Rise Again

Here is An UNSCRIPTD Journey written by Alex Carter:

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life..” ~J.K. Rowling

Here’s the current situation, I’m at home in Virginia with my wife, Ariana, and her family. We are where we are now, learning from mistakes I made and looking ahead to the future to correct those mistakes. I bounced around the NFL this year, had about 7 different workouts, been signed to 4 different teams, and let go by all 4 of them in the same year. I’m currently signed with the Seattle Seahawks, just thankful for each day as they come. Initially, when I was asked to write this piece I was excited, but it quickly became daunting to think about how I am supposed to express this story of my life and the events that have occurred leading up to this moment. I’ve struggled, faced many highs and lows, grown close with adversity…I’ve evolved as a man. I’m eager to take on the world, my heart overflows with the love of my wife and unborn son, our growing family. In writing this, I want my message to be clear in the end; enjoy life with the ones you love, have faith and strength whenever you face trials knowing that without them there is no growth. And, never, ever, stop chasing your dreams.

I.

 

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The year 2012 changed my life forever. Some good, some bad. As I was finishing my senior year of high school I was an All-American cornerback committed to Stanford University. Coming back home to Virginia in the spring from an award ceremony in Los Angeles for black excellence, I barely made it in time to drive to Cameron’s, my little sister, last ever volleyball tournament. She dominated. She was only fourteen, but I could see that her athletic ability surpassed even mine.

Unfortunately, later that night she passed away unexpectedly due to diabetes complications. She was only fourteen. My world was shattered. Being the big brother, I had refused to give her any of the candy she had asked for the night before which was hidden in my drawer that I believed could have helped her glucose levels. Even though her death was out of my control I couldn’t help but to feel I was partially to blame. The pain I felt was great. I cried out to God, struggled with Him. I was lost, guilty, broken and faced depression. In my crying out, He finally answered me, and assured me that nothing had happened that was outside of His will. It wasn’t for some time after developing this relationship with Him that I received peace and inner healing after what had happened. I was humbled and blessed at the same time to realize that all things were totally in God’s control, and that His plan to take Cameron away was ultimately meant to serve His purpose, for the entire good of His people. In fact, in the wake of her death her light transformed to become a positive energy that uplifted the entire community around us. A few days after she passed I found that someone had anonymously left a framed poem on our front door step. It was a message from her, saying that she was in a better place. That she was free from pain and that my family need not be sad, but happy for her. This poem I’m about to share with you is close to my heart, a piece of me, a piece of her:

I'm Free Poem

God works in mysterious ways. He set Cameron free that day from the pain of this life. But something else magical happened in that time and I’m convinced that He knew exactly what He was doing when He led the spirit of my wife to find me that day. Her joy and light helped comfort me through the pain and despair I felt myself sinking into. To this day, simply being reminded by my wife’s presence inspires me to continue to strive with purpose, even when I may not believe I possess the strength to do so. Though there was a silver lining in the heartache, it still took time for my pain to heal.

That fall, I went on to start at cornerback my freshman year at Stanford. We had a fantastic season, finishing 12-2 and winning the 99th Rose Bowl game in Pasadena. I had a season high seven tackles in that game against Wisconsin and finished the year garnering an All-Pac 12 honorable mention award. Though I again had every reason to celebrate in my accomplishments, for some reason, I sunk even deeper into despair as the outside world expected me to be happy, but nobody knew my inner struggle. Stanford football player on the outside, broken man on the inside. It was difficult living what felt like a double life. My academics slipped, resulting in my suspension from school for a year. After living in isolation for too long, I finally received the help I needed from my pastor back home. We sat down one-on-one and he counseled me through my pain, releasing the guilt and depression that was holding onto me. I cried in that moment when the burden was lifted off my chest, finally, after years of carrying it. From that moment on I moved forward with peace. I went on to finish my career at Stanford after three years, declaring for the NFL draft in 2015 after my junior season. It had always been my life dream to pursue the NFL. So, when the opportunity came I moved forward with the plan. I was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, blessed beyond measure! Ariana, my family and I were all on top of the world. We tied the knot that same summer in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Without a doubt, the most breathtaking experience of my life.

II.

 

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I reported to training camp in Detroit two weeks later. Day one of camp I severely injured my ankle and was placed on the injured reserve list for my entire rookie season. I also displayed immature behavior that resulted in me losing the faith, trust, and respect of my wife. I embarrassed myself and my family, for that there is no excuse. The entire year of 2016 was a defining chapter in my life, career, and marriage…and only by the grace of God am I in the position that I am today.

This journey has been far, far from easy. In fact, for the first time in my life I was hit hard with the reality that my NFL dream was over this year. I was released from the Lions and found myself living at home for the next three months without a job, without a source of income, and with bills to be paid. I knew I had to make changes… I spent all of September, October, November traveling around the US working out for different NFL teams hoping to just land a job on the practice squad for one of them. Honestly, it got to the point where I threw my hands in the air saying, “Let me be a water boy. I just want my foot in the door!” Kansas City, Cincinnati, Chicago, New England, Jacksonville, Green Bay, and Seattle all flew me in for a day at a time so that I could work out in front of their coaches and front office personnel. The Patriots signed me for three days in October before releasing me. Then Seattle called and picked me up for a week before they had to let me go as well for personnel reasons. I didn’t have much time to be upset about that because I was signed to the Bears’ practice squad two days later.

My experience in Chicago was unique. They assigned me the number twenty-five, which is the same number that my father wore for the same team back in the late 1990s. When the staff realized, even they were shocked by the uncanny nature of it. In the past, they have had legacy players, but never in the same position wearing the same number. I thought that was a sure sign that I was meant to be a Chicago Bear. Two weeks later I got the call I had received many times before, I was being let go again. Nature of the beast.

I had almost become numb to the pain. All I knew was to trust in God and that things would work out in the end. I looked at myself in the mirror a million times convincing myself that I was good enough to play, that these were just bumps in the road and that if I stayed committed to it and just kept working hard then I would eventually see myself in the place I desired to be. Back home in Virginia it was mid-December while the regular season of the NFL was still going on. I get a call from my agent while I’m at the gym saying that the Houston Texans want to fly me in and work me out. I take a deep breath, thank God for another opportunity with a new team and start packing my things to fly out. Ten minutes later I get a call back from my agent saying, “Change of plans, Seattle just called and they want to bring you back on”.  I paused, took another deep breath and this time did a fist pump that almost locked my arm out. Not a good look when you’re trying to make it in “The League”. The energy and excitement I had felt with the Seahawks sparked a joy in me that brought me back to life. A refocused and determined energy arose inside of me. I finished the regular season with the team. Unfortunately, we barely missed the playoffs this year, but the future is bright with this team. I signed my futures contract with the team the day after the season ended, guaranteeing that I would be returning with them this offseason and in training camp to compete for a spot. I am so grateful for the opportunity that lies in front of me now.

This past year, these past few years, have been challenging. I never thought that I was going to face this much adversity early on in my life. But I have. I’m here now, still standing. I’m thankful for the many trials and tribulations we went through and for the strength that has been given to us in the midst of our circumstances. We have overcome so much in a short period of time, and now I feel like all the hard work and dedication is paying off. My dreams are coming to fruition and we will be blessed with a son in just a few weeks, I can hardly contain my joy. As we gear up and prepare for what lies ahead in this next season of life, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the journey up until this point. I can promise you that although things haven’t gone exactly as my family and I have planned, we’ve learned that there really is beauty in the struggle. Especially when you have hope for a better future, and it also helps to have an amazing wife like I do who is willing to work through whatever struggle we face because the love is that deep. Now, my goal is to live each day in present, being grateful for all that I have, and always working to prepare myself and my family for what’s to come. I’ve relinquished control of the direction of my life, being humbled by my own experiences. I believe that my mission is to positively affect the lives of all those around me. I’m privileged to be able to chase my dreams, not many have this opportunity. I am confident though that if I continue to work and have faith then my career will flourish in time.

III.

 

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I don’t quite know how the rest of this story will be written, but I have faith in The Author. In the coming up years I plan to start a business, run a football camp for youth and continue to find ways to give back to my community. Ultimately, I want my life to mean something, I want to look back and know that I did something to make someone else’s life better. I have my layout of what I think that will look like, but if this has taught me anything, I know that no matter what I plan in my heart, God’s purpose will prevail.

That’s all for me, I hope that this next year will be filled with peace, joy, and abundant life, not only for myself, but for all who read this.

This is my UNSCRIPTD Journey.

Blessings,

AC Sig

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