Bobby Carpenter does not fit the mold of a stereotypical jock. To begin with, he’s smart. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics, which says something in itself. However, he didn’t just graduate, he excelled, with a GPA (in economics, let’s remember) of 3.0, and at Lancaster High School he was a 3.9 student. He’s intelligent, athletic and he’s built a model marriage with the woman of his dreams. They cook together and kick it together, with their seemingly biggest disagreements rooted in his roots—that pony tailed, blonde hair he’s been rocking for years—and an Abercrombie half-zip jacket he’s had longer than the hair, two things that mom would like to see go away.
He’s the type of guy that has universal appeal. Men, women, young and old, appreciate the path he’s taken—and the paths he hasn’t gone down, as well. Truly, Carpenter can do no wrong. He doesn’t overindulge in anything. He’s reached that kind of mythical balance that athletes spend careers striving for. And the thing is, he’s been this levelheaded since middle school, when he made a commitment to himself to be the best he possibly could be.
The following Q&A and photo shoot shows a humble 26-year-old, with wisdom beyond his years. The Dallas Cowboys linebacker is decked out in Homage tees and threads from G&Co in our photo shoot. These jeans, though, aren’t the kind he’ll be passing on to his newborn, but there’s no doubt that those genes will help the newest Carpenter continue the family legacy of athletic prowess.
Some have said that you seem to lack the aggression that once made you a feared OSU linebacker. What’s that all about?
Sometimes it’s tough to be aggressive when you’ve moved around a lot and to be able to fully understand what’s going on. It’s one thing to know what to do, but it’s another thing to have it just be an innate reaction when things are happening. It’s something that finally started to click at the end of last season. This season, being moved around and finally settling in—playing inside now—it’s something I’m looking forward to. I’m excited and I think this year could be a big year.
Explain the physicality of the NFL: What’s it really like to crash pads and helmets with the most powerful athletes in the country?
That’s probably the one thing that is the biggest difference. People talk about the speed being a lot faster, and you’re going to have some fast guys. I’d say everyone is a lot faster, but that’s not the toughest thing. It’s really the size with the combination of the speed. There’s a lot of guys that are very big, that are very strong—they’re very powerful—and I’m one of the average-sized guys on the football field. Our offensive line probably averages 335 to 340 pounds. When you go against guys that size, it can be tough.
Describe your experience in the NFL in terms of team chemistry, performance and positional role.
Obviously, team chemistry is a little bit different in college. You’re not living with the guys—you’re not around them quite as much—so it’s a little different in that aspect. Performance: you know, I probably haven’t had quite the level of success that I was hoping to. I played pretty well in my rookie year, and in spots last year. Then this year, for my positional role, I’m probably doing a lot of our nicklebacker stuff and lot of cover stuff. I should be getting a decent amount of playing time with that. Hopefully being on a good team, and having a pretty solid role—I’ll be pretty excited with that—and hopefully that will be the stuff that takes us to the next level.
As far as being moved around to different positions: are you cool with that? Is it tough to master?
It’s tough to master. To understand it is one thing, but to be able to play and execute it is completely different. That’s one thing that’s pretty challenging. But it’s something that playing different stuff at Ohio State and at Dallas has helped me. At the end of the day, it makes me a better player.
Isn’t that where the injuries come from? The unheard, unseen or unspoken injuries from the constant battle between guys twice your size?
It is, and that’s why the injuries in the NFL occur and why they’re so violent because everybody is so strong, so big and so fast. It starts to wear on you. The more hits, the bigger hits—they’re just all the time, every single play.
What part of your game do you feel most people overlook?
Probably athleticism. It’s tough when I’m a big, fast guy—I can run and move, flip my hips—and sometimes, just being a white guy, it’s tough to overcome that stereotype that people just think you’re a big guy who can pound the football. There are a lot of guys who can play positions and have attributes that not many people associate with them.
What are your pregame rituals?
I don’t know if I have pregame rituals, I’m more routine oriented. I get there at the same time every game, I go through the same warm up, come back, do the same stretching routine.
What advice do you have for young players who want to play college football?
You’ve got to make sure it’s a passion. You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to put a lot of work in. And you’ve got to make sure you love it, because if you’re good enough to get there, it’s an all encompassing job in college, and even more so at the next level.
Who do you aspire to be like in the NFL?
I really aspire to just be Bobby Carpenter—be what I can be, be the best player that I can.
Does a player exist that’s played your position, past or present, that has resembling characteristics or statistics? Or are you like, “In five years, if I’m like so-and-so, I’ll be happy.”
I don’t really know if we have similar playing styles, by any means, but I was fortunate to play with Zach Thomas last year, and he’s a smaller guy, fast, just very instinctive, and he had a great career. If I could have the career he had, I’d be very happy.
At the end of the day, football is nothing more than?
What was your fondest OSU memory?
It’s tough because we had a lot of big, great ones. Maybe the Michigan game my junior season. It was kind of a forgotten year, I guess. We only went 8-4. Going into that game we were 6-4. It was a big opportunity for us, and no one really thought we were going to win that game. They were more talented, they were better, and we went down 14-0, and came back and won the game 40-21, or something. It was a huge win in the shoe. It was loud, and it was something that was really special for everyone.
You’ve been sighted at local bars like the Big Bang, singing your heart out and having a blast with friends and family. What keeps you smiling each and every day, despite the ever-growing pressures of your job?
Just having a great perspective on life. I’m fortunate to have an unbelievable family, great friends from back in high school and especially the guys I played with in college. It’s great to come back to Columbus and go out with them, and just go to normal bars and have a great time—even down in Dallas it’s kind of the same thing—just hanging out with a couple of guys. The people you see and the relationships you build are really what put you through life and get you up in the morning.
You’re a Lancaster native. Describe your younger years and how that area of Ohio shaped your personality and life.
Well, it’s a great area to grow up and live. I had a lot of close-knit friends that lived in close proximity to me, so I was able to walk or ride my bike to their house, and we would just pick up games every day. Nintendo and Sega were around in those days, but we always played stuff outside. That really shaped my athletic career and helped build bonds and friendships as well.
Ever been cow tipping?
No, [Lancaster] is not as hillbilly as what you think.
So the sound of The Shoe when it’s loud, how do you explain that?
I’ve never been able to quantify that. When you’re down there for a Michigan game – you know the two we had at home, and even the UT game my senior year—you can see the vibrations coming off the field. You’re yelling as loud as you can to someone five feet from you, and you can’t even hear them, you just have to read their lips.
How do you feel you match up against other linebackers on your team and in the league?
Very comparable. I’m obviously probably one of the bigger linebackers in the NFL being six-three, two fifty, I can run probably just as well as almost anybody. Having the size, speed and athleticism is what it’s all about.
What about AJ, how do you guys see each other?
We’re just great friends and great competitors. It’s great to work out with him. Everything is always a competition, whether it’s lifting or running, and we’re just about equal in everything. You’ve got to bring your A-game every day if you want to be the best.
So you went to state for swimming. That seems like the oddest sport for a guy like you.
Not state, districts. My mom was a swim coach growing up, it was something my whole family did. I started swimming when I was four years old. I was very, very good when I was younger. As I started getting bigger and focusing on other sports, it kind of fell off a little bit. I came back to it senior year. I just wanted to do something to have fun and be competitive after football and I had a great time doing it.
Break these down:
I usually make two whole eggs and four egg whites, a piece of toast and a nice little protein smoothie.
Lunch? It depends. Maybe a couple chicken burrito bowls from Chipotle, or maybe just some turkey sandwiches.
My wife is a great cook, she makes all these great dishes—pretty lean stuff—a lot of meats, a lot of vegetables, some whole wheats in there. It’s great stuff.
Snacks? We’ve got some raw almonds around the house, a lot of fruit, apples.
How long have you been married?
I’ve been married a little over a year.
How long have you been together?
How did you meet?
She was graduating, and I was going into my junior year. She thought I was a year older than I was or she said she never would have agreed to go on a date with me. I was kind of the young guy.
And you guys just hit it off?
We hit it off, and she hung around Columbus and worked while I was in school. When we moved to Dallas, Texas, we got engaged, and we got married. I have a great wife. She loves going out, loves hanging out. We’ll sit down and watch sports together, some HDTV. She’s very easygoing. She can hang out with all my friends, so that’s what makes it easy.
So, any kids?
No kids yet, but we have one on the way. It’s pretty exciting for us. I know it’s going to be great.
What did you study at OSU?
I was a business-econ major.
Your biggest pet peeve?
I’m not OCD about cleanliness, but my wife leaves the caps off water bottles and stuff all the time, and it kills me. If it spills I’m like, “What’s the purpose of having the cap if you’re not going to put it on there?” She slightly put the cap on the orange juice one time, and I went to shake and it flew out. I nearly went nuts.
You get to choose the next law, what is it?
I would limit consumer debt considerably. I would find a way for people to be held more accountable for what they buy and what they do and what they earn and how they live. I’m an economics major, I’m sorry.
What fires you up?
I get fired up about politics.
What pisses you off?
It may be the same thing.
And what makes you cry?
It may be politics straight across the board. It can be exciting, frustrating and saddening all at the same time when you see the way people live and how nations are run, and how things could be done a lot differently.
Promises are for____.
Promises are for those close to you.
Fondest memory growing up?
Me and my brothers messing around outside, whether it was fishing, riding four wheelers in the field or going sled-riding on the side of our house.
What talent would you most like to have?
How do you relax?
Just sitting back, watching TV with my wife.
You’re walking down death row. What was your last meal?
I’d have a nice—gosh, since you’re going to die, you can eat whatever you want—but I’d have a nice New York strip steak. I’m not a big carb guy, but I’d probably have a nice doubled-stuffed baked potato, a little broccoli and probably a nice crème brulee or cheesecake for desert. I’d probably be drinking a nice Blue Moon or Miller Light.
The most annoying thing about your business is?
You see friends come and go so fast.
What was the most important resolution you ever made?
I don’t know if it’s a resolution as much as a goal, but I wanted to get a scholarship to play football, and I decided that in the fourth grade. That’s just something I wanted to do, and I figured I was going to work for it. I had seen stuff that my dad had done, and I just said, “Hey, let’s go for it.”
That makes it a whole different world when you have a tangible representation of what you want to achieve.
Yeah, that makes it easier, I think.
Who is the most overpaid person in sports?
Alex Rodriguez is a great player, and he’s a target because he makes the most money. I don’t know if anyone can justify making $35 million a year, or whatever it is he makes, just to play a sport.
Terrel Owens: what’s up with Terrel Owens?
He’s a good guy. He’s misunderstood, and he enjoys the spotlight. Those are the three things I can say to describe him. He can be a great guy and a pain in the ass, all at the same time.
If you could have a drink with any figure in history, who would it be?
It would have to be some sort of war general—Alexander the Great, even Adolf Hitler, or George Washington. I’m talking leader of men—how are you a motivator? Those people motivated people to do things that no one else in the world could do, for good or for evil.
What are your vices?
I’m a workout nut—my wife hates it. If I have somewhere to be, I’ll work out until the last minute I can until I need to go there. Also, I love sports. I can watch sports stuff all day, but even more than that, I’m a National Geographic, Discovery Channel guy, too. My wife hates it. I’ll watch stuff about all of the old wars, anything about animals, all kinds of interesting stuff.
What is the most insane way you’ve ever seen anyone get pumped up for a game?
It’s funny. Being around AJ, as intense as he is, he probably rubbed off on me a little bit just to relax and have fun. I’ll never forget before the Minnesota game my senior year, I look over, and he’s taking a nap in his locker, and I’m thinking, this is good stuff here—this is when you know you’re ready to play.
What is the single most pivotal event of your life?
When I was in seventh grade, that was when I first was allowed to play football. I was a good athlete, but I wasn’t very tough, and I wasn’t really that big, and I wasn’t very good. I was decent, but I got my butt beat a little bit when we played against eighth graders. I wasn’t a very mature seventh grader. After that season, I thought, “This isn’t ever going to happen anymore.” Once basketball season was over, I started lifting weights a lot to get bigger. So the next year, when I was in eighth grade, I was a lot bigger, a lot better. I was probably the best player on the team.
How did high school pan out?
I broke my leg my junior year [of high school]. The last game of the season I had a stress fracture. I ended up missing six games. A couple doctors told me I might never play. I had a plate and eight screws in there, and from the day I got out, I went to school. I started lifting with my upper body again. I’ll never forget—I started lifting before school. I woke up at five in the morning and crutched down our long walkway into the weight room in the snow (it was in the winter), lifted by myself, showered, and hopped around the weight room on crutches. And I did that every day just to get ready for my senior year. I put on 30 pounds. So many people told me that I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I wanted to prove everybody wrong and come back to be a better player than I was before. Well, I did.
What one thing would you like to forget in the course of your life?
I’ll remember for the rest of my life walking into our lunch room on September 11, around 10:30, 11 o’clock, and seeing the world trade center, the first one, in flames, and then sitting there, and watching 20 minutes later the next plane fly into the next one. Playing a football game that Friday—it was just unbelievable how the country was rallied around each other, and its tough to say each generation has something like that, and you know, my parents talk about Kennedy getting shot. You never can fully comprehend it until it happens to you.
Did you ever feel like you had to perform at a certain level to get out from under your father’s shadow?
I always wore 13 in high school, he was 26, and I said if I was half as good as him, I would be happy with that. Sometimes I feel like I’m chasing a ghost a little bit. He supports me 100 percent—it’s never been something where he comes down on me. But I feel like it’s something always there that I always aspire to. It’s more of a blessing than a curse.
Do you think there is any sort of social responsibility implicit to being a professional athlete?
When much is given, much is required, and you need to be responsible to the people who look up to you. And it’s tough. You are [a role model] a little bit, and you need to know that. If you’re going to deny all that, then it’s pointless.
What is your favorite tradition from your childhood that you would like to pass on to your children?
My wife comes over and we yell more than any other family. Our family yelled at each other all the time. I don’t know if that’s a great tradition, but everyone in our family is ultra-aggressive. That’s what makes us successful. We’re competitive SOBs, man—everybody’s getting after it.
One of our biggest traditions was to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve. I still do to this day, and I love it.
If you had to describe Tressel in three words, what would they be?
He’s caring, he’s calculated and he’s very loyal.
Are you a loyal guy?
Honestly, at the end of the day, if you can’t be loyal to your friends and loyal to people who are close to you and family members, what do you really have? Being honest is part of being loyal. That’s the toughest part about loyalty—is being honest. Because it’s easy to tell people they’re doing the right thing, and they’re not, but if that’s what they want to hear—that’s not being loyal. Being loyal is saying, “Hey, you need to change this up. You can’t do that anymore.” And then they hate you. But you’ve got to do it sometimes.
What about Maurice Clarett in three words?
Talented, charismatic and unfortunately misguided. He has made some bad decisions in his life, but I still have a hard time saying he is a bad person.
Ever thought about chopping off your hair?
The thought has crossed my mind more now than ever before. It’s hot in Dallas. My wife and parents are on me about it. I told them once I cut it I’m never growing it back. And that’s the reality of the situation, so I’m trying to hang onto it as long as possible.
Who has hit you the hardest?
Brandon Jacobs from New York is pretty tough, and Clinton Portis from the Redskins is a physical runner. If you get caught not paying attention, either of them will knock you out.
Ever had the snot knocked out of you?
Never had any of that, fortunately.
What one thing do you believe is your greatest achievement?
I’d say graduating college. I mean, graduating with a three-point average and an economics degree is something that I am very proud of.
Which designer owns the most real estate in your closet?
[Laughs] My wife buys my clothes.
What is the oldest piece of clothing you still own?
I have a jacket I bought from Abercrombie when I was in ninth grade, and it still fits. It was a little big then. It’s great. It’s a little half-zip waterproof—the thing is a quality piece of clothing. I’m impressed, I’ll go sled-riding in it now. My wife won’t let me wear it anymore because she says its unfashionable for a 25-year-old man to wear that stuff anymore, but I love it.
What is your favorite word?
I probably inherited this from Romo, but I’ll start throwing around the term “coach” all the time and just calling everybody “coach.” It’s something that all those guys do, so it’s funny.
What is your favorite band?
Dave Matthews Band
If you had to drive cross-country, but you could only have one CD and the radio antenna was broken off, what CD would you want?
[Laughs] Dave Matthews, Live in New York City. It’s a great CD.
Root beer or cream soda?
What is your favorite condiment?
I don’t ever really use condiments—I think condiments are one of the downfalls of America. They are useless calories, the only thing they add is taste—taste and calories. There’s no substance to condiments—that’s why they’re called condiments.
What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book?
Oh, yeah, I’m trying to think. Gosh, we used to read Dr. Seuss out the ass. You’ve got One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, you got The Cat in the Hat, The Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, man, I would say The Grinch Stole Christmas.
Who is your favorite monster of all time?
I was a Freddie Krueger guy growing up.
Biggest celebrity phone number in your cell phone?
I do have Terrel Owens on my cell. Tony Romo? I don’t know. [looking through cell phone] Jessica Simpson, I don’t know. Who’s the biggest person you’ve ever had answer this?
Well, shit, he’s got unlimited access to people.
He said Jay-Z. Teddy Ginn said Lebron James.
I don’t know, I’ve got some decent people, I thought I was pretty good until I got to that. Terrel, Jessica Simpson, Romo.
You could have some fun and say, “With the current celebrity standings, Romo takes number one.”
Yeah, I’ll throw that out there.
Is Romo as down to earth as he seems?
He’s a great guy. He’s truly an unbelievable guy. There’s not too many people better than him.
If you could hire any one person in history to assassinate any other person in history, who would you pick?
Joseph Stalin would be my man to be assassinated. If you look at Hitler’s reign and what he did, he did a lot of terrible things, but Stalin did it for a lot longer and much worse stuff. And I would say, Bruce Willis would be pretty good, or Chuck Norris to lighten it up.
If you had to name your child after one of the 50 states, which would it be?
If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t mind naming her Virginia, and son, Arizona.
What do you wish other people were more mindful about?
How they impact the environment.
What is your favorite part of the day and why?
I lift before practice or in the off season I wake up at six and lift then, and that gets my day going, it’s a little tough to start the older I get. Waking up and lifting weights gets me rolling.
And probably to counter that, I love right when the sun is going down. Sunset, if it’s a warm night, maybe having a beer or something, just hanging out.
If you could domesticate any wild animal, what would it be?
Something from the cat family. Fortunately there’s a badass picture of me from the Columbus Zoo with a cheetah. I might get a cheetah. They’re the most domesticated cat that you can get. It takes 70 generations to domesticate an animal. The Egyptians had a stable of 1500 cheetahs. It’s unbelievable, my friend Brian Green, he brings it out, you can pet it and everything—it hops up in bed. It will sleep with him. They’re one of the most glorious—that’s what bothers me about the destruction of the world is the beautiful animals of nature and their raw power and ability. It is unbelievable—cheetahs were almost wiped out by the last ice age. They’re the fastest animal in the world, but they can’t run for more than 30 seconds or they overheat. They’re not big—they’re tall and lean. They have paws like a dog, they don’t have a normal cat paw, they have a dog paw with one retracted claw that they come up and slit their throat with.
What animal would you be?
People say I look like a lion, so I’d go with a lion.
Who would you like to spend more time with?
You can always spend more time with your family.
Is there something that you cannot say “no” to?
I’m kind of a sucker for my friends. If people want to do something, or they need something, I’m pretty readily available. There are times when I regret agreeing to it afterwards, but once you get into it, it’s never as bad as you think it is.
What do you love to see the opposite sex wear?
I’m a big swimsuit guy. I like being outside and doing stuff. There would be a lot more healthy-accountability in this world if every one had to wear swimsuits year-round.
What bill do you most detest paying?
Probably my IRS bills because they are the most, number one, and number two, I feel like a lot of it’s wasted.
What is the worst piece of advice you have taken?
Gosh, that’s really putting people out there. It would have definitely been in college. In college I would say it was something to do with procrastination. One of my buddies would say, “hey, you’ve got a test tomorrow? You can study when you get back in or study before, and we’ll go out.” Any time you put something off, especially when you have an exam or a paper, it never works out the way that you intended it to. You’ll always have a couple drinks, and then go in, and you’ll be fine, and that never works, it just always goes horribly wrong.