, I remember we flew out to, I want to say like Vegas or Utah or something, somewhere out there to have some meetings and meet him and , uh, and all the things. And he came in and his , you know, he's a , he's a lawyer by trade and , um, kinda real, really cerebral guy. So, you know, started talking about things in terms of like, okay, how are we going to carry ourselves in your , your demeanor, walking into me, like all things that like I really connected with. And I think a lot of other guys did too. And that's probably the moment that like, kinda S shifted for me. It's like, you know, I , I think I want to stay, stay here and do a little bit more and learn a little bit more and see, you know, get more tape as well. Right. I didn't feel like I had a lot of tape a year before. Um, and so that's, that's where, you know, everything kind of shifted and I really enjoyed that TFL experience. And then we went on to do a lot of great things over the next five years with , with coach stress , men going to three great cups in a row, winning two of them and winning that back to back. And, you know, he, the things that he did there, weren't just about like us as players, but it was about us as men and as fathers, all these things. And I think I just reacted really well to that and gravitated towards it. And so never ended up making it back to the league, but didn't regret it at all either because I enjoyed my CFO experience so much.

Collin Kushner:

Once your career concluded in the CFL, was there a little bit of a period, like a limbo period, so to speak, or did you know the entire time, the direction that you wanted to go post football?

Kerry Carter:

I wish I did honestly, but one of the reasons that I really liked the structure of the CFL is because I've always been an entrepreneur. I've always been kinda wanting to find new and different ways to connect and looking for different avenues. And so what it allowed me to do, because we were essentially on for six months and then you're off, it , doesn't have the same schedule as the NFL where you have to be there for workouts and, you know, mini camps and train camps and all those things. So I had all this time. And so I did everything from like financial services and insurance. And , um, my , my buddy Corey wire works at CNN , um, started a clothing line. And so I was like, man, I'd love to learn about that. So I like jumped on board there. So I just did all these things to kind of figure out what I liked and what I would gravitate towards and actually the last like year and a half or so that I , um, I was playing up there. I started doing a lot more , um, focused work. And when I came back to Seattle in the off season, I connected with , uh , an old teammate of mine, jota FOYA . And we, you know, he was working in a tech space around mobile, and I was really interested in that space. So he just allowed me to come up , come on and tag, along to meetings and conference calls and all those things. And I, I really found something that I like there, you know, in that space. And it's kind of this, you know, we talked about this intersection of sports and technology and, you know , how do we leverage the things that we have in our, our own audience and our platform, kind of things I was talking about before, how do you leverage those things while you're playing so that you can take advantage of them when you're finished playing? And so that's kind of where the spark started. And so coming out of football, I actually left a year early because I had another year of my contract because we had really gotten into this, this business and we started something and we had some good momentum going. So it was more out of the fact that I kind of prepped for it in a sense. And part of that reason was when I tore my ACL and it was kind of sitting in the hospital bed and thinking about like, man, yeah. So football, like if I wasn't able to get back from this injury, what's, what's next. I didn't have anything at that time, but you know , there's nothing that I can specifically think of that I could do. And, you know, my major at Stanford was , uh , medical anthropology. So wanting to be a doctor and, you know, you couldn't just turn and do that. So I'd have to, there'd be a lot of, you know, a lot of steps there. So I , I, I think it just gave me, it sped up my timetable a little bit to figure things out. Um, and so it made my transition a lot smoother because it was almost a forced transition in a sense,

Collin Kushner:

How important is it to kind of have four sites so to speak, you know? Cause like you said, when you were recovering from the torn ACL, the wheels started churning, how important is it for athletes in general? Just, just everyone to kind of get those wheels turning early on that way. Maybe it is a smoother transition.

Kerry Carter:

Oh, absolutely. You know, I say that, but I say with a caveat too, because I understand that to be at the highest level and to be at the best and all those things, you know, specifically in sports, like it's almost this, you know, you have to believe that you're invincible, right? You have to believe that you're the best. Like no one can beat you that, you know, you know that this is everything and you have to pour your heart and soul and everything into it and your training and your sleep and your, you know, all of these things. And I don't think I want to discount any of that, but we know so much now about the length of careers and what happens to guys and the kind of the trajectory of things and the trends that it's, you have prepare for life after football. Because even if you have a great career, you played 10 plus years, you know, you finished league year 30, one 32, so have a lot of life ahead of you, right. A lot of life left to live. So you want to make sure that, you know, while you're playing and while you have the platform, you start to kind of venture off and look at different things nowadays because of the pace of development and the rate at which you can start a business , um, it gives you more opportunity to explore.

Speaker 3:

So Kerry, you're now the chief operating officer at, out of this , which is a tackling analytics education and consulting firm, this kind of segues perfectly from your playing career.

Kerry Carter:

Yeah. You know, it's, it's interesting. Right. I think , um, finding something that kind of works, you know, in such a way that it kind of connects a lot of things in your life, you know, so for me, you know , I think of all the things that we talked about, right. We talked about, you know, my time, you know, learning about this, this idea of technology and mobile and things like that. And a lot of things that I did , um, during that time with, with some of my , um, partners was around marketing and kind of branding and things like that events. Um, and honestly the experience with , with Curtis, you know, something like that, that so profoundly affected my life. I've always looked for a way to kind of give back and connect specifically, you know, due to that experience, you know, I never even thought about this idea of, well, you should tackle differently. You know , if we're having all these concussions and things with the head, then, you know, we should take the head out of the game. But I think the, what the advent of the helmet has done , um, it's kind of given us a false sense of security in a sense like when, when you have better pads and protections, you know, the guys tend to kind of use, use themselves as projectiles and , and not put so much care into how they're hitting, right. And how they're approaching a tackle. And so when I heard about what they're doing anonymous , I actually heard about it about maybe 2015. I knew , um, a friend of mine was their PR director. And so he told me about the company, but it was still a rugby company at the time. And so he's telling me about the rugby side and then told me about when they got into football a little bit , um, and started doing some stuff with the Seahawks around his hock tackle. And it wasn't until I actually went in there, one of their investor events, and I kind of heard about what they were doing and how they approached it from both a science and a kind of art perspective. So they, you know, they looked at what they did in rugby and looked at how frequently people were tackling and how frequently they're , you know , making head contact. And, you know, when you thought about how many tackles are rugby players making a game versus a football player where on average rugby, you know, they're making 20 plus tackles a game on a regular basis. And if Bobby Wagner was making 20 plus tackles a game, I mean, he's , he's already all pro he's already all world, but you know, they're writing about it in the papers every day . And so just learning that and they had this approach and it was a little bit different and, you know , obviously it connected me back to what happened with Curtis. And I always think back to that situation, well, what could have changed that, right? Like it's a piece of equipment. No. Was it a wearable of some kind? No. I mean, what do the rules maybe, but

Speaker 3:

In the end it came down to technique. The only thing

Kerry Carter:

I feel like could have changed that situation is, you know, Curtis's head not being involved in the tackle. And so that, that, you know, that instantly clicked for me. It's like, Oh, I have the ability now to affect another, you know , kind of group of people, young people specifically, because this is about teaching proper tackling technique from, you know , to kids all the way from youth all the way up to the NFL. Um, but obviously the majority of the players are in youth in high school. And so when I thought about that and, you know , having the ability to work with a company like that and actually affect something positive around the game, everyone knew about, you know , the concussion movie and everything that come out with the NFL. So it, it just seemed like kind of a, a natural thing for me. And at the time they didn't have a role. It wasn't like I went in there and I applied for this role or anything. It was just, we just had a really good connection. And the more I talked to them, you know, the more I wanted to learn and the more they got interested in me. And so initially went in doing some kind of business development stuff, but that quickly escalated and grew into the role that I'm in now, you know, where I kind of work in , uh , within our department. But, you know , I work with every team in the company. You know , one of the biggest things we've accomplished to date is being the exclusive, you know , tackling certification provider for the state of Texas. And that's over 20,000 plus coaches now that have to go through our certification program. And then you think about the effect that, that has on the, you know, 50 plus kids that are on each of those teams. Right. That, that to me is okay, using your platform for something that is meaningful and connects you back. And so it kind of came full circle for me, you know, wanting to find a way to connect to what happened with Curtis, but also, you know , do something that was passionate about what the game of football and something that I'd become, you know, learn to love or around technology and analytics. And so it was just kind of the perfect combination of things and then turned into this great role you're looking to affect , you know , more coaches lives positively in terms of how they can teach this because parents are worried about it and fans are worried about it. Um, but I know what the game was football has done for my life. And if I can, you know, just like you said, if you can make one, one person laugh a day, if I can help one kid not make that decision, you know, and go in there with the right approach and keeping the head out of it and you reducing their risk of injury, then, I mean , that's, that for me is , is everything

Collin Kushner:

As a 19 year old, back in 2000 , uh, after the incident with Curtis Williams, did you ever think that it would come full circle, you know, years later were where you get to, to, to impact change, make the game safer and , and, and teach, you know, anyone from, from a youth all the way up to an adult,

Kerry Carter:

Not so directly. You know, I always hope that, you know , I would have the ability to do something that was impactful and can affect that change. But, you know, I didn't see it coming in such a direct way in terms of like talking about tackling specifically, you know, and talking about keeping the head out of it and, you know, the safety and in all that of the game. So now I've always had hopes for it, but I think this was kind of a , you know, kind of in a way destined, you know, kind of fate in my mind, I do believe in that. Um, and so you've , you've you get these opportunities presented to you, it's up to you, what you want to do with them. And I think I really kind of just took this one and ran with it. This was my first foray into kind of the startup world , um, that it wasn't like funding myself and things like that. And so it made it that much more special and unique because it was, I was just passionate about it. And then it didn't feel like work. It just felt like this is like a mission right here . It's our mission to, you know, help as many of these kids as possible. And you know, how parents see the value in , in the game of football to me is the ultimate team game and can teach you so much about life. And it's prepared me for everything that I'm doing now. You know, even if it wasn't, you know , football related, I think being in the business world , um, having a football background has given me, prepared me tremendously for that,

Collin Kushner:

Kerry we all know football is such a physical sport. I mean, how do you make it safer? I really do. You know, aside from the technical aspect of it, I really do love the , the analytics side. Um, how did, how did, how does analytics kind of play into , to making the game safer?

Kerry Carter:

And you look at tackling, we've had kind of this antiquated view of it where it's at either you made it or you missed it. Right. But we haven't really looked into a lot of the data around, well, what, what do good tacklers do that? You know, people that aren't great tacklers do. And we started to look at, you know, the amount of time that their head was involved in contact. That's an obvious one, right? So, cause that puts you at risk for not just concussions, but you know, also other soft tissue injuries like neck injuries and stingers and things like that. Um, but then we start to look at, you know , um, which shoulder you were using or how much shoulder contact you had and what that did to, you know, the yards after contact. So you have to, you know, what we did and what I think is very smart is you have to connect it back to performance because when you're talking to football coaches, yeah , there's a way to go out there and be safe and not hit anybody, but then you won't have a chance of winning the game. But if you look at what, you know, teams that tackled really well aloud , you know, got off the field, you know, allowed , um , really , uh , low yards after contact, what they did well is they tackled with their shoulder. They used our shoulder high percentage of the time. And what that did is that allowed them to have more body on body contact. They went in with intention. So they knew not just, you know, where they were going to hit them, but they were thinking about what they're going to hit them with. And they drilled these things in practice so that it became, you know, it became a natural thing and it became a reaction in the game. And so we just broke it, broke it down into these phases so that you can understand it as a coach and, you know, be able to break it down and teach it to your athletes so that they understand what they do really well, where they struggle and how they can get better. And if you know those three things as an athlete, I think you can have success. And we just took that approach and applied it to tackling an area of the game that we feel like wasn't highly, you know, analyzed. And we found trends. We found a lot of trends in terms of what teams that had a lot of success did well and where they struggled. And then we start to look at availability. So if you're tackling the right way and you're putting yourself in, and you're not putting yourself in situations where you're risking, you know, neck injuries and shoulder injuries and things like that, then you're available more. And so we start to look at all the data around it to kind of prove our point. And we found, you know, the teams that are , are doing it this way are reducing the amount of head times their head is involved in contact. Their shoulder contact percentages are really high, you know, 50% of the time they're going to the contact and using their shoulder. And that's resulting in performance improvements.

Collin Kushner:

How are you guys getting that data? Because you know, when you're dealing with youth all the way up to the pros, I feel like, you know, if you're dealing with a franchise, let's just say the Detroit lions, right. I feel like getting that, getting that data is probably much easier as opposed to when you're dealing with maybe like a youth program, you know, just outside Seattle or something like that,

Kerry Carter:

It's still highly manual. Um, you know, we're, we have analysts that watch film, what we've done is we've put a process in place to help them get through that a lot faster, you know? So, you know, we've broken it up into kind of pre contact and contact. And then in each phase there's like specific things that they're looking for. So once they bite on a play, you've identified all the tackles that are involved or that they made it or missed it. Now we're going to look at, okay, what did they do? Pre-contact so everything leading up to contact, how did they avoid a blocker? Did they go through it, that it go around it? You know, once they got, you know, within five yards of the ball carrier, we're looking at their foot work , their angle, their leverage, all these things. And then once they get into contact, they're going to look at, you know, shoulder, shoulder placement, head placement, whether their timing is good. So we call it strike timing. That's like, when you get your foot down in the ground and your shoulder, and you're making contact with, you know, good hip leverage, and these are easy things to see once, you know what you're looking for and you tend to see them over and over again, when you go down to like youth where it's more about , um, just coaching the coaches, right? It's not so much about the data it's about, okay, here are the things you need to on in practice because that's when you're building those skills. And , and now if you're practicing the right things and you're evaluating it the right way in practice, then when you see it in the game, it shows up differently. And it's easy for a coach to see. So we don't do as much. We don't do like that detailed analytics work for youth team. You know, we'll do it in some shape or form for high schools as well, not as detailed as we would for college and not as detailed as we would for pro. So we've kind of scaled it, you know , um, over that spectrum. And that's, that's happened over the last few years where initially when I came on board, we had kind of a one size fits all model and it was kind of everything, you know, they got all the data and , um , but then we realized that it wasn't, first of all, it's not scalable that way. Um, and not all the high school teams, youth teams and whatnot will use that data. They don't have the capability capacity, you know, to, to put that into play. And a lot of the, the issues that we're seeing were kind of repeated at that level. So it made it a little bit easier to say, Hey, let's work on these core things for this, these youth groups. And if we see a trend it's either pre-contact or contact, and then we will , we'll tell you what to work on.

Collin Kushner:

Kerry, if you're dealing though with let's just say an old school coach, right? Old school mentality, Hey, Hey buddy, lead with lead with the head. How do you kind of, how do you talk them out of it? I mean, do you, do you personally go in there and you kind of go off of your experiences as a player? Or, or how do you kind of take that old school mindset and be like, listen, like we have the analytics, we have the technique, this is what you have to do

Kerry Carter:

When we are able to go in and we talk to the coaches about, okay, well, if you're going to tell a player to do something, you have to have a reason. Right. So if you tell them, use your head, so is your head being used for power or for control, right? That's, that's the question that we posed to them and it's, well, maybe it's power. Okay. Well, what, what aspect of that is used for power? Like, because all the research shows that your head is the most easily manipulated thing. And because of that, and because of the fact that you're usually not ready for contact, that's what causes concussions, right? Cause you're , you're getting hit in different places and you're not prepared for it. It's the anticipation. So when we started to one of the easiest ways to show this is to watch, watch a couple of games with their film, and then we can show them the data. And we can also show them data from a bunch of our previous clients, look at the performance when the head is involved in contact and look at the performance when the head is not involved, look at the performance when they're using their shoulder in contact. And when they're not right when they're making arm tackles, and whenever it gets to a certain point where like, okay, you know, we're all, this is shoulder. If they're getting body and body contact, all of the stats are in your favor. You know, they're getting them down faster, allowing less yard doctor contact or head isn't isn't involved in it. And they're available more when you start doing some of the other things in , in arm tackling and projectile, you know, throwing themselves in and not being, you know, actually going in with a plan. You see that in the data. So I think it's just showing the coaches that, you know, what you're , what you're doing in practice has to show up on the field. And if that's not happening, you have to understand why. And so we break that down and we show them what's happening in the game. And then we actually show them, here's what you need to do in practice. And here's the things you need to work on all the way down to the drills. But if you have two guys that made nine out of 10 tackles who performed better, well, now we're going to have to look deeper. How many yards after contact at that , that first person that , you know, how many, how many times was their head involved in contact? Was there any injuries as a result of tackling? So we give them that information to help them see them so that they can really articulate it too to their players and articulate the value. Um, and then the value becomes really clear when you start thinking about, you know, well, did we actually, did he actually performed better because he used his head .

Collin Kushner:

It's amazing. Right? Because when you, when you give them all that information that you just conveyed to me, I mean, think about that. It's hard to refute. Okay, great. Like we're losing these ball games, maybe let's say by a field goal, you provide them all this data. So I feel like, you know, if you're that coach, I feel like you have no choice. I mean, I should say everyone has a choice, but I feel like you have no choice, but to be like, okay, we got , we have to go. I mean, you have to go up the analytics, which is why I find it so interesting. Um, how, how analytics are used in sports today. I mean, it's, it blows my mind on a daily basis,

Kerry Carter:

Just go off of gut instinct and feel. And I think the analytics is just a way to kind of check against that in a sense, right? Like, you know , um , um, you know, making this call because I believe this is going to happen. It's like, okay. Yeah, I believe this is going to happen. But I also looked at the data and know that on third downs, they run this play to the left side and , you know, 32% of the time, because that's where their pro bowl tackle is. So you're there , they're using data right now to make decisions. We're just giving it to them in a different format in a way that's like easily consumable so that they can make those decisions, not just that game time, but in their preparation as well.

Collin Kushner:

Kerry, from your perspective, what does the game of football look like? Let's call it 15 years from now.

Kerry Carter:

I hope it looks, you know , similar to what it is now. Um, in terms of, you know, the people like the strategy, the competitiveness, the athleticism, and all those things, you know, the big hits are a part of it, but I think there's ways to, you know, as we, as we're seeing now, right. There's ways to do that without it ending up in injuries specifically, you know, concussions and things of that nature. So I hope that the game is, is, you know, being played at the highest level , um, or they're protecting themselves by just doing them, doing the things that you know, are, are beneficial and are actually gonna add to the value of what you're , what you're coaching. I think more about when people introduce young athletes to tackle. I think that's where we'll see some of that, you know , maybe get shifted in terms of winter are gonna allow teams to allow kids to play tackle football. I think some of that legislation is being considered around the country in different States. So I don't know if it's absolutely necessary to have your child in tackle football from the time they're , you know, they can walk and run. Um, can they learn some of the things without being in tactical ? Absolutely. But it has to be taught, right. It has to be taught well, you know, and, and you have to prepare them for what's coming. And I think that there there's like an in between , right? There's a seven on seven orders . There's no contact. It's really just, you know, it's just a passing league and, and you can get into bad habits, but at the same time, if you understand what that transition looks like and what you're trying to accomplish with and move to tackle, then I think you treat seven on seven, a little differently, and you focus on, you know, the pre-contact elements and you help them focus on footwork and leverage and angle and, you know, block shedding and things like that. And you work on the elements of contact , um, differently, and you work on them, maybe using bags and things like that until they get to a point where they're comfortable enough with their bodies and they can control their bodies in a way that they can, you know, do the, you know, take their approach that they're being coached, you know, by anyone that's, that's take looking at this method and looking at like the rugby style, tackling a shoulder tackling, however you want to , however you want to turn it .

Collin Kushner:

What are your personal goals , um, over at, out of this and , and personal goals, just, just outside of work entirely.

Kerry Carter:

I think our goal at Atmos is to, you know, in a way make it the status quo. Right. I don't, I don't think about everyone wanting to shoulder tackler . I mean, it's just tackling, right. We're just teaching you the , the most efficient way to bring somebody down to the ground, you know, and we're looking at the numbers to do that. And so, you know, I want to be able to effect more change across the landscape. I think Texas has been a huge kind of stake in the ground for us. Um, you know, I started working with the state of Georgia and we, you know , got stuck with Indiana and Arkansas and all these other States. So I wanna , you know, continue to expand on that because I think the more we can make this kind of the accepted norm, you know, the better it would be. Um, so I think that the goal for of us is just that continuing to expand and effect more lives in a positive way and use some of these kind of partnerships and stuff to , to spread that message , um, you know, to, to that younger level. Cause that's where, that's where it has to happen.

Collin Kushner:

Kerry Carter really appreciate the time, my friend, a truly an amazing story and an inspiration, and really looking forward to sharing this with the world.

Kerry Carter:

I appreciate it, man. And yeah, thank you for having me on, I love what you're doing and highlighting, you know, we're, we're a lot of guys are , you spend so much time dedicating your life to this sport and to this game. And then when you walk away , um, I kind of feel like you lose a lot of that. So , um, I think what you're doing to help highlight that for a lot of guys will be appreciated and , and, you know, you know, showing them that they continue to have value no matter what Direction they decided to go after football. But I think it does need to be recognized. So I appreciate you recognizing that,

Collin Kushner:

Make sure to follow me for more incredible stories with former athletes. That's at Collin Kushner on all of your favorite social media platforms. Plus don't forget to subscribe on Apple podcasts, Spotify in a video version on YouTube.