NORMAN — Quinton Carter always hoped his work at Norman's 12th Avenue KinderCare would continue long after he left OU to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.
Thanks to Sooner freshman cornerback Julian Wilson, it will.
With Carter in California preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft, Wilson has picked up where Carter left off and been visiting the daycare twice a week to hang out with the kids.
“I just like helping the kids. I want to be a positive role model in their lives,” Wilson said. “It's a lot of work, managing it with school, football, but I got to do what I got to do. I've got to keep this thing going. Can't let it stop.”
The central work in Carter's S.O.U.L. foundation the last three years has been mentoring the kids at KinderCare. Last season, Carter began to wonder if he would be able to pass the torch to one of his younger Sooner teammates. It didn't take long for Carter to find that person.
“Julian really looked up to me on the field,” Carter said. “Once he found out about the charity work I did, he said, ‘Man, I always wanted to do that.'
“So wherever I went, he would come along.”
That included the daycare. It also included a Thanksgiving feast Carter's foundation put on for families in need.
“After that, he saw we were serious about helping others,” Carter said. “It wasn't talk. It was about action.”
That's when Carter put Wilson to the test. To see if Wilson was a man of talk or of action.
“Quinton sat me down and said, ‘I want you to keep this going,” Wilson recalled. “I felt that it was an honor he would let me keep this tradition going. I took it as a great honor and had no choice but to accept it.”
Wilson wasn't talk, either. He has followed through on that promise with action. Last week, Wilson helped plant an educational garden at the daycare for the kids to learn from. Preparing for a draft visit with the Denver Broncos, Carter couldn't attend. But Wilson took the lead, even speaking during a dedication ceremony.
“Julian taking the torch, it's amazing to think,” Carter said. “When you have enough guys like that on your team, it can take you to a championship level.
“That's the kind of guy you can depend on.”
The Sooners will be depending on Wilson on the field, too. Wilson, who redshirted last season, was listed on the spring depth chart at cornerback backing up Gabe Lynn. Wilson probably won't start next season, but he has a chance to play a bunch for a redshirt freshman and is someone the defensive coaching staff is very high on — for the kind of player he can be and the person he's becoming.
“What a great young man,” Carter said. “Julian is a leader. A follower when he needs to be, when he needs to learn. But a leader among his peers.
“OU can look to a great future with him.”