On Sunday, the Texans will wear their custom cleats for the NFL’s fourth annual My Cause, My Cleats campaign. After the game, players will have an opportunity to raise funds for their causes by auctioning off those cleats at NFL Auction, where 100 percent of the funds raised will be donated to their selected charities.
DeAndre Carter will don a Texans helmet, a Battle Red jersey and Liberty White pants this Sunday, but his shoes will look a little different. Carter's wearing bright royal blue and cherry red cleats with a white JDRF logo on them, as he's supporting the organization that's fighting to find a cure for Type 1 Diabetes. Carter's been an insulin-dependent diabetic since his freshman year of high school.
"I've had it for awhile, so I've got pretty good control over it," the second-year receiver said. "But it's just an added responsibility that you've got to make sure you stay on top of. Checking your blood sugar throughout the game, halftime, in between quarters. Making sure your blood sugar's not too high, too low during the game or in practice."
Carter is one of 1.25 million Americans who have Type 1 Diabetes, which is commonly referred to as 'juvenile diabetes'. It's an autoimmune disease that occurs when a person's pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that controls blood-sugar levels. There is no cure, and there's also no way of preventing it.
Carter wears a monitor that continuously checks his blood sugar. He also gives himself multiple insulin injections daily, mainly before meals. He has to keep a stricter control on his diet, and must be careful in consuming food or drinks high in carbohydrates. Despite all that, you won't find Carter feeling sorry for himself. He shrugs it off and keeps a positive outlook.
"It's not a big burden," Carter said. "It's just something extra that you've got to stay on top of."
Many of his coaches and teammates are unaware of Carter's diabetes. As the team's kickoff and punt returner, as well as being a regular contributor at receiver on offense, he's all over the field and in various meeting rooms during the work week. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly sees a player who's contributions and work ethic are good examples "for the younger players to look up to."
Kelly also didn't know Carter was a diabetic until recently.
"It's incredible that he's able to fight through and do what he has to do," Kelly said. "You never notice any dip. You never notice any lack, or anything along those lines. He's high energy and he's always out here giving it his all."
Texans legend Andre Johnson, who now works for the franchise as a special advisor to the head coach and front office, spends a lot of time in the meeting rooms and on the practice fields with the wide receiver group. He's liked what he's seen from the young pass-catcher this season, and like Kelly, was also unaware Carter is a Type 1 Diabetic.
"It's something you would never know," Johnson said. "It just shows what type of guy he is: the types of sacrifices he makes for the team. I'm just glad he's here with us."
A useful receiver who adds depth to an extremely talented corps, Carter's really made his mark on special teams. In fact, he's currently second in the NFL with 9.5 yards per punt return.
In many ways for Carter, those cleats will serve as a reminder of a rough 2007 summer back home in Fremont, California. He was entering his first year of high school, and in the span of a month or so he dripped off dozens of pounds, slept up to 18 hours per day, and felt lethargic. He didn't realize what was going on until one day in August.
"I couldn't make it through practice so my coach sent me home," Carter said. "Told my dad I wasn't feeling well, and I started throwing up like crazy. So my dad took me to the hospital and they ran the tests and everything and told me I had Type 1 Diabetes."
He said he'd withered away to just 76 pounds. But he got control of the diabetes, flourished on the field and in the classroom, and went on to star at Sacramento State.
He's now 5-foot-8, weighs 190 pounds, and will tangle with Denver Broncos this Sunday who will often outsize by four or five inches and 40 or 50 pounds. With the ball in his hands, he's been an explosive player. With the cleats on his feet, he's hoping to bring awareness to the things still possible, even with Type 1 diabetes.
"Just making sure people know you can still do whatever it is your goals, your dreams, your aspirations are, even if you have this diagnosis," Carter said. "As you can see, I'm still able to go out and do my job at a high level. Once you get control over it, and manage it, then it's pretty easy to go out and live life as a regular person."
Carter and the Texans host Denver inside NRG Stadium on Sunday at noon CT.
For the fourth year, the NFL gave players the opportunity to highlight causes important to them through the My Cause My Cleats initiative. Players will wear custom-designed cleats reflecting their commitment to charitable causes this weekend. More than 35 Texans players are participating.