Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr has been a pillar in the community, helping bring hope to breast cancer patients and awareness to their cause, advocating for children's literacy and helping underprivileged youth.
Ravens cornerback Brandon Carr has started 172 straight regular-season games, the longest for any defensive player in the NFL. But for as dependable as he is on the field, he's as equally reliable as a helping hand in the community.
Carr has been named the Ravens' Walter Payton Man of the Year, presented by Nationwide, nominee for 2018. It's the second time he's been nominated for the award, the last time being in Dallas in 2015.
Carr has taken on many causes, including children's literacy, breast cancer, social justice and helping underserved youth. And when he accepted the Ravens' award, which comes with a $25,000 donation to a charity of his choice and $25,000 more to United Way in Baltimore, Carr kind of choked up.
"Man, I'm trying to keep myself composed right now," Carr said. "Honestly, I just feel like I'm blessed to be able to play this game, have this platform, but also, just the opportunity to build, or do, something that I love to do, and that's just be in the community."
Children's literacy has always been near the top of Carr's list. The Carr Cares Foundation was founded in 2012 to inspire young students to become proficient readers by providing learning tools and resources to help them reach their full potential. In addition to the Carr Cares literacy initiatives, the Foundation also encourages students to live a healthy lifestyle through physical fitness and balanced nutrition.
This season, Carr has expanded his support of education by launching the Carr Cares Reading Buddy Program. This new program provides mentoring services to struggling readers in second and third grade by pairing them with high school student mentors. High school students are provided with necessary tools to develop positive, one-to-one mentoring relationships with elementary students, while encouraging them to value literacy programs and activities in and out of the school environment.
The high school students who participate qualify for book scholarships for college through the Carr Cares Foundation. The Carr Cares Reading Buddy Program currently exists in eight schools between Texas, Michigan and Maryland, and will be adding two more later this fall. On average, the program totals up to 364 hours of mentoring services for higher-risk students, per school.
Earlier this year, Carr filled the Ravens' Bookmobile with books to bring to kids in underserved parts of Baltimore. He has made countless trips to schools to read to children, and provided nuggets of wisdom to the older kids.
Carr said he got it from his parents. His father was a coach and mentor who took his son and classmates to universities to show them that they could make it. His mother was a teacher for 33 years.
"My ultimate goal when my mom passed was just to continue to live out her legacy," Carr said. "And, her legacy was just to be in education, be in schools with the kids, inspire, encourage them any way that she could."
In 2014, Carr lost his mother to a long battle with cancer. Since then, he has also been active in supporting breast cancer awareness and those fighting the disease.
Carr recently teamed up with the National Breast Cancer Foundation to provide support for breast cancer patients, recently at the Franklin Square Medical Center. He assembled and handed out Hope Kits, which include items meant to bring the patients comfort, and provided 24 women with custom-fitted wigs. In October, he spent the evening at M&T Bank Stadium surrounded by survivors and women battling breast cancer for the Ravens Fourth Annual Sip 'N Paint event.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind, but I had a strong support system behind me," Carr said. "Ultimately, that's what it came down to. The same support system that I needed to cope and deal with breast cancer and the illness within our family is the same comfort and support that these women need as well."
Carr also continually reaches out to communities most in need of help. As a native of Flint, Mich. the water crisis really hit home for Carr. In 2016, Carr donated $100,000 to create the Carr Cares Fund for Flint and another $10,000 to the Safe Water Safe Homes Fund that helps with the infrastructure problems.
This past September, Carr spoke to students at the Ravens inaugural Flock Above Mentoring Program launch event. Carr spent hours talking to ninth graders in the group about his personal journey and various challenges he's faced over the years. He encouraged the students to try to help make their community a better place and be a positive role model for others.
This Thanksgiving, Carr participated in Pack to Give Back, an event that helps pack holiday meals for more than 10,000 families alongside more than 300 volunteers. For the second straight year, Carr will team up with Ravens to host the 14th Annual Holiday Helpers shopping event this December, which invites 60 underprivileged children from the Baltimore area to shop for the holidays at Target.
"There's been talk before about that he's the 'Iron Man' now with his 172 consecutive starts, but he's the 'Iron Man' also out in the community," Ravens Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale said.
"The same guy that we get here, who makes plays for us and we can count on all the time, that's who he is as a person. I think everybody in this organization sees it. What a great honor bestowed on him to be nominated for this award, and what a great award it is."