When Brandon Carr thinks of his mother Sunday, he will remember the time and commitment she gave to her family and the dedication she showed as a schoolteacher for 33 years.
Kathy Carr's memory, however, influences her son beyond Mother's Day.
The Ravens cornerback, whose mother died of breast cancer five years ago, went to MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore last October to meet women undergoing treatment for the same disease. As he met them one by one, Carr pulled up a chair, signed sweatshirts, talked about what his mother meant to him and gave comforting hugs.
Carr came with gifts as well. He provided 150 HOPE Kits, which included fuzzy socks, tea, lotion and educational material, as well as custom-designed, natural-hair wigs for three women.
One patient, who was receiving her final radiation treatment that day, told Carr that she knows his mother must be "shining down and be so proud of her son."
Teammates and coaches laud Carr, 32, for his toughness. His streak of 176 consecutive starts is the longest of any active NFL defender.
But one of the most difficult recent challenges for the player nicknamed "Iron Horse" didn't come on the football field. After seeing how breast cancer took a toll on his mother over the course of eight years, he couldn't muster the strength to visit women being treated for the same disease until he did so eight months ago.
“She was my rock," Carr told the patients, "and it took me some time to get here to this point where I could stand here in front of you and talk about her without getting the floor all wet from crying."
Carr praised the women for their courage and faith in dealing with this illness. In talking with them and their supporters, Carr felt like he was back in his hometown of Flint, Michigan, where he heard similar stories about life and kids.
“I’m like, ‘Man, I’m sitting there talking to my mom and my aunts right now,'" Carr said. "That was like therapy for me."
Another way Carr honors his mother is through the Carr Cares Foundation, which provides tools to promote child literacy. The inspiration comes from Kathy, who taught in Flint Community Schools for over three decades.
Brandon Carr regularly goes to elementary schools to read to students in the same manner his mother taught him. She told him: "Get into the book. Change your voice for each character."
Carr wants to make the books come alive through his different inflections and animated gestures. He gets into it so much that he sweats.
"It’s just something I do to engage young readers when I’m reading to them, making reading worthwhile and fun," Carr said.
On Mother's Day as well as other days throughout the year, Carr often thinks about how proud his mother is of the work he does as a tribute to her.
"Sometimes I sit back and reflect on her true strength and her true grit in raising two hard-hitting boys and her influence on our peers and kids along the way," Carr said. "I promise you I just feel like it's her powering me and the man upstairs moving me in the direction she sees fit."