Sept. 16, 2005
By Craig Chval
Even today, catching up with Phil Carter is no easy feat.
It’s not that Carter is evasive – he’s more than happy to take time out of a hectic schedule to talk.
As a proud husband and father, Carter speaks glowingly of his wife, Linda, daughter Kennedy and son Garret. Carter’s joy is obvious when he shares stories of young people whose lives have been transformed thanks to the YMCAs where Carter has worked. In relating the turnaround he led at the YMCA in Kalamazoo, Mich., Carter first mentions the assistance provided by former Irish teammates.
It quickly becomes apparent that catching up with Phil Carter means getting a peek at a man who is not at the center of his own universe.
Even as the star tailback on Notre Dame’s 1980 football team that reached number one in the polls eight weeks into that season, Carter didn’t buy the hype.
When pressed to reflect on his playing days, Carter recalls the struggles as well as the glory. Even when talking about his 200-yard performance against Michigan State in 1980, Carter spoke of fumbling on his 40th and final carry – losing three yards and the school’s single-game rushing record.
“I’ve been gifted with a little athletic ability,” he allows. “But I was never the best athlete on the team.”
Coming from a player who completed his Notre Dame career behind only Vagas Ferguson and George Gipp on the school’s all-time career rushing list, Carter’s claim may smack of false modesty. The life Carter has led since graduation says otherwise.
While former teammates with less impressive Notre Dame resumes enjoyed success in the NFL, Carter quickly went from volunteer instructor at a YMCA in his hometown of Tacoma, Wash., to full-time employee. Before long Carter was executive director, responsible for everything from fundraising to pitching in when necessary to make the place look good.
“Whatever it takes,” Carter says simply.
Carter does whatever it takes because he cares.
“My biggest passion is to give everybody an opportunity to succeed,” he says. “There has always been this thing of excuses.”
“I can be a resource,” Carter says.
“I want those things for everyone – to graduate high school, to go to college, to get a good job. It’s going to be hard, young people have to believe they can do whatever it takes to get there. That’s why I’m here – to be a solution.”
Just like he was when the game was on the line for Notre Dame.