Sept. 24, 2001
MANHATTAN, Kan. -
- by Lindsey Burket, Kansas State Sports Information Student Assistant
September 7 was a significant day for the Kansas State football team. It marked the day they boarded the plane at the Manhattan Airport to take off for sunny California to face the USC Trojans in one their toughest season-opening match-ups ever. However, September 7 was particularly special to senior running back Roderick "Rock' Cartwright. The date marked the second birthday of one of the most important people in his life, his daughter, Brianna Nichole Johnson-Cartwright.
"She's who I play for," Cartwright said. "What keeps me going every morning is knowing that I have somebody special at home who is looking forward to me taking care of business here."
Just like all college athletes, Rock spends countless hours dedicated to the sport he loves. However, reminders of the little girl who inspires him are never too far away. After the trainer is finished with the tape job on his wrists, Rock adds a little finishing touch by writing Brianna's initials and birthdate on each of his wrists.
"When I'm playing I can see the writing," Cartwright explained. "And when I get tired, I can look at it and it gives me a little extra boost just knowing that I have to keep going for her."
Even before he had a daughter, Rock had always had a place in his heart for kids. He spent a lot of time taking care of a younger cousin growing up, and says that being around children is an incredible experience.
"It's just the way they play, the way they talk, the things they say," Cartwright said. "It's just a tremendous feeling being around the kids, just because they know who you are and they know that you're going to take care of them."
With his love of kids, Cartwright hopes that once he is through with his football career, he can maybe go into the educational field and become a teacher.
"Teaching is one of the things I want to try and do, so I can be around kids to help them, lead them, guide them, and show them that there is people out there who care about them," Cartwright said.
There is quite a challenge involved in being a parent as well as a student-athlete. Cartwright is well up to the challenge though, and feels like the two parts of his life compliment each other.
"You have to be really responsible here and take care of business," Cartwright said. "But, I have to be a responsible father as well. I have to be responsible for both taking care of things here, and when I go home, spend just as much time with her."
Since Brianna does not live in Manhattan, it's not always easy for Rock to see her as much as he would like, but he always makes sure she knows that her dad is thinking about her.
"She knows who I am, Cartwright said. "I talk to her everyday on the phone and she tells me she loves me and I tell her that I love her, and she tells me she misses me and I tell her I miss her. That's my heart, that's my princess."
The telephone calls keep the father-daughter bond strong, as both are reminded of the person who loves them on the other end of the line.
"I wish I could see her everyday," said Cartwright. "But unfortunately I can't because of football. But as long as I talk to her everyday, and hear her voice everyday, that let's me know I'm still in her heart and she's still in my heart."
Due to the team's first game at USC, Rock couldn't be with Brianna on her birthday, but he made sure she knew that he was thinking about her, and would have one of a very happy second birthday.
"I just went and bought her some gifts today and sent them home, so she would have some gifts Friday," Cartwright explained. "I got her a bicycle, and I got her just clothes and toys and stuff, so she has those things on her birthday from me and knows that I sent them."
Although she will probably never make power hits on the football field, Brianna does have several of her dad's characteristics.
"We look a lot alike," said Cartwright with a smile. "She has kind of big feet like I do and her face is kind of like mine, especially her nose."
However, like any proud father, Rock couldn't pick out one favorite characteristic.
"Everything about her is special to me, Cartwright said. "Just the way she smiles, the way she runs to me when I go to see her, and the way she tells me she loves me on the phone, and the little things she does just touch me. She's the biggest part of my life right now."
Brianna will definitely have some great stories about her father to tell the kids at school someday, stories of her dad's greatness both on and off the field.
"He played for K-State and he is a great father," said Cartwright, when asked what he hoped Brianna would say when she describes her dad to others. "That's basically all I can hope for, is that she knows that I am a great father and I'm going to be there for her no matter what. She can talk to me about anything. I want her know that I'm her father and always will be her father, and I will always take care of her to the best of my ability."