Hometown: Vidalia, Georgia
M.S. Business/Managerial Economics, University of Florida; Master of Divinity Religion/Religious Studies, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Current employment: Consultant, National Football League; Founder, The Carlos Blount Foundation
Carlos Blount goes home to Georgia to visit several times a year. Whenever he’s traveling for work, he’ll redirect one of his flights there to see his family and enjoy some cheese grits.
Blount grew up the oldest of five kids on his family’s Georgia tobacco farm. He watched his grandfather work hard on the very labor-intensive operation. With no dad at home, the family sometimes struggled to make ends meet, yet Blount knew that agriculture would be part of his future. At the time, it was unusual for African Americans or minorities to own land in Georgia, but the family owned around 600 acres, thanks to years of hard work from Blount’s great grandmother, his grandfather and uncle.
Because of his talent in high school sports, at graduation Blount was offered a scholarship to play football at the University of Iowa and another to play basketball at the University of Georgia. He went to Georgia, but didn’t stay long.
“We didn’t have a father, so it was just my mother and I. I felt obligated to quit school and go back home. She had bypass and I had to take her to the hospital and went through all those things with her. I felt it was my duty, I was the man of the house.”
Despite his feelings, his coaches told Blount that if he really wanted to help his family, he needed to go back to school. Iowa was still interested, so one of his high school coaches went so far as to pack his clothes and put him on a midnight Greyhound bus.
“That was a blessing,” said Blount. “I didn’t know that was what I needed, but I had a lot of good Christian men, and not just my family, but in the community, who cared about me.”
Hayden Fry of the U of I gave him an opportunity to play football, but the coach ended up leaving the program in 2000. As a result, Blount moved to Iowa State to play for Dan McCarney and the Cyclones.
“Ron Deiter was one of the first people I met at Iowa State, including the coaches. They introduced me to academics as well as athletics. Ron became a father figure. He offered me a lot more than just an adviser, he was a leader, a representative, which meant a lot to me.”
“Ron got me into the Ag Bus Club, he invited me over. He and his wife made me a part of their family. Ron is the reason I graduated from Iowa State, he kicked me in the butt when I needed it. It wasn’t just a student-adviser relationship. He knew I needed more, I really believe that God knew that I needed him and he provided that for me. Ag bus was a family. I came for football, but the relationships and ag took over. As a kid I thought that sports were the key to success. Ron taught me to have a macro viewpoint instead of a micro, which I had. Those are the things he instilled in me.”
“I wasn’t the smartest kid, I wasn’t the best athlete. Ron didn’t care about football, matter of fact, he was kind of the reason I stopped playing. I had another year of eligibility, but he told me I needed to go and broaden my horizons. So I went with Ebby Luvaga to Panama on my first study abroad trip and then later to Jamaica in my senior year.”
“If it wasn’t for the College of Ag, I honestly think I would have gone on the same track as I did in Georgia. When I’m back in Florida or Georgia giving a talk, they think I’m going to talk about the Cyclones, but it’s the College of Ag I talk about. I proudly wear the ag bus jacket and shirt when I’m out in the community.”
After graduating Iowa State, Blount worked in inventory control management for John Deere for several years and later went to work as district manager for Target. In 2012, he was working on a project for Target in Lake City, Florida.
“One weekend, I was home by myself,” said Blount. “I remember closing a door and that’s the last thing I remember.”
Blount, a 30-year-old, physically fit marathon runner had suffered a stroke.
When his wife Kayla found him, he was paralyzed on the right side, his speech slurred and making no sense. She and a friend rushed him to the hospital, where doctors started treating him. Immediately, more blood clots lodged in the thalamus and occipital lobe of his brain, causing two more strokes. Blount doesn’t remember much from this time.
Years of medical treatment and rehabilitation brought Blount back.
“It’s taken about two years for me to function and I’m still recovering. Going through that from a financial and a medical standpoint is very expensive. Target was a great company for me at this time; they did a lot so I could navigate this.”
Blount counts the experience as a wakeup call from God, and two years later started the Carlos Blount Foundation, an organization whose purpose is to grow spiritual community, raise stroke awareness, and promote leadership.
“It’s accountability that’s missing in today’s society. My motto is ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me.’ These kids have so many gadgets now and they have all these distractions but they don’t know who they are. So they look to the world to tell them who they are. You have to define that between yourself and God. If you see the value in yourself, then that will attract the attention and the love that you need, if you go out looking for it, you attract the wrong type of help.”
“It takes a village to raise a kid—I want to be part of that village. We’re just a Christian supplement for families, for kids, for the leaders in the community. Really, I’m giving back to the community what it gave to me, just trying to pay forward what folks gave me.”