• 73°

“Big C” headlines ’09 prep season

Greenville’s Kenneth Carter is an intimidating figure. At 6 feet, 5 inches tall and 270 pounds, that may be an understatement. But despite his appearance, Carter is an easy-going, laid-back guy — off the football field.

However, when he steps on the field, a change comes over him and the intensity cranks up.

“It just comes naturally, throwing that switch,” Carter said.

“Big C” is Carter’s nickname, for obvious reasons.

He started playing football in the termite league, and he’s always been the biggest kid on the team.

In middle school, he teamed up with Jamontay Pilson, a fellow defensive end who graduated from Greenville last year.

When Carter talks about “flipping the switch” when he steps on the field, he gives part of the credit for that attitude to Pilson.

“He didn’t care who he hit. He gave it this kind of relentless effort and taught me that you’ve got to have a whole different mindset,” Carter said.

Carter also said it doesn’t matter who’s watching or how many cameras are around the field while he’s playing.

That’s probably a good trait, considering how much attention he’s gotten over the past year.

Carter has been named to numerous top-10 recruiting lists across the state, and he was pursued by colleges across the southeast, including Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee, LSU and Ole Miss.

Besides the attention from colleges, numerous media outlets have come to Greenville to talk to Carter.

Somehow, he’s managed to stay low-key about it all.

“I don’t know why,” Carter said about his popularity. “I’m just playing ball. I’m out there doing what I do.”

With a myriad of choices available to him, he ultimately chose to go to Auburn because of the coaching staff and the atmosphere there.

“You want to go somewhere they show you some love, and they were real friendly at Auburn,” Carter said. “I’m going to maintain my grades and go there.”

Tennessee recruited Carter to play on the offensive line, and while he’ll see some playing time at that position this season, it’s not one of his favorite things to do.

“I want to hit,” he said. “Being down in the trenches and trying to throw off the offensive linemen, that’s my favorite thing to do. And then when you hit the quarterback by yourself, you get to celebrate.”

Any time a player receives such a large amount of hype, there’s a concern that they won’t live up to it.

Some crumble in the spotlight while others thrive off it, but it seems that Carter is taking it all in stride and not losing any sleep about the upcoming season.

“It’s been crazy, but when you know where you’re going, you can go through the year without worrying too much,” he said. “There’s no pressure.”

Because he already knows where he’s headed, Carter has already been in touch with some of his future teammates.

In the first game of the season, Greenville will face off against Charles Henderson of Troy.

The Trojans’ defense will be led by linebacker Jawara White, who committed to Auburn a few weeks before Carter did.

“That’s my boy,” Carter said. “We’re going to the same place, and I give him a call every now and then to see what’s up.”

Besides terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, Carter has some other goals for the season.

“I’m just going to worry about staying healthy,” he said, and staying healthy is a legitimate concern.

He played much of last season with an injured shoulder and had laser surgery to correct the tears in it a week before Christmas.

Carter spent most of the spring recuperating and rehabbing his shoulder, and he said that it’s been fine so far this year during the offseason and preseason.

That’s not good news for offensive linemen, quarterbacks, running backs or anyone else that wants to get in his way on the field.

The opposing team won’t get to know the laid-back Kenneth Carter like the rest of us, unless they happen to meet him before the game.

“I’m quiet before the game, thinking about what all I’m going to do when I get out there,” he said. “I also say a little prayer.”

But rest assured, Tiger fans, once the coin flips and the whistle blows, the calm Carter takes a back seat.

“The field is my comfort zone,” he said. “Out there I can be me — wild, crazy Big C.”