Laker for a Lifetime: GVSU Football legend Brandon Carr talks Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination, Lit Buddies Boxes, lessons learned from Allendale

Kellen Voss, Sports Editor

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Courtesy / Baltimore Ravens

The pinnacle of all professional football is happening on Sunday in Super Bowl LIV, but even though the Baltimore Ravens will not be representing the AFC, one Raven and former Laker will be honored at NFL Honors the night before the Big Game.

Cornerback Brandon Carr has been nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. This is the third time in his professional career that he has been honored, as he represented the Ravens in 2018 after representing the Dallas Cowboys in 2015.

“It’s always an incredible honor,” Carr said. “To be mentioned with the other 32 nominees, each and every year, guys are really passionate about their cause and really passionate about what they do outside the lines, myself included. To know the legacy that goes with it, with the previous winners and the players that came before me who started this philanthropy off the field to give back to our committees. I’m always honored and grateful to be nominated with the rest of these guys.”

Carr started the Carr Cares Foundation in 2012, which focuses on helping kids to become well-rounded, with an equal focus on educational enrichment and physical fitness for youth.

While he is an active participant in health initiatives and the NFL’s Play 60 program, Carr’s main goal is to lead reading initiatives to promote the literacy of third and fourth graders.

He made that goal come to fruition in 2019 with the giving away of “Lit Buddies Boxes.” Short for “Literacy Buddies,” the lunchpale-sized boxes contain two books, a bookmark, pencils and a notebook. Additionally, Carr received the 2019 Inspiration Award from Pop Warner Little Scholars for his performance on the field and his commitment to bettering his community.

“It helps the kids stay with the times,” Carr said. “I have a lot of subscription services myself where I get (books). It provides and creates a personal library for the kids… Going around to all these different schools, I’ve found that kids oftentimes have libraries in their schools, but no libraries or ways to read at home. Growing up, I read a lot and it helped me a lot in the classroom and throughout life. Lit Buddies is just trying to create that same excitement for kids to want to read like I did.”

Courtesy: NFL.com/manoftheyear

Each box incentivizes kids to read, with little tokens providing motivation. If the Baltimore-area kids read enough, they can earn everything from additional bookmarks to life-size FatHead posters of their favorites Ravens players, all while learning to have fun with reading.

An avid fan of Malcolm Gladwell, Carr had books around the house all the time and learned the values of education from his late mother, who taught third grade for 33 years. He also has two aunts in Michigan who taught for over 40 years each.

“It’s all in my blood, as far as teaching young kids to love reading,” Carr said. “There are struggling readers everywhere, so we want to try to make reading fun for them.”

While Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers has won the award for the 2019-20 season, Carr and the other 30 nominees have been flown down to Miami to be honored for the work they have done in their respective communities.

“This year, United Way and the Boys and Girls Club will be sponsoring a community service day,” Carr said, which took place this past Friday. “My Super Bowl is my foundation. I haven’t had the opportunity to get one myself, but this has a much bigger impact, so I’m excited to go represent for the supporters of the foundation and all those behind the scenes who put in the work.”

A four-year standout who played a key role in GVSU’s national championships in 2005 and 2006, Carr said he still keeps up with his former Laker teammates, whether it be through text, social media or former teammates like linebacker Dan Skuta coming to his playoff games.

Carr has made a solid career for himself in the NFL, playing 12 seasons for the Ravens, Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs. He attributes lasting nine years longer than the average career of a professional career to the values instilled in him in his time in Allendale.

“I give Grand Valley a lot of a credit for the environment in our football program, environment on campus and in the classroom,” Carr said. “It was geared towards pushing you towards excellence. It said me up for the real world and set me up for competing. I’ve kept the DII chip on my shoulder my whole career, just trying to outwork people.”

Investing a lot of time with the GVSU tradition, Carr believes he embodies the phrase ‘Laker for a Lifetime,’ and was proud to come back this summer to see the new Hosford Football Center and see the same faces cheering in the stands.

When asked if he had any advice for current and future GVSU football players, Carr had a few messages: keep a positive mindset, stay well-balanced and most of all, Carpe Diem.

“I tell the all the young guys that it’s about balance, and finding a routine that works for you,” Carr said. “It’s a daily commitment, there’s going to be some dark days and some ugly moments, but within that, you got to remember your ‘why’ and embrace the grind… One of the reasons I’m here is I never let other people tell me what to, and that’s how I started over first-round draft picks from DI schools. I never took no for an answer. I always thought positive and knew that if I continued to work, I’d be ready for my opportunities and get things will happen.”