In part one of our interview with Carter (published on Friday), he discussed deciding to attend Florida, his immense success playing for the Gators, being a top-10 pick in the NFL Draft and winning a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent six years with St. Louis before being traded to the team that you beat in the Super Bowl, Tennessee, after three-straight seasons of at least 10 sacks. Was a change of scenery something you were looking forward to?
KEVIN CARTER: “I was looking forward to a change at that point. The year where we won the Super Bowl, we were at the Pro Bowl and I got a call from Coach [Dick] Vermeil and he was stepping down as the coach. There was a little bit of controversy over him leaving and the timing with Mike Martz taking over the head coach, and there was a little bit of pressure there. Looking back on it, I wish that it had been handled a little bit classier in a better way just for respect for Coach Vermeil. He walked in, in his opening press conference, and told us, ‘In three years, we’ll be world champs.’ And we were. Call it what you will, the man is wonderful and one of the best coaches I’ve ever had the honor and privilege of playing for. Things kind of changed at that point. The next year we lost in the first round of the playoffs and things were a little rocky with my status with the team. At the time I was going through contract negotiations, and I had played six years for the same team and kind of outplayed my contract. The team you’re on usually isn’t going to give you that kind of free agent money, love. I was thankful and glad to get out of there and get to Tennessee. Tennessee gave up a first-round pick to get me there. It was a match made in heaven. Coach [Jeff] Fisher was awesome. At that point I needed a change, wanted a change, and was grateful to go to Tennessee.”
AS: Let’s skip ahead a bit and talk about when you moved over to the Miami Dolphins for two years and got to play on a pretty dominant defense with guys like Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Vonnie Holliday, Junior Seau, Sam Madison, Keith Traylor and David Bowens. What was that experience like?
KC: “It was actually amazing. It was a great team; it was a great defense to be a part of. It was a lot of fun. We didn’t have, I guess, the balance and the tools offensively or the experience, but on defense… Our defense was, like you said, it was an all-star defense. It was so awesome. And we killed people. We had a great defense those couple of years that I was there. We didn’t have quite the balance [on offense]; Miami’s is forever trying to find another quarterback that can be half the man Dan Marino was…still an on-going search for a quarterback. It was a really cool experience. For me, I grew up in Tallahassee [and thought] the Dolphins had the sweetest uniforms. I was like, ‘Man, I can’t wait to wear all white.’ It was so cool. I had a great time just, as I look back in my football chronological history, being a part of the Miami Dolphins organization – such a historically great organization. Don Shula was and still is the man. I had an opportunity to meet him a couple times. It was cool paying down there. I wish timing had dictated differently the circumstances, especially getting our offense and from a head coaching standpoint. Nick Saban is probably one of the best college coaches to ever live. But in those two years, you know, he obviously decided to make the adjustment and go back to college and not make the adjustment to stay there in the NFL. Timing was bad.”
Read the rest of part two of our interview with Kevin Carter…after the break!
AS: During your time there you were coached by Will Muschamp, who was Saban’s defensive coordinator. Talk about him a little bit from your time in Miami as well as your thoughts on how he will do leading Florida as head coach.
KC: “I love his coaching style. I think people will speak to the amount of energy that he brings to the table. He’s a recruiter, he speaks well, and his energy is youthful – the players can relate to that kind of thing. I’m more excited about who Will Muschamp is from a process-oriented, very intelligent coach standpoint. I was really impressed with his overall football IQ. People who come from the school of Saban or [Bill] Belichick – when you start naming these coaches and their pedigrees – you really can tell a lot about their track record and what their basic coaching philosophy is made up of.
“Will Muschamp – in those two years – he impressed me just with how much he knew, his ability to assemble and put things together. I’m excited for what it means for the Gator Nation. I tell people, ‘It might take a year, it might take two, but no one is going to want to play the Gators in two years.’ We’re going to be a tough, hard-nosed, smart, purpose-driven, process-oriented bunch that is fundamentally sound [with] gap-integrity – the key things – [a] bend-but-don’t-break-type organization that is going to last for a long, long time. I’m excited.
“Coach Urban Meyer, what he was able to accomplish in the last six years is…sick, incredible. Two national championships in six years is pretty unheard of, unmatched. But when you lose coaches like Coach [Dan] Mullen and Coach Charlie Strong – when you lose quality coaches in your organization – it kind of weakens you and you have to replace them with another coach and get them up-to-speed philosophy-wise in what you want to do. Sometimes a little bit of communication kind of gets lost in translation. Whenever you bring a new coach into the mix, it changes the dynamic – whether it is good or bad. I’m not blaming the coaches or anything, but when you watch our defense, particularly our defense but our [whole] team last year, we just didn’t seem like our football IQ, basic fundamental football, was very high. Defensively, I mentioned gap integrity, we were getting beat with a lot of basic football. People weren’t overpowering us or running over us or through us as much as we just weren’t sound in what we were doing.
“I know that obviously given the chance, if Urban had stayed on, I’m sure that would have been fixed. Being that Will Muschamp is taking over, and the quality of coaches he’s surrounded himself with, I know his philosophy and I know that won’t be a problem.
“I know the defensive coordinator personally. Dan Quinn was my D-line coach down in Miami. Those guys are going to be so well-taught, so well-trained, and [this is] exactly what this Gator team needs. It is filled with talent and ability; it just needs direction.”
AS: I know Jason Taylor said that Quinn was the best defensive line coach he ever played under. Do you feel the same way?
KC: “The biggest compliment that I can pay to Dan Quinn is that he is probably better suited as a coordinator than D-line coach. He was so knowledgeable. The thing about D-line coaches, what makes a great D-line coach is all they want to do is coach D-line. For Dan Quinn, his knowledge far extended past just defensive line. He was so smart, knew how to basically coordinate, and that’s what I think he is better suited to do. He’s definitely one of the better coaches I’ve been around and have got the opportunity to play for. He’s really going to have a great opportunity to just be a great coordinator there under Muschamp for the Gators.”
AS: You spent your final few years in the league with Tampa Bay before hanging up the cleats. Knowing you still had the ability to play and had offers on the table after your time in Tampa, how tough was it for you to ultimately decide to retire?
KC: “As much as I loved the game, the one thing I never wanted to do was go out there and not have the same passion or fire. I thought I would be cheating myself or cheating the game if I went into it with half-hearted effort or intent. I always thought I would know when it is time for me to leave the game. I’ll know because I won’t have the same fire or same desire. After 14 years, I had offers. I took a visit to Carolina and one to New England. I had opportunities to play and make great money and do what I’ve always done – starting and everything – but I didn’t have the same passion anymore. For me, personally, that’s when you go out there and it’s not quite the same. You’re cheating the experience. I wasn’t going to do that. I walked away on my own terms. That’s what you want to do theoretically, but it didn’t make it any easier.”
AS: You never missed a NFL game due to injury or otherwise. How is that even possible as a defensive lineman, and how are you feeling now?
KC: “I feel great now. I came out of the game relatively unscathed long-term. I got a few nicks and bumps and bruises. I really can’t complain about how I feel. That was a big, determining factor as well. You want to be healthy, feel good and have a quality of life that allows you to go on and be a normal human being. I’m healthy as a horse.”
AS: Something that usually goes under the radar are the charitable efforts of players. You have been very active both with your own charity and in whatever community you’ve played in. It seems to have started back in high school for you but your foundation has been doing great work for the last decade, too. Where did that passion for helping others come from, and please talk a little bit about what the foundation does?
KC: “That kind of came from my parents, seeing my parents perform benevolent acts. Our church that I grew up in – we were always either feeding people or working at holiday time gathering gifts and delivering them to shelters. We were always doing something for somebody else. My parents were great examples of people who aren’t rich but really gave up themselves and gave up resources they had to help others. I felt very strongly about the obligation of people, especially if they are gifted with certain abilities or are given platforms in life to do well with. I feel strongly about that. Forming my foundation, my wife and I felt it was a way for us to really make a difference and make more of an impact. We started the Kevin Carter Foundation back in 2001 and there still are, I’m proud to say, events that bear the foundation name that are still running today even though I’m not playing anymore. It’s something that I feel strongly about and am very, very proud of.”
AS: And you also still provide the Kevin Carter Football Endowment at Florida. How did that come about?
KC: “My experience at the University of Florida was wonderful. It was one that helped me grow up and mature to the man that I am. It was a beloved experience for so many reasons. I think the college experience is awesome; they say it is the best time of your life anyway. In order to ensure that experience for the future, especially with the changes in the rules and how you can give scholarships and how things work… Title IX obviously affected things as far as the balance of male/female sports, which I think is a really good thing. Different things affect the life of the student-athlete, and I think it is a very valuable experience. To ensure that carries on, particularly at the University of Florida, is the reason I decided to make an endowment a long time ago and still keep it up today.”
AS: You also have something else going on now – a new job as a television analyst. What can fans can expect to see from you going forward?
KC: “I’m the newest member of the SEC Gridiron Live team. The show airs every Wednesday night on Fox Sports South, 10 p.m. live. We start August 31 and run until thought the first week of December, right until after the SEC Championship game. It’s kind of a dream come true for me for a lot of different reasons. I always pictured myself doing something in the broadcast field and thought it would be cool to do something on television. The fact that I get to be an analyst for a show that just focuses on Southeastern Conference football is pretty awesome. I’m retired from the game of football, so this kind of lets me continue to enjoy and re-live that experience of being an athlete in the SEC, being able to cover it.
“It just came about this year. I was looking for a job doing something SEC football-related or broadcasting-related and didn’t really know what I wanted to do. When this opportunity came along, it was really, really too good to pass up. I joked with Larry Vettel and Mick Hubert and Nat Moore and all those guys for years while I was playing, telling them, ‘Hey man, when I retire, I’m coming after your job. I’m coming to take your place.’ [Laughing] This was a great fit for me. It is a great, great show, and I’m really excited to be a member of that team.”
» OGGOA INTERVIEWS: DE Kevin Carter (Part I) | Delisha Milton-Jones | DL Joe Cohen | F Chandler Parsons | C Marreese Speights | LB Mike Peterson | PG Taurean Green | QB Tim Tebow | QB Danny Wuerffel | ESPN’s Erin Andrews | ESPN’s Erin Andrews II | DE Alex Brown | WR Percy Harvin | F/C Al Horford | WR David Nelson | QB Shane Matthews | TE Cornelius Ingram | DE Jermaine Cunningham | S Major Wright | LB Earl Everett | DE Justin Trattou | DT Terron Sanders | F/C Chris Richard | DE Lynden Trail