Dec. 26, 2013
By Jerome Boettcher l Subscribe to Commodore Nation
Before his freshman year of college, place kicker Carey Spear admitted he wasn't too involved in community service.
Then he went to Mexico on a mission trip with fellow Vanderbilt students through Who U With Ministries.
There he helped repair an orphanage and construct a home for a homeless 21-year-old, his 20-year-old wife and their 2-year old child.
Spear returned to the states with a newfound purpose.
"These mission trips opened my eyes to my purpose," he said, "or what I feel is my purpose -- to help this community or give back to whoever I can -- to serve and understand that life is not about you. It is about helping other people. Once I grasped that it makes it so much fun. It is so fulfilling to build relationships with others."
Over the past three years, Spear has concerned himself with others' needs.
He mentors residents of Nashville's Safe Harbor, a recovery project aiming to keep adult men free of drugs and alcohol. Spear and several Vanderbilt teammates are actively involved in community service projects through Cross Point Church. He is one of numerous Commodore football players who visit Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt quite frequently to interact with the young patients.
"They've been put in some positions that honestly deserve some love," he said. "They need some encouragement, and that's what we're about. It is very humbling, and we're very thankful we get to do this for these kids."
It was at the hospital in October when the senior was surprised with a big honor.
After playing games with the youngsters, football players Johnny McCrary, Jahmel McIntosh, Walker May, Kyle Woestmann, Ryan Brockway and Andrew East joined Spear on stage as head coach James Franklin introduced them to the crowd.
Then Franklin said there was a special honor for Spear and handed the microphone to Elaine Payne of Allstate. Payne surprised Spear by presenting him with the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team award.
Spear was named to the national service team a month earlier. He was one of just 22 football players in the country to be honored -- and the only representative from the SEC.
"You guys are what it is all about--this is why we do it," Spear told the young children and their families. "We just go out every day and use the blessings we get and try to give back each and every day. It is very humbling to be recognized...I really do appreciate this. Thank you guys so much. This is something I definitely value and won't overlook."
Before the season, his teammates voted him as a team captain for the third straight year.
The 21-year-old also was named to the watchlist for the Lou Groza Award, which is given annually to the nation's top kicker. He owns three school records: single-season field goals (20); single-season points scored by a placekicker (87); and most field goals of 50 yards or more (four).
He hopes to make an NFL roster next summer. Either way, Spear plans to implement stewardship into his daily routine for the rest of his life. The Mayfield Village, Ohio, native is eying backup plans, such as working with Teach for America.
"(I want to give) back to those kids who don't have the same opportunities we have," Spear said. "Then whatever it takes (after football). I trust in God that I will be OK. We have been given so many blessings."
Spear, who graduates in May with a degree in human and organizational development, also wants to make return mission trips.
"I built relationships there in one week that I know are going to last a lifetime," Spear said of the mission trips. "You always try to surround yourself with people that fill you up, build your perspective to share their stories. You learn from them."
After Mexico, he ventured on the annual service trip with several other student-athletes to Haiti. There he played soccer with orphans in the impoverished country still reeling from a massive earthquake in 2010.
This past spring, he went to Peru and helped build a kindergarten classroom that would meet government regulations.
"He saw folks (in Mexico) that had a whole lot less than we do and yet they had a joy and happiness despite what they didn't have," said Lance Brown, founder of Who U With Ministries. "It just spoke to him. He has been compelled since then to try to serve. He has a heart to serve other people."