Former UGA quarterback Quincy Carter was overwhelmed by the positive reaction from former teammates and Bulldog fans after he tweeted out this week that he hit the six-month mark for being “clean and sober.”
“That love I got … it touched my heart, it really did,” Carter told DawgNation. “It was crazy, man, to get that type of love and reception from everybody, and it was surprising at the same time.”
“I try to do things now, such as (that tweet), in a way to help other people. So that’s my purpose of me telling my story. It’s not to gloat or put myself in limelight. I just realize I can help some people, so that’s what it’s all about.”
Carter, 42, has quite a story to tell: He was a three-year starter for UGA at quarterback, and was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 1998. One of his Bulldog teammates that showed him the most support in the locker room that season was a senior named Kirby Smart, the current Georgia coach.
Before Carter reported to the Bulldogs, he was a high draft pick by the Chicago Cubs and played three years of minor-league baseball. After Carter finished at UGA, he started as a rookie quarterback for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, the Dallas Cowboys.
Only a few years later, Carter was abruptly cut by Dallas after failing a series of drug tests. That kicked off a downward spiral which launched into a “full-blown addiction” by 2008, leading to a documented history of arrests, too many interventions to count, and around 10 visits to rehabilitation facilities.
This week, Carter celebrated “his most fulfilling” stretch of being drug-free and sober in at least a dozen years. This one was different than all the others because he “whole-heartedly surrendered.” That’s the story he wants to talk about:
“I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, along with my alcohol and drug addiction. I’m talking about (my issues), and I’m doing the right things, as far as counseling and meditation. The biggest one of all is my relationship with God — with me praying and whole-heartedly meaning it, along with going out and doing the things that God wants me to do. Those are the things I’m doing to tackle this.”
‘Hell yes, I am a Bulldog for life’
Quincy Carter hasn’t been to a Georgia football game or scrimmage since he last played for the Bulldogs 20 years ago — although he did speak at a practice years ago. Carter says he is embarrassed it has been that long, but the streak will end shortly as he plans to attend April’s G-Day, the spring scrimmage for the Bulldogs. He has followed UGA intensely from afar.
“My love will always be with the Bulldogs,” Carter said emphatically. “We’re getting close. We’ve just got to be patient as a program. But I played at Georgia, so I know how it is: We want another one of those 1980 national championships like yesterday.
“But just like my life is baby steps, we (UGA) are taking those steps. Hopefully we can take another few of those steps this year. I don’t know whether or not this year is the year, but 2021 looks brighter than ever. So we’ll see. You never know.
“We might could put some things together and make a run this year. With a brand-new transfer quarterback, it’s going to be tough. But Kirby Smart is a great coach, and a former teammate of mine. I respect the hell out of him, and I’m sure he’ll have those boys ready. But hell yes, I am a Bulldog for life. You are damn right I follow them.”
Carter originally signed a football scholarship with rival Georgia Tech out of Southwest DeKalb (Ga.) High School. But when he decided to resume football after three seasons of minor-league baseball, Carter switched to UGA. As a freshman, the newcomer quickly beat out four other quarterbacks already on the roster, which obviously caused some tensions within the team.
“Kirby Smart was one of the seniors that really had my back my freshman year — Kirby and Matt Stinchcomb. After what I want to say was (road win at No. 6-ranked LSU), Kirby is one of the guys that stood up in the locker room and said ‘We’ve got our quarterback. Let’s move on from thinking somebody’s going to take his position. Let’s get on with the rest of the season.’
“Kirby and I grew a little bit closer to each other as the season went along. Of course, when you’re a freshman, you’ve got to earn your stripes on your own. But Kirby was a big supporter of mine, and I’ll never forget it.”
Carter says he has also been in touch with UGA about finishing his college degree. He left the Bulldogs after his junior season for the NFL, so he needs around a year of classes to earn his degree, which will help him immensely with pursuing his career goal of one day being a head coach for a high school football team.
‘Eating a big piece of humble pie’
These days, Carter works full-time in a rehabilitation facility in Texas. He serves as a mentor and counselor for others dealing with drug and alcohol addiction, among his many other duties. Some are surprised to learn that the person helping them used to play quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.
“He’s eating a big piece of humble pie,” said Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, the former Dallas Cowboys star who has been Carter’s longtime sponsor.
The job is part of Carter’s own rehabilitation story, which also includes sharing a “clean and sober” house with four other men as roommates. It’s in stark contrast to the 3,700 square-foot house he used to own in the Dallas area. He’s also without a driver’s license, dating back to his legal issues.
Life is much different for Carter now from his athletic heyday, and it’s surprisingly different in many good ways:
“I’m loving my work right now, I get to help people. I couldn’t get a better job,” Carter said. “(Henderson) told me ‘You’re going to feel that love that you give to people.’ And I am feeling it.
“It has been good for me to sit my butt down and listen to somebody else talk about their life. Because you know how it is? When you have success in life, you think you know everything and have the willpower to overcome everything. With this addiction, I tried to beat it with my willpower for years and years, and it just doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to surrender.”
Henderson has been a fixture in Carter’s life for more than a decade, as the two instantly bonded over their battles with addiction. When Carter had one last shot to make an NFL team in 2008 with the Miami Dolphins, it was Henderson who vouched for him to Bill Parcells, who was the Dolphins vice president of operations.
“Not often does the situation break my heart, but Quincy threw the ball tremendously and he did everything they asked him to do,” Henderson recalled. “And the Dolphins were going to sign him – except for the urine test. It came back positive for marijuana.
“I normally, you know, don’t get emotional about something, but with these 36 years that I’ve been in recovery myself, I’ve learned a lot. And sometimes your worst enemy can be yourself. When I got the phone call from Parcells, it really broke my heart, as it did for Quincy.
“He stumbled and fumbled for years after that (letdown).”
‘Look man, you’ve got to find God, and find yourself as a person’
Quincy Carter’s turning point was triggered by his love of football. Last spring, Carter became very interested in working as a quarterback trainer with high school and middle school kids. He wanted to learn the business side, so he randomly sent a Facebook message to Baylin Trujillo, a former college quarterback who was a well-known trainer in Florida.
At first, Trujillo thought maybe it was a hoax. Was this really the former quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys reaching out to him? Trujillo asked to speak over the phone, and the two became fast friends, chatting for more than two hours. Carter describes Trujillo as a “God-fearing man” and he instantly felt comfortable in sharing the deep and intimate details of his life.
Trujillo simply felt “called to help.” A few months later, when another quarterback trainer had to cancel for one of Trujillo’s camps, Carter was invited to take his place. The two were pretty much inseparable on and off the field during the camp. When Carter went to the airport to fly back to Texas, he called his new-found friend in tears.
Said Trujillo: “Quincy was emotional and said ‘This weekend was so freeing for me. You really cared about getting to know me, and teaching me about how to run quarterback camps. It changed my life.
“‘I want to let you know that this is like the first weekend in a very long time that I didn’t touch one thing of alcohol. I didn’t smoke anything. I was just sober, and it was so freeing for me. I felt so free. I want that to be consistent in my life.’
“I told Quincy ‘Look man, you’ve got to find God … and find yourself as a person.’ About a week later, he checked into rehab to get better.”
‘Sick and tired of being sick and tired’
Carter’s most recent stint to rehab wasn’t his first experience with that type of intense help, but something was definitely different this time.
“I finally got to the point where I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” declared Carter.
“The other times, I never surrendered. It was like having surgery — going to rehab and getting patched up. Then once I got out of rehab and I think I’ve got this thing beat, I kind of sway away from the program. Finally, after getting my butt beat all across the board in life, I finally had to surrender to this thing whole-heartedly (last summer).
“I had to live it every day, get up in the morning … and tell myself that my life has become powerless and unmanageable around drugs and alcohol. Enough is enough. Drugs and alcohol will become a distant memory for you if you really live by this AA (Alcoholic Anonymous) book, and really do the things it tells you to do, as well as listen to your sponsors.
“Each and every day I get up in the morning, it has to be the same thing. If my recovery doesn’t come first before anything else, I can’t even be able to help anybody, let alone myself. So I’ve surrendered to this program. That’s what I am doing every day.”
Carter says he has two main focuses these days: His kids and his recovery. He has seven kids, ranging from 24 to five years old.
“Frankly, this is a young man in his 40s who has a lot to give if he can get his own house in order, and I believe he’s on the right track now,” Henderson said.
“I think the message to others from this is that Quincy Carter is a fighter. He is a fighter. Sometimes he’s Don Quixote, and sometimes he’s General Patton. But he’s a fighter. and that’s all you can ask of somebody who is fighting a disease that is personal, is physical, is consequential, and is nasty.
“The disease of alcoholism and drug addiction is filthy nasty. Some people go take a long shower and carry on with the rest of our lives and never drink and do drugs again — and that’s what I hope for him, and that’s what I hope for me.”
Quincy Carter finally wants to tell his story, after years of staying relatively silent due to pride and embarrassment. He sees a greater purpose, while fighting his own daily battle with drug and alcohol addiction:
“Through it all, I just want to help people. If there’s any part of my story that can help anybody overcome addition and overcome obstacles in their life, that’s what I want to do.”
THANK YOU TO ALL MY FAMILY, FRIENDS, COACHES, & FANS WHO’VE SHOWN ME CONTINUAL SUPPORT! MY JOURNEY HAS A NEW BEGINNING! BLESSED BY THE GRACE OF GOD! ALWAYS MAKE IT A GREAT DAY!
S/O: @baylintrujillo @hollywoodhend
— QUINCY CARTER (@QuincyLCarter) January 28, 2020