On Saturday afternoon I had the privilege of speaking with former Patriots, Raiders, Redskins, forty-niners, and California Golden Bears great Andre Carter. I spoke with him about how he has adjusted to life after football and what his focus is now, along with some reflection points of his career. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.
What have you been up to since we last saw you on the field?
I’ve been going to get my diploma at Cal Berkeley, my alma mater. You need your degree in order to get into coaching at the collegiate level.
It must be kind of different this time of year now that your out of the game as opposed to getting ready for the upcoming season for so many years, do you ever get that itch to get back out there?
I feel great, I’ve been so busy with school, thats just been my mind set. I think before last year going into the 2014 season, I came to the realization that I wasn’t getting picked up and it was kind of like, okay thats a wrap. Then you start to think, “Okay what am I gonna do with my time?” Well, I can only workout and run so much you gotta find new hobbies.
I looked into the commentating world for a hot second. It was something that was fun to a certain extent, but it wasn’t something that I truly loved. Most guys ask themselves when they retire, “Whats my new passion?” You go through a journey, and mine was only two years and I found out I wanted to coach. I looked into the pro level but the pro level is very hard because it’s not always about what you know, it’s who you know. Most organizations have their guys who are locked into multiple year deals. Talking to my wife we decided what was best was for me to create my own path and that was coaching at the collegiate level, okay what does that take?
Well personally for me I had to earn my degree and that was a long time coming. It wasn’t just to start coaching, I owed it to myself to get my degree from one of the nation’s best institutions in Cal Berkeley very known for academics, I wanted to add that plaque on my wall and know that I did it, and come back and learn the X’s and O’s and work with defensive lineman and linebackers and teach them my level experience and be nationally known as one of the best college players in the nation, my work ethic and what got me to that point, and thats a good outlet and I enjoy talking to them. I enjoy coaching.
You talked about how you wanted to get into coaching to shed some of your wisdom on young players, when you were a rookie coming into the league who were some of the veteran players that influenced you the most?
Brian Young during my forty-niner days was a prime example of being a professional on and off the field, his mindset was practice hard play hard. His work ethic was phenomenal, everybody knew he was strong, and he knew his body so well and where to be and how to be and what to do, so thats definitely one of the best. Derrick Deese offensive tackle, Garrison Hurst. When I came to the forty-niners we were a veteran team actually, those guys set the tone, you know you feed off each other.
You gotta have that balance. Steve Mariucci was definitely one of those coaches to communicate with the players. He would come to the vets and say what do you wanna do about practice? They’d say okay will cut this down and do this, because so and so is hurt. He was the type of coach who would say, “Okay If you guys do great we’ll continue but if you mess up we going back going back to what we were” and thats how he was. We were successful doing that, we had success, my first two years with the forty-niners.
When you came back to the Patriots in 2013, you were part of a defense with three young players at the time in Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins. Many think that those three are the future of the Patriots defense. Did you have a good relationship with those guys and if so can you elaborate on them?
Yeah I mean we had a great working relationship, unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to hang out with those guys on a personal level but when we did they were great. Chandler Jones, one thing I remember he was a student of the game and being so young one thing I remember on a Wednesday grabbing my breakfast and he was already in the meeting room watching film, and i’m like wow. Thats not heard of, most guys get film and watch it at home or later in the day, and to see him watching film first thing right before team meeting was impressive. Dont’a Hightower is just a physical specimen just for as big as he is, he can run like the wind. Jamie Collins always reminds me of Julian Peterson. I remember we asked him to play corner or safety for a few plays or something and he did it, and Jamie Collins sort of reminds of that.
You came to the Patriots in 2011, you weren’t a huge signing at the time but you made an immediate impact on that front seven, being named to the Pro Bowl that year. Unfortunately you suffered a season ending leg injury late in December. Your team would go on to make it to the Super Bowl, so how did it feel to have to sit back and watch when you wanted so desperately to be out there on the field with your teammates?
I think any player whether its myself or any other player when you have the opportunity to play in the big show and you can’t it’s tough, especially against the New York Giants. From my time with the Washington Redskins, I don’t know what it was but whenever we played the New York Giants I got after it, you know. I remember during pregame I was on my crutches trying to take it all in surveying the field, and there was a scout who knew of me and I knew of him and he came to me and said, “Hey great year man, you did awesome, but trust me we’re happy your not playing.”
So you know we were kind of joking and laughing, because those Giants offensive lineman we battled, but it was a respectful battle. I was gonna bring the wood and they were gonna bring it right back. It was kind of one of those old throw back type of games. I was very blessed to be apart of that team, whether it was contributing on the field or on the sidelines.
You played under Super Bowl winning head coaches Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan with the Washington Redskins. What was the difference between playing for those guys and playing under Bill Belichick?
I’ve never been around a coach that is so hands on in all aspects of the game. Whether it’s offense, defense, special teams. He would be involved in all individual meetings, and I would just wonder how does this man sleep at night? We would go into team meetings and he would tell everybody exactly what they had to do and where they had to be. His memory is just superb. He truly is a student of the game.
You still follow the team pretty closely, what do you think the Patriots chances are at repeating this season?
You just have to take it game by game man. It isn’t easy getting back to the big show, its too hard to tell now you just have to take it game by game.
The Patriots have a lot of excess noise from outside the team going into this season, how does Bill Belichick block out the noise within the team?
He has it down to a science, nobody gets a second chance, which is very fair.
Final question here, what was your favorite moment as a pro football player?
Wow, its tough to narrow it down to just one so I am gonna give you three. First off, I think a moment that every player remembers the most is the day they get drafted. For me being a second generation NFL player, because my father played for the Denver Broncos, drafted in the first round, it was dream. Also, getting drafted right in my back yard to the forty-niners coming out of Cal Berkeley, it was a dream. Another one was in 2007 when I was with the Washington Redskins, and we all just rallied around Sean Taylor, that was a really special moment for the team to come together for him. Lastly, just being apart of the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick gave myself a chance at redemption. In 2010 with the Redskins I was going through a position change, and then I came to New England and Bill Belichick really allowed me to be the player that I wanted to be. It didn’t end the way I wanted it, but it was still great to be apart of the Patriots organization and play for a great coach in Bill Belichick.
That was the bulk of my interview with André Carter. He is a very humble person who is now trying to shed some of his wisdom that he has gained as a long-time NFL player, on young college players that hope to be in his position one day. He is a true professional, and it was great speaking with him.
You can follow André on twitter at @mr_carter93