When Carter Warren walked up the front steps of the Millvale Boy’s and Girl’s Club wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates hat, it wasn’t because he actually supports the Pirates, it was because he wanted to make a better impression on the kids. After all, Tuesday was all about the kids for Warren and Pitt’s starting offensive line.
Warren, Pitt’s star left tackle, may be a Paterson, New Jersey native, but he wanted to find a way to be able to give back to the local Pittsburgh community that’s become like a second home during his time at Pitt.
“It just started with a dream and a passion,” Carter said at the Millvale Boy’s and Girl’s Club Tuesday. “I said growing up, I was always in the Boy’s and Girl’s club, and I just wanted to give back and play with the kids today. It’s all about them.”
Carter’s own “Carter’s Creation Initiative” partnered with Brushes & Beans Cafe and Ithen USA to spend the day with the local kids of the Millvale Boy’s and Girl’s Club to interact at a one-on-one, interpersonal level and partake in fun activities and events.
It may have been Warren’s event Tuesday, but he certainly wasn’t alone. It was a true team effort, as it’s been for a while now with Pitt’s line. Marcus Minor, Gabe Houy, Owen Drexel and Jake Kradel were all in attendance, and it wasn’t a hard decision for any of Warren’s linemates — and best friends — to make it out.
“I’d give an hour whenever, (it was an) easy call when Carter told me to come,” Drexel said. “I have a younger brother myself so seeing any kid get excited or light up their face just makes your day so much better.”
All five linemen distributed “Carter’s Creation Initiative” t-shirts for the kids, with each member of the line responsible for a different sized shirt, and there was a brief introductory period before each took a group of kids off to spend some time together.
Drexel was able to build a bond over Fortnite, although he admitted that he wasn’t very good himself. Jake Kradel and Gabe Houy played an assortment of games like connect four, bumper pool and video games with the kids. Carter Warren stepped to lead the first group of kids.
For someone like Minor, who took his group of kids outside for some outdoor activities on a beautiful 75-degree day in Pittsburgh, the opportunity to hang out with the local kids was something he could relate to his own childhood — and finally be the role model he always wanted himself.
“When I was growing up, when I started playing football, I always just wanted the opportunity to meet — whether it was somebody from the NFL or college — just because I knew they could help impact my life overall,” Minor said. “So me just having the chance to do that now, if I have the chance to mentor one or help bring one across throughout today, then I’ve done something I’ve always wanted.”
The opportunity for Warren, Minor, Drexel and all the guys to give back to the community, not just Tuesday, but through the off-season and even during the grind of the season, is something that’s been encouraged by Pat Narduzzi and Pitt’s coaching staff — the staff helped Warren connect with the Millvale Boy’s and Girl’s club after all — but it’s something that truly comes naturally to Pitt football.
“It’s super important (to give back),” Drexel said. “Even in the past, we have kids come by the facility and everything. It’s really important to give back to this community. Because every Saturday they give so much to us.”
The community was certainly excited for Pitt to be in town Tuesday, and that excitement came in large part because of some good football players being in the facility but also because of just how big they all are. Kradel and Drexel are the “shortest” at 6-foot-3 while Houy stands at 6-foot-6.
The usual reaction is something along the lines of: “Oh, my God, you’re so tall!” The kids, Warren laughed, are very funny.
As Warren and the linemen distriuted t-shirts, most of the kids marvled at the sheer size of the men before them but were able to walk through the line easy enough. There was one boy, however, who looked Warren up and down with wide eyes, yelped and ran right back into the classroom.
“I’m excited to be out here, but it means a lot to me,” Warren said. “Growing up, living in Patterson, New Jersey, there’s not much around. It’s a tough area but the Boy’s and Girl’s club was a safe haven for a lot of people, so I just wanted to give back and be here today.”
Warren was truly happy to just see the smiling faces and playful attitude of the kids at the Millvale Boy’s and Girl’s club, a memory that both Warren and Minor themselves were able to relate back to their own childhoods, and it was a perfect opportunity to be that difference that both wanted as kids.
“Whenever you have the opportunity to give back, it’s always needed,” Minor said. “This world needs a lot more love for it, so it’s a great opportunity.”