By Mike Thomas
“You give a hope to any young man that they can visualize, they will do anything for you,” Comet football coach Alonzo Carter said. Providing hope with tangible goals is exactly what Carter’s coaching philosophy is all about.
Contra Costa College’s football program was not a serious title contender until Carter took it over in 2010. Taking control of the team at a time when local players were bypassing CCC for Laney, Diablo Valley, and Chabot colleges, Carter was able to draw students back to CCC to play for his team.
Since Carter has become the coach, his student-athletes have transferred to Division 1 and 2 colleges and the Comets are back-to-back Bay Valley Conference champions. These successes have drawn local players back to CCC, to become a part of Carter’s legacy.
“The main reason why I came to (CCC) is because I saw the track record from Carter’s program,” defensive back Darnell Dailey said. “I saw players coming out of here with D1 or D2 scholarships.”
Before coaching, the West Oakland native was a 17-year-old single father working at McDonalds. He went to high school at McClymonds High, where he played football, but when he graduated in 1985, he did not receive any scholarship offers. He attended Cal State-East Bay, and played football for its team.
“I didn’t receive a football scholarship when I graduated from McClymonds High,” Carter said. “I was a teenage dad working, going to school and playing football and I wanted to help raise my kids.”
Carter loves the game of football. When he was young he wanted to be a running back, and he looked up to players like All-Pro running backs OJ Simpson, Bo Jackson, and Tony Dorsett.
He loves the game, and it shows as he coaches football games from the sidelines. Carter is a very distinctive coach. Even during games, when the noise is near deafening, Carter’s voice can be heard clearly throughout the whole stadium. His passion for the game causes him to yell, but he always explains why he is yelling, and his players and assistant coaches accept the criticism.
“I’m very passionate on the field,“ Carter said. “My theory is whenever I tear down someone, I put 10 times the effort to lift them up.”
In 1989, Carter dropped out of Cal State-East Bay, and became the main choreographer for Bay Area rapper Stanley Burrell, also known as MC Hammer. This is how Carter’s coaching career got started, and that job changed his life.
“Working with Hammer made me disciplined as we had to stay in shape,” Carter said, “(Touring) was like a traveling business. I had to make sure all of the dancers knew their moves and were in attendance. It reminded me of being a coach.”
After his career with MC Hammer came to a close in 1992, he became an assistant football coach at McClymonds High School. In an Oakland Athletic League championship game against Skyline High School during the 1998-99 season, an edited video wrongly insinuated that Carter instigated a fight before the game. The melee caused the game to be canceled, and Carter faced a five-game suspension.
“I was victimized by the media in 98-99 when they portrayed me as the person who started the fight,” Carter said. “But the raw video really showed me breaking up the fight.”
However, local television news stations got an edited copy of the fight that made Carter look like the bad guy. The raw video did show Carter trying to break up the fight. After his name was cleared he became the head coach at Berkeley High School in 2000. In his two years there, his team won its first league championship in many years.
“I served a five-game suspension, but I told them if I served this sentence I would have to be a head coach,” Carter said. “In 2001 when my Berkeley High team won the (Alameda Contra Costa Athletic League) Championship, I went from being the villain to the good guy.”
In his four years coaching for CCC, he has taken the football team to two consecutive bowl games, and has seen a lot of his football players get recruited into Division 1 and 2 colleges. He cares more about his players’ education, than the talent they bring on the field.
CCC President Denise Noldon was Carter’s counselor at Cal State-East Bay. She said he was a young man who knew college was his first priority.
“(Carter’s focus on education) is what I am most proud of,” Dr. Noldon said. “I am most proud of (the player’s) success in the classroom. Football can be a moment in their life, but education will always be there.”
This season, despite losing the bowl game to Hartnell College, Carter is currently working hard to see his sophomore players transfer into four-year colleges. He is also getting his freshmen ready for the next season, and for another bowl game.