'The big thing is my impact': To Duke football captain DeWayne Carter, legacy is everything

DeWayne Carter will serve as captain once again in 2022.
DeWayne Carter will serve as captain once again in 2022.

When you think of the word “legacy,” what comes to mind?

Albert Einstein reinventing science and our understanding of space and time with his theory of relativity? Mahatma Gandhi's historic non-violent protest? An old family spaghetti and meatballs recipe?

No matter your personal interpretation, what is likely true is that we all care about the legacies we leave behind. We care about the kind of people our kids will be and what kind their kids will be; about whether our last names connote generosity or greed; about how closely our descendants follow that spaghetti and meatballs recipe.

To DeWayne Carter, a redshirt junior defensive tackle at Duke, legacy means more than anything else. It stoked his interest in the sport, his eventual journey to Durham and inspired his vocal leadership as a second-year captain. It spurred him to change team culture and the relationship between athletes and students. It pushed him toward racial activism and to pursue education post-grad.

“I always say I want to leave a legacy wherever I go,” Carter told The Chronicle.

Anyone who knows Carter—or has at least engaged in a decent bit of conversation with him—can tell you that he has most certainly accomplished that goal. His impact on the communities, both on and off the football field, to which he is a part is transcendent, personal and ambitious.

A football family

Born in Pickerington, Ohio, a small town just southeast of Columbus and a roughly 30-minute drive from Ohio State’s campus, Carter grew up in the shadow of one of the nation’s football havens.

His father, DeWayne Sr., was a star for the Buckeyes throughout the early nineties, becoming a three-year letterman en route to a 30-7-1 record and a Big Ten win in 1993. His uncle and grandfather, both named Raymond, played college football for Notre Dame and Youngstown State, respectively.

In other words, Carter comes from an accomplished football family and grew up with one of the country’s most storied programs on the other side of town. 

“It was never pushed on me,” Carter said. “Which is funny to say because I wasn’t allowed to play football until sixth grade.”

His father originally insisted that he couldn’t play until ninth grade.

“My mom told him: ‘Listen, he's not gonna suck when he gets to high school, he needs at least a couple of years,’” Carter said. “So we got down to sixth grade. But after then, he became the coach of my first team, and then it kind of took off from there.”

It certainly did. Carter lettered all four years at Pickerington Central and led his team to the Division I state semifinals on three occasions, helping the Tigers to a state championship title as a junior. His senior year was his magnum opus, though, as he earned USA Today American Family Insurance All-USA Ohio Football Team recognition and The Columbus Dispatch’s All-Metro Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Carter speaks highly of the mentors that shaped his values and helped him to develop his craft as a child and teenager. One of these was his high school baseball strength coach, Charles Schultz. Schultz helped Carter excel in baseball, garnering places on the First Team All-Central District and First Team All-Ohio Capital Conference, but the greater impact came from the conversations the two had about leadership and practice habits, among others. Carter cites Schultz as one of his greatest supporters in his personal and athletic growth during his formative years.

The other mentor is his father.

“My dad, he worked a lot in the community, inner-city Columbus,” Carter said. “They would take kids who didn't have rides or necessarily didn't have a way to get to camps, to camps. So I'd be around all those high school kids and I'd be taking the camp as well … I'd be running around the field, just not really knowing what I'm doing. But I was kind of getting programmed.”

Beginning with his father and the camps they did together, a passion for community service sparked inside Carter that only grew as he did.

Activism and education

Originally, Carter wanted to pursue a career in physical therapy, but he says that the untimely arrival of the pandemic and the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 changed things for him.

“During that time period, I kind of developed this passion for education because I realized how much knowledge that I actually lacked,” Carter said. “And I realized how many areas we were lacking as a Black community.”

Since then, Carter has heavily involved himself in both the Black community at Duke and as an educator around Durham. As a freshman, former linebacker Brandon Hill ushered him into the Duke United Black Athletes organization, and Carter has since become a Public Relations Co-Chair for the group, leading various demonstrations, walks and community events. In Carter’s words, he and the group have been a “voice on campus for Black athletes”.

“We have our foot in the door into the admin spaces,” he added. “We come to them with what we see on campus as a problem and try to help fix it.”

In addition to his activism, Carter is an aspiring educator and has already spent substantial time working with youth in the Durham area for Habitat for Humanity and as a tutor. He hopes to work with kids around middle school age, as he feels he can most closely relate to and shape them in a positive way. More than anything, he wants to help youth succeed and provide them with the skills and opportunities for a fruitful future, both academically and morally.

“It's hard to get a 12-year-old, 11, 10-year-old to sit there and do math for an hour,” Carter said. “But they're more interested in just you being there.”

“They can make it to Duke,” he added. “They can do whatever they set their mind to do because I did it myself.”

Building the Duke community

With how involved Carter is in the Durham community already, it comes as no surprise that the same influence exists on campus. He is an immensely dedicated student—he has been named ACC Academic Honor Roll on three occasions—and an even more active teammate and friend. Carter is the only returning captain on this year’s Duke team, an indication that even a wholesale change in the coaching staff didn’t shake the squad’s faith in his leadership abilities.

“What I've learned over the years has been [that] you lead by example, but also you got to be able to be vocal when you need to,” Carter said at ACC Football Kickoff in July.

And vocal he has been. Carter regularly reaches beyond his teammates to make connections with other students. In fact, he sees those connections as one of Duke’s greatest strengths in rebuilding the football program under new head coach Mike Elko. Where players on the basketball team can sometimes seem like celebrities due to their media buzz, Carter makes a point to be approachable and personally encourage students to come to games.

Even in his early conversations with Elko, Carter emphasized the role that campus culture and the Blue Devil community have, not only on the reputation of the school but as a direct piece of sporting success.

“Knowing we have a fan base that is capable of producing what the Cameron Crazies produce every game, no matter if we're playing a DIII team, it doesn't matter what the game is, they're out there in full force,” Carter said. “Our connections on campus are real tight.”

The relationships Carter has made on campus are evident to all who know him, and he’s a consistent and vocal source of encouragement and leadership to those around him. A self-described extrovert, reaching out to new people and making a positive influence are key to the influence he hopes to have in all spheres of his life.

Coming full circle

In the end, everything comes back to legacy.

For Carter, legacy is not unilateral and it’s certainly not just under the lights at Wallace Wade Stadium. It extends to Durham’s youth, the future of the Blue Devil football program and the campus community at Duke and beyond.

“Carter has changed lives in the Duke and Durham community,” wrote offensive lineman Calib Perez in this year’s Chron15. “From sharing a laugh with a classmate, supporting a teammate to encouraging a young scholar or athlete, he always inspires those around him and encourages people to achieve their dreams.”

It’s not a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs, but Carter has left a legacy to be proud of and seems poised to grow it once he graduates.

“Obviously you want to make money, but the big thing is my impact on people,” Carter said.

Safe to say, he’s done just that.

For the rest of our Duke football preseason coverage, click here.

Andrew Long profile
Andrew Long | Recruitment/Social Chair

Andrew Long is a Trinity senior and recruitment/social chair of The Chronicle's 120th volume. He was previously sports editor for Volume 119.


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