For some college football players, playing in a bowl game is the highlight of their career.
For Patrick Carter, a rookie free agent for the Ravens, a little more substance is preferred in his post-season play.
That's why Carter, a 6-foot-3, 195 pound wide receiver, enjoyed his experience at the 2008 Texas vs. The Nation Senior All Star Bowl more than that of the 2006 Orange Bowl he won with the University of Louisville.
"I enjoyed Texas vs. The Nation better, mainly because of what we got exposed to, like going to the hospital and seeing kids, meeting people in the community," said Carter. "The bowl game was more about us relaxing. We didn't really help people or give back to that city [Miami].
"Having the experience of meeting kids and talking to them about their future, that's what made it better. It was cool to know that I have a positive affect on kids."
As an athlete in the public eye, Carter is constantly aware of his potential impact on even the littlest of fans.
"I remember how I was when I was kid – I just looked up to everybody," Carter reflected. "And knowing that kids now genuinely look up to you and respect you is a good feeling. I love it; I could be with kids all day."
Those emotions run deep in the Carter family. One of his three older brothers, Tim, a receiver for the Houston Texans, spends out-of-pocket money to remodel houses in the Houston area for underprivileged children and their parents. Patrick supports his brother's efforts when he can, by either sending money or physically aiding the process. He plans to visit Texas before Ravens training camp starts July 21 to be more hands-on with the project.
Then it's back to Maryland for football, where Carter brings a unique perspective to the Ravens receiving corps.
Up until three years ago, he was throwing the ball rather than catching it.
"The way I look at the offense is totally different than most receivers," Carter commented. "I look at it through everything – what the running backs have to do, what the offensive line has to do, what the receivers have to do. I think it helps me bring more mental versatility."
"Patrick approaches the game like a pro," added wide receivers coach Jim Hostler. "He learns what to do, how to do it, and goes out there and does it as fast as he can."
Carter was recruited from high school as a quarterback, but in 2004 at Georgia Tech, the redshirt freshman ended up with the starting punt returner spot, while also being slotted as a backup quarterback.
"Our coach said, 'You can't be both. We don't have backup quarterbacks who are punt returners,'" said Carter. "He wanted to change me to receiver, and I wanted to be a quarterback."
This ultimately led to Carter's decision to transfer to the University of Louisville in 2005. There he ended up in the same dilemma – being the starting punt returner and a third-string quarterback.
This time, Carter accepted his fate.
"I didn't want to play receiver at a school where I didn't feel like the quarterback was top tier – real knowledgeable, real smart and was a great leader," Carter said of his decision to leave Atlanta. "I felt like [Brian] Brohm was a great leader, and that's why I ended up at Louisville. With a quality quarterback you can put up a lot more yards."
Carter connected with Brohm, a second-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in April's draft, on 26 receptions for 396 yards his senior season.
The wideout showed his potential in a nine-catch, 154-yard performance against Utah, where he also added a touchdown.
"Playing with Brohm and seeing how he thinks, being one mind on the field, really helped my ability as a receiver," Carter confirmed. "Because a play can break down, but if a quarterback knows what you're thinking, and you know what he's thinking, anything's possible."
Carter also excels off the football field, knowing that as a rookie, knowledge matters just as much as performance.
"He does an excellent job studying the game," Hostler commented. "He's been really receptive to understanding. It's not just about the plays – it's how to train yourself in the classroom, on the field, what you do when you're by yourself. He's done an excellent job absorbing all that information."
Regardless of the situation – whether it's studying plays, connecting for receptions on the field or being a role model in his community – Carter puts his heart into being the best.