Note: The following appears in the Notre Dame football gameday program.
When it comes to football, Barrett Carter is no stranger to the spotlight. A dynamic asset on the Tiger defensive unit, the junior linebacker has made his presence known over the past three years. He has played 34 games with 22 starts.
Following his outstanding 2022 season, he joined former Butkus Award winners Nakobe Dean (Georgia) and Isaiah Simmons (Clemson) in totaling 10 tackles for loss, five sacks and multiple caused fumbles and interceptions in a season. Head Coach Dabo Swinney credited him as being “one of the best pure football players” he has coached in the past 20 years. Considering the professional talent that Swinney has produced, this compliment speaks for itself.
Carter was born in Chicago, Ill., but he hails from Suwanee, Ga., where he has lived since he was seven years old. As a multiple-sport athlete, his love for football blossomed throughout his elementary and middle school years, as he started to realize his natural gift for the game. By the end of his sophomore year of high school, he had received over 60 offers from colleges across the nation.
Despite receiving offers from other top programs such as Alabama, Michigan and Oklahoma, Carter recounted his first visit to Clemson as feeling different than other schools he had visited.
“I had butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t have that feeling anywhere else, and I couldn’t let that feeling go.”
Following that unparalleled first visit, he regarded his eventual decision to attend Clemson as an easy one, motivated by his appreciation of the family culture that has become so deeply synonymous with the Tiger program.
“I’m big on family relationships, and Clemson shows that they have a family environment. They welcomed me and expressed how I could be successful as a football player. That was something that was important to me and something I didn’t really get from other schools.”
Over the past three years, Carter has epitomized the definition of a successful football player. As a sophomore in 2022, he was named a fourth-team All-American and First-Team All-ACC selection. He has also garnered two ACC Academic Honor Roll selections and was most recently named a Lott IMPACT Trophy quarterfinalist. The latter accolade is given annually to the top defensive player in college football and equally weighs the player’s character with his athletic performance.
While these achievements already make him a standout Tiger, there is another unique detail that also allows him to stand out. Carter is the first Clemson football player to sport the jersey #0.
“I wore #1 in high school, and that number was taken when I committed, so I wanted to carry on that tradition of wearing a single-digit number. I texted Coach Swinney and asked which numbers were available, and he said #0 was the only one. I decided to go with it, and now I’m the first Clemson player to ever wear that number.”
If Carter’s story were to end here, only mentioning his football prowess and athletic accomplishments, one would see him as a talented linebacker who achieved his dream of playing football at the next level. However, Carter’s story does not end with just football, as his dreams extend far beyond the gridiron.
Aside from football, Carter has an unrivaled passion for reaching, investing into and impacting younger generations. He recalled that this passion stems from the way he watched older athletes pour their time into his own generation when he was younger.
“I remember when I was a little kid, older football players would come into my classes to read with us, hang out with us during recess and eat lunch with us just to spend time with us. That was always so cool to me, how they would take time out of their day to spend hours with younger kids and try to give them some wisdom.
“Now that I’m in that position of being an older, experienced football player, I see myself as having no choice but to do that very thing and give back to younger generations.”
Since he arrived at Clemson in 2021, Carter has made it his goal to spend time at local elementary schools, something he has stayed true to despite attaining the football spotlight. Carter does not want the spotlight here…he just wants to make a difference. Although his time spent in the classrooms may look different when he visits schools, reading books, telling stories or answering questions, he is confident that every minute has been worth it.
“Seeing how their faces light up with smiles is awesome. I’ve always had a passion for kids because I put myself in their shoes. The 30-45 minutes I spend with them can really impact their lives. It’s an escape. I’m surrounded by the sport of football, so to take some time out of my day to give back to the kids, that escape from football, you have to have that.”
Desiring to give back in more ways than just within the classroom, Carter also volunteers with a Georgia nonprofit and charity, Our Friend Christopher. This foundation was started as a way to honor Christopher Miles, a friend and teammate of Carter during his time at North Gwinnett High School. Miles passed away from a brain tumor in 2020, and the organization is dedicated to providing college scholarships, promoting awareness towards brain cancer and providing support to families and individuals battling cancer.
“Christopher was a couple years older than me, and he was always a role model to me. He was invested in our school and in our athletic programs, and he was someone who always gave back. I am now thankfully able to be a part of this nonprofit to help raise awareness towards brain cancer.”
Carter has also been heavily involved with Clemson’s P.A.W. Journey program during the years he has spent as a Tiger. He recalled that it was one of the things that set Clemson’s program apart from every other program he visited.
“When I came on a visit here, they gave us a lecture about P.A.W. Journey, and I thought it was the coolest thing. I was on a football visit, but the fact that they created time to show us how they want to invest and help develop us as not just an athlete, but also as a man, spoke a lot about the culture of this football program.
“Being an ambassador has really allowed me to grow. I’m all about growth and continuing to take one step forward regardless of adversities, and P.A.W. Journey has given me the opportunity to do that. I appreciate the P.A.W. Journey staff members for their dedication and efforts to instill knowledge and growth into young athletes.”
Following his time at Clemson, Carter plans to pursue a career in the NFL. Once his time in the NFL comes to a end, he aspires to open up a training facility for young kids in order to give back and equip them with the tools and skills needed to succeed as both an athlete and in life.
“I’m alright at football, but once I take the helmet off, that’s the true Barrett Carter. I want my impact in life to be much greater without the helmet than with it.”