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Quinton Carter: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending:”

In my first year running our summer program, Elevated Play, there was a 14 year-old boy who got placed in it as a last resort by the boy’s high school. He was failing his classes, not showing up for school and wouldn’t show any motivation to move forward in life. He honestly reminded me a […]


In my first year running our summer program, Elevated Play, there was a 14 year-old boy who got placed in it as a last resort by the boy’s high school. He was failing his classes, not showing up for school and wouldn’t show any motivation to move forward in life. He honestly reminded me a lot of the boys I grew up with and now most of them are either incarcerated or ultimately not living their best life. I didn’t t want to see that happen to my new recruit. I promised him I’d help him achieve his goals, no matter what they were. I worked hard to gain his trust throughout the summer and eventually he opened up. He attended my program every day, ready to reach higher than the day before, and his parents and I could see the passion in his eyes. He worked harder and harder not just in my class and on the court, but also at home and in his personal life. He just ended his 11th grade year with amazing academic standing and a spot on the varsity basketball team. I am proud of the work he’s done, and I know that my program can help the rest of the youth in Las Vegas the way it helped him. Elevated Play has helped many Las Vegas teens achieve success since its inception, and I hope that our prospective charter school fosters a larger version of what our program already accomplishes.


As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Quinton Carter.

Las Vegas native, NFL alum, and Big Jerk Founder Quinton Carter has parlayed his love of community and great food into one of the town’s most loved Caribbean restaurants. Raised in Las Vegas, Carter was a standout player on the Cheyanne High School football team before heading to the University of Oklahoma where he was honored as an All-American.

While at the University, Carter founded the non-profit The SOUL (Serving Others through Unity and Leadership) Foundation, an organization that works to serve the community and create positive reinforcement within the lives of children and a consistent support system for adults.

Following graduation in 2011, Carter was drafted in the fourth round by the Denver Broncos. With the Broncos, Carter intercepted passes from all-star quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, proving invaluable to the franchise. Leaving the NFL in 2015, Carter returned to Las Vegas to help the community he loves.

Joining up with former teammate Tramaine Stephens in 2016, Carter and Stephens took a ten-day tour of Jamaican to learn the cooking styles and spices essential to true Caribbean cuisine. After eating their fill of jerk chicken and lobster, the pair launched a Big Jerk food truck in 2017, combining family recipes with Caribbean flavors and lots of love. Following the incredible success of the food truck, Big Jerk became a brick and mortar restaurant in 2018.

Carter credits his love of great food to his grandmother, an amazing cook and baker who could create over fifty cakes and pies for the community and the church in a single morning. Carter’s mother herself makes a legendary peach cobbler and would allow him to help in the kitchen long enough to know how good food is made.

In addition to Big Jerk, Carter is the President of Change Vegas Youth Ministries, a non-profit dedicated to at-risk youth who need a helping hand and support. Through Change Vegas, Carter and team have launched Elevated Play — a summer camp that offers mentorship, physical education, and financial literacy. Carter and Change Vegas are set to launch a character focused charter school, Unity Success Preparatory Academy in 2020.

When not at Big Jerk, Carter spends time with his young son, Quinton Junior, and mentoring kids in the community. His favorite Big Jerk dish is Brown Stew Snapper and Mac & Cheese. Carter is a Wooden Citizenship Cup recipient, and a member of the 2010 AFCA All-America Team.


Thank you so much for joining us Quinton! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?

I’ve always wanted to be involved in my community and growing up in Las Vegas gave me first-hand knowledge of how business and entrepreneurship can help areas grow and succeed. I started my first business my freshman year in high school selling chocolates through the halls. Even though it only lasted a couple years, it really set the precedent for my future endeavors. I learned the actual value of a dollar, and this helped give me a new perspective on business and the drive to continue to try to establish myself in the business world.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

Honestly, and this may sound a bit weird to most, but having to retire from the NFL is the most interesting thing that happened to me. Now I don’t mean “interesting” in the traditional sense, but it was interesting in a way that it led me down a different path. Leaving the NFL forced me to think more critically about my future outside of sports. It helped open my mind to the possibility that I could be more than just an athlete, that I did not need sports alone to make a difference. Now, that being said, it also taught me that I could use my history and my experience in sports and my knowledge in business to make a lasting impact in the community and that’s what I set out to do.

What would you advise to a young person who wants to emulate your

The biggest thing I wish I had someone tell me growing up is that storms will come, and life will happen. People never try to prepare you for when things go wrong or when plans don’t go the way you thought they would, and it may get really difficult to push forward, but you have to work hard to overcome these obstacles. Surround yourself not just with people who encourage you to be better, but also with those individuals that put in the time and the effort to help you actually achieve better. Knowledge is power, but true success and growth comes from your network and your ability to create strong relationships with the people who also share in your goal to keep running forward.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

My father had the biggest impact on my life. He gave me the foundation of what it really means to be a man, and that was rare in my community growing up. I was fortunate enough to have a dad that encouraged me and stuck by my side when things were hard, and he’s always been my biggest supporter, and for that I will always be thankful to him because I wouldn’t be as successful without him.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

The city of Las Vegas is home to a disturbingly high number of underprivileged and disconnected youth. These kids don’t have access to a lot of the programs and aid designed to encourage and foster growth, not just in education, but also in sports and community involvement. I started my non-profit organization, Change Vegas, to combat this. We provide these kids with help in school and sports and offer some extra-curricular activities with the intent of creating a positive and uplifting environment for everyone in the community. We are currently in the process of opening a charter school here in Las Vegas, Unity Success Preparatory Academy (USPA). USPA will implement a school-wide, project-based curriculum that encourages students to see themselves as “change makers,” leading them to continued success in their choices after leaving our academy. We hope to give our students the opportunity to earn licenses, certificates, and/or college credits while attending USPA, effectively shortening the opportunity gap between the disadvantaged youths and those who happen to be more fortunate upon graduation. Change Vegas has partnered with Desert Elite Sports Management and has the entitlements for 20 acres of land in the North Las Vegas area to build Unity Success Preparatory Academy and the Desert Elite Sports Complex. We are looking for like-minded individuals and company sponsors/donors and investors that want to help fulfill our mission for the community.

What methods are you using to most effectively share your cause with the world?

I always find ways to be involved in the community. Reaching out directly to the people I want to help is the best way to share my cause. I go to the various youth sports tournaments around the city, I volunteer coach at our local community centers, and I even started my own summer program for kids, Elevated Play. I speak about my plans to uplift the underprivileged every chance I get, and I use social media, the most powerful tool when it comes to the sharing of information, to share my cause worldwide.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

When I was younger, there weren’t many, if not any, programs available to the youth within my community. I was faced with a difficult choice growing up: either find my own success in business or join a life of violence, and for many years I chose wrong. Luckily, when I got to high school, I started playing football. My coach was a life saver. Without him and my father, I know I would have kept running around the city directionless, and I vowed that one day I’d be a strong figure in my community so other kids won’t walk down the wrong path.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

In my first year running our summer program, Elevated Play, there was a 14 year-old boy who got placed in it as a last resort by the boy’s high school. He was failing his classes, not showing up for school and wouldn’t show any motivation to move forward in life. He honestly reminded me a lot of the boys I grew up with and now most of them are either incarcerated or ultimately not living their best life. I didn’t t want to see that happen to my new recruit. I promised him I’d help him achieve his goals, no matter what they were. I worked hard to gain his trust throughout the summer and eventually he opened up. He attended my program every day, ready to reach higher than the day before, and his parents and I could see the passion in his eyes. He worked harder and harder not just in my class and on the court, but also at home and in his personal life. He just ended his 11th grade year with amazing academic standing and a spot on the varsity basketball team. I am proud of the work he’s done, and I know that my program can help the rest of the youth in Las Vegas the way it helped him. Elevated Play has helped many Las Vegas teens achieve success since its inception, and I hope that our prospective charter school fosters a larger version of what our program already accomplishes.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” — C.S. Lewis. I love this quote because I feel like it’s a universal truth. It means little to dwell on the past because it’s much more ideal to focus on where in your journey you are at this moment and to grow from there. There are things in business, in school, and in relationships that I wish I had handled differently, but there is no point in me fixating on how I can rewrite the past. The reason I am where I am today is because I always move forward to write my future the way I want it. Had I focused on the aspects of my life that went “wrong,” I wouldn’t have noticed and taken advantage of the countless blessings and opportunities standing right in front of me. My beautiful mother always reminds me that there are no blessings without burdens, so I always know that when an obstacle is in my path, I need to look to the brighter side and push forward, never back.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The concept of “business” truly spans across every industry imaginable. All these different ideas and concepts help shape not just the world and its economy, but also the people that inhabit it. Titans of industry like Jay-Z, LeBron James, and Robert F. Smith have pioneered the way for a lot of people like me to have our own place in the world of business; they all have shown us that it’s possible to start with an idea and grow that into a product that can change lives. If there were any person in the entire world I could sit and exchange ideas with, it would be Elon Musk. He is a prime example of what it means to want something so bad that you’re willing to put in the work for it. From teaching himself how to computer program at about 10 years old to being admitted to one of the top universities in the world, Elon Musk has a mind that I dream of one day exploring. He has attempted many businesses, and though not all of them worked out in the end, they led him to the success that he has today. He learned from the past and decided to keep learning to better his future. That is the type of man I would love to have lunch with. Even though we are in two different industries, he has a wealth of knowledge and experience that could help any businessman or woman grow into something extraordinary.

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