39 years isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things, but it’s plenty of time to have an impact.
Keion Carpenter was a father of four and a man of charity who helped underprivileged families establish home ownership. He was also a fantastic football player.
And that’s how an obituary begins for any life well-lived, with the individual’s occupation a few lines from the top. Playing football didn’t define Carpenter. It was a means of furthering himself and his family.
There is an overlap in that respect. Carpenter’s selflessness extended to the gridiron where he played safety with a thoughtful abandon. Like so many skilled athletes of the nineties Frank Beamer groups he began on special teams and kept going. He finished his college career tied for the top spot in the Tech record book with six blocked kicks and was a critical part of the Hokies’ rise to national prominence from 1995-1998.
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The defining play of his career was his 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to seal Virginia Tech’s first ever victory at Miami in 1996. From his sophomore season on, Carpenter had at least one interception return of 52 yards or more.
He was among the first professional football players to have spinal fusion surgery and return to playing. Despite being undrafted, Carpenter signed with the Buffalo Bills in 1999 where he played for three seasons before three more with the Atlanta Falcons from 2002 to 2005. He started 61 games and finished his NFL career with 166 tackles, 14 interceptions, and one touchdown.
Just weeks ago he was posting on Instagram asking families in the Atlanta area to reach out of they lacked the means for a good meal on Thanksgiving. “The Carpenter House” organization has helped over 3,000 families and young people according to the non-profit’s website.
It’s the kind of stuff that sounds made up, like some kind of Norman Rockwell caricature of what it means to give back. It was all real for him though and Carpenter represented Virginia Tech in the best way possible, by living and breathing Ut Prosim.
He was known for his ferocious play, but it was his warm heart that made then man.
39 years isn’t a long time, but it’s long enough to make an impact.