Roc Carmichael using career to support charity

Roc Carmichael using career to support charity
November 28, 2013, 8:00 am
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Roc Carmichael was drafted by the Houston Texans out of Virginia Tech in 2011 and has been using his professional career to support his charitable efforts ever since. (AP)

Back in August, when Eagles cornerback Roc Carmichael was still with the Texans, he heard about a back-to-school block party in the Houston neighborhood where he lived.

The Texans had a preseason game against the Saints that Sunday afternoon, but as soon as it was over, Carmichael went to work.

“The game ended, I took a shower, and then I drove right over there,” he said. “I pulled up and had 200 bookbags in the trunk. I gave them out to the kids and then I left.

“It was fun, man. Just seeing the smiles on those kids’ faces … .”

Welcome to Roc Carmichael’s world.

There’s football. Yes, there’s definitely football. The Eagles think a lot of the 25-year-old Carmichael, who joined the Eagles a few weeks into the season and played well starting in place of injured Bradley Fletcher in wins over the Packers and Redskins.

But there’s something else. Something even more important than football to Carmichael.

There’s a lifelong devotion to community service. To helping people.

And this Thanksgiving, his story is a terrific reminder that while some play football for money and fame, others play the game for a different reason.

“When you can do things to help and have a positive effect on peoples’ lives, it just makes you feel so good,” Carmichael said. “Because there’s a lot of negative things out there. There’s a lot of negative things that kids are exposed to, and anything I can do to keep kids on the right track, that’s an amazing feeling.”

Carmichael grew up in Prince George’s County, southeast of Washington, D.C. in Maryland, and he was raised in an environment where social activism was a way of life.

His mom, Mae, ran a Head Start program out of the family home, and Carmichael -- still in high school -- could see right away how being a football player gave him a little extra cachet with the little kids.

Head Start is a national association devoted to helping children, especially at-risk and underprivileged kids, get an education and reach their full potential.

“There were always kids around, and I was the oldest in our family so I would always help her cook breakfast and lunch, nap-time, helping her put the kids to sleep, so that’s what I did in our household growing up,” Carmichael said.

“My dad [Bernard], R.I.P., before he passed, he coached basketball, football and track, and he was the dad who picked up everybody in the neighborhood and we’d all go to practice.

“So that’s how I was raised. My mom and dad are who I learned from and when I got older, when I got the opportunity, I really just did what I saw my parents do.”

On the field, Carmichael was a first-team all-ACC and honorable mention All-America cornerback at Virginia Tech.

Off the field, he worked tirelessly in the community.

As a junior at Virginia Tech, Carmichael started a foundation that he still runs called Bless all People, and his senior year, he worked with Head Start instead of taking classes.

“The kids really took to me,” he said. “They saw this guy playing Virginia Tech football, and he’s in here with me every day, and the parents were like, ‘Man, when you tell him to learn something, he does it. When I tell him, he won’t do it.’

“So that’s when I kind of really started to understand the effect that playing ball could have and how I could have a positive effect on their lives, and I just wanted to be there for the kids.”

Carmichael loves working with kids, but he wanted his foundation to help people of all ages, nationalities, walks of life. Hence the name.

His foundation distributed about 300 turkeys this week in Washington, D.C., just the latest project Carmichael’s group has been involved in.

“We try to mix it up,” he said. “Last year, we went to a women’s shelter, 250 women, we did a whole catered Thanksgiving dinner with a meal, dessert, Avon donated soaps and lotions to the women, and we had a coat drive for the women.

“We went to a retirement home and threw a Valentine’s Day party for them one day. Got a DJ to come play old-school stuff, had games set up.

“It would be a random day, and I’ll just go to my old neighborhood and pass out book bags when school starts back up. Summertime, we’ll get 50 skateboards and pass them out to kids.

“Small things, but I think we’ve been doing pretty good. It’s fun for me. I named it Bless all People just because you never know who you affect and I didn’t want to limit it.

“When I was working in Head Start, black kids, white kids, Asian kids, and they didn’t even understand that. They just knew, ‘Mr. Roc is going to come and play football with me if I have my name written for homework.’”

Carmichael has earned about $1.4 million since the Texans took him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.

But if you didn’t know who he was, you’d never guess.

“I kind of wanted to get away from being just a football player or just a guy who dresses nice, fancy car, all those things,” Carmichael said.

“I have a regular car, you never see me with expensive clothes or jewelry, nothing like that.”

Maybe that’s why during the bye week, when he went home to Virginia to visit his mom and his brothers and sisters, he slept on mom’s couch.

“People are like, ‘Why don’t you do this or that,’ but I’m not like that,” he said. “Just a regular guy. Because playing professional sports they hold you up so high, but I want to be able to relate to people as an equal. On their level. Nothing’s changed.”

Carmichael loves playing football, and he’s been quite a find for the Eagles since they signed him off the Texans’ practice squad in mid-September.

But he sees football not only as a game he plays on Sundays but also as a means to support the causes he believes in.

“Being in this position -- and we work our whole life to get in this position -- it hands you opportunities,” he said. “Which lane do you want to get in? Do you want to be the club guy, going out at night? Who do you want to be? Do you want to be the guy who helps people, who helps kids?

“For myself, I stuck to what I saw growing up, and that was helping.”

Who knows how many people Carmichael and his foundation have assisted over the years. Who knows how many lives he’s touched.

But one name really brings a smile to his face.

Eli.

“My favorite guy,” Carmichael said. “He’s 9 years old. I talk to Eli every day when I get out of practice. His mom calls me or texts me: ‘Eli wants to talk to you.’

“He tells me what he did in school, he tells me what he’s going to do when he goes outside. It’s that stuff that makes me feel like I’m kind of accomplishing something.”

Carmichael knows his NFL career can’t last forever. But his commitment to helping others, that can.

“That’s what I’m kind of put here for,” he said. “I always knew I could play ball, but I feel like football’s a stepping stone for me to reach out and make other things happen.

“There’s a lot that you can do, and the longer I’m wearing this jersey, the more I can help. They go hand and hand.

“It’s fun, man. It just makes you feel great. When you can do those type of things, help out in whatever little way, it’s an amazing feeling. I’m going to do that forever.”