May 13, 2010
(Editor's note: Over the summer, we're looking back through the Tomorrow's Leaders archives to bring you a few updates Rice student-athletes who were featured in the program's first four years. First up is former defensive tackle Jonathan Cary, who was first featured on Nov. 6, 2007)
Jonathan Cary laughed immediately when asked how life was in the "real world".
"I miss my teammates and what it meant to be part of a team in sports," Cary said. "The concept of team in the business world is not quite the same. It's a lot more about the individual, but I am enjoying it."
Cary, who graduated in 2008 with a degree in managerial studies and sports management, works as a Human Capital Analyst at Deloitte Consulting. It's a job that keeps him on the road, but also allows him to follow through on a promise he had made to himself while playing at Rice.
"I travel quite a bit right now between the east coast and Texas. I was in Philadelphia for several months, and while I was there, I had the opportunity to visit an all-girls school in an underprivileged neighborhood," Cary said. "I told them about my experiences growing up and then we opened it up to their questions about college and various topics. It was a very enlightening experience and it made me appreciate even more the opportunities that I did have growing up because there are people out there that have less fortunate circumstances.
"One of the things I love about Deloitte is they do a great job of encouraging us to get involved in the community. That was the reason I was able to get involved in the projects back in Palestine," he added.
Cary grew up in Palestine, but the likelihood of his winding up at Rice would have been the longest of shots had it not been for some individuals in his community who dedicated themselves to youth activities. One of them, Frank Tatum, organized a youth basketball travel team called the 76er's and among the local youths selected for that team were Cary and Adrian Peterson, who was destined to leverage his athletic gifts into a stardom at the University of Oklahoma and the Minnesota Vikings.
"Basketball was my first love, and Frank became a father figure to me," Cary recalled. "He kept me grounded. He made me want to improve and to continue to do better, no matter if it was sports or school. He challenged me and I learned to be coachable in large part because of him."
Truth be told, Tatum did not want Cary to accept the offer to Rice, but to go to a more traditional football school. But the desire to excel that he had instilled in Cary was the driving force in his decision to use his football talents to obtain the greatest education that was available.
Ironically, Cary's decision to come to Rice allowed him to be close to Tatum when he was stricken with cancer and came to Houston for treatment when Cary was a sophomore.
"I was living at Wiess, and he was across the street in the Medical Center," Cary said. "When he passed, Coach Hatfield let me skip the game that week to go to his funeral. I knew that I had to find a way to bring the 76er's back. Our team is a tribute to him and I hope we can have the same impact on the kids who will play for us."
Cary and several others began the process of organizing the team and raising funds. They organized a coaches' clinic in Palestine that featured area high school coaches and held a tryout for approximately 30 local boys between 13 and 14 years old. The new 76er's were culled from that process and are currently practicing in Palestine for their debut at a June tournament in Longview.
Cary is the man behind the scenes, watching the budget and handling other administrative details while others are coaching the team. He acknowledged that he will have to fight off his inner Mark Cuban when he goes to see the team play.
"I am trying very hard not to micromanage things," he laughed. "The coaches are taking care of getting them ready, but I know I will have to fight the urge to jump in with them when I go to see them play."
Cary is also in the development stage for a program similar to Junior Achievement in Palestine that will sponsor workshops for local youths with businessmen in the community. "The planning and funding for that one is taking a little more time," he noted.
In the middle of his work and community projects, Cary also found time to treat himself to one of the rewards of employment, a vacation trip to Brazil with former Owl teammate Quinton Smith. "I don't know why, but growing up, Brazil was always a place I wanted to go visit. It was nice to realize that I could make that happen."
He also anticipates a return to school in the next two years to begin work on a master's degree, and his long term goals remain anchored in his determination to impact the lives of future generations.
"Eventually, I'd like to be the CEO of a YMCA or Boys & Girls Club," Cary said. "I would never have made it to Rice, or to Deloitte if it wasn't for people believing in and encouraging me. That is what drives all of us who are working on this. We want to give future groups of kids that same experience," he stated.
"When I look at the photo of that 76ers' team, I see how many of the players other than AP and myself fell through the cracks. We're going to try and give this group of kids the same opportunity or better to be successful," Cary promised.
By continuing to give back to his community, Jonathan Cary continues to be one of Tomorrow's Leaders.