Carter leads the Gar-Field defense by example


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Brett Carter has an unusual philosophy on leadership. One can set an example by being a leader or by following the leader.

Through much of his first three years of high school, Carter did his best to lead by following. He respected the words and actions of those appointed to lead.

“If a person puts me into a leadership position, I’ll take it,” Carter said. “If it’s given to someone else, I’ll follow, and maybe someone else will see that and pay attention.”

The 5-foot-8, 200-pound linebacker who crept onto the scene last year as a fill-in for an injured starter will have all eyes focused on him when Hylton’s offense takes the field against Gar-Field’s defense Friday night.

Teammates and opponents respect his words and actions now.

When Carter stepped in midway through last season for Caleb Nelson, he was a converted lineman learning a new position. But he’s been in the middle of the action ever since, appearing among the leading tacklers in Gar-Field’s first three games this season, averaging about eight per game.

As middle linebacker, Carter splits the on-field defensive captain duties with fellow linebacker Rickey Lewis. But he may be the emotional spark for the area’s top-ranked football team, especially in practice.

“He takes practice just like a game most of the time,” senior lineman George Frye said. “He’s a big leader on our team.”

Carter, also a state qualifier as a 189-pound wrestler last year, has been preparing for his leadership role for quite some time, both as a member of Gar-Field’s ROTC program and a mentor to two younger brothers.

Carter has seen the way the ROTC programs irons out discipline problems and prepares boys to be men, so to speak. He’s even noticed how he’s significantly more mature than he was as a freshman.

“One of the things [ROTC teaches] is to know yourself and seek self-improvement,” he said. “If you can’t improve on yourself, how can you be in a position to tell others what to do?”

Though he has a very serious side, Carter is no stranger to laughing and joking. Neither are his Gar-Field classmates when it comes to the fact that Hylton has beaten the Indians seven consecutive times, even though the two have been nearly equally talented over the past few years.

“Every day at school we get people ragging on us,” Carter said.

The talk from people in the community, he says, is good-natured and encouraging. But the kids at school don’t hold back, and when it comes to Friday’s game, there are doubts.

“It puts more pressure on us,” said Carter of the game being at Gar-Field, “but that drives us even harder. A lot of people don’t think we can win.”

Carter’s seen that scenario before, when his older sister Jacqi talked up the Potomac Panthers before the teams met last season. Gar-Field won 20-7 at Potomac.

“She was good friends with some of those guys, like [Gary] Price and [Antwan] Stewart. When I sacked Price last year, I was ecstatic, partly because she had talked so much trash.”

Carter thinks he’s made his sister, who played basketball and soccer at Potomac and is now at James Madison University, into an Indians fan. But don’t expect his brothers to follow in his Gar-Field footsteps.

Jacqi went to Potomac to participate in a science program and Brett is at Gar-Field for ROTC. Brett expects Brady to go to Forest Park to take part in the Information Technology (IT) program and youngest brother Jared to go to Osbourn Park.

Even in his family, there are times for Brett to lead and times for him to follow. Though it’s not easy to admit it, he looks up to his sister.

“She was a huge idol for me,” he said. “She’d tell me ‘you need to do this,’ or ‘you’re not doing this right.’ I’d blow it off to her face, but behind the screen, it meant a lot to me.”

Carter calls his mother Beverly “strong-willed and stubborn,” and his dad Sam “understanding and caring,” and says those are traits he’s beginning to pick up.

With two parents who work, younger brothers involved in sports and other activities and a sister away at school, the Carter family rarely has any time to get together.

When he’s with his on-field family, Carter doesn’t waste a second.

“He’ll come at you, he’ll hit you,” said tight end/defensive end Shane Thurston, who faces Carter in practice. “I’ve come out on several blocks where he’ll put a forearm right in my face. He has a way of being right where the ball is.”

Carter seems genuine when he says he’s not trying to be a superstar. In fact, he says good players earn his respect by not flaunting their talent.

“I want to do what’s good for the team,” he said. “Making good plays, making tackles is [how I contribute]. If I do that, the recognition will come.”

As painful as the losses to Hylton have been, he says it’ll be that much sweeter when the Indians do win.

“And you can quote me on the ‘do,’ ” he said.

Gar-Field’s games against Hylton remember, they play again at Hylton Oct. 25 bring with them quite a bit of pressure.

“Coach always tells us,” Carter said, “that when pressure comes along, you have to be either willing to take it on, or back down.”

Without a doubt, Carter expects to take it on.

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