This is the fifth installment of an ongoing "Homegrown" feature series focused on Falcons players from Georgia who have thrived representing their home state in high school or college and the pros.
Lorenzo Carter's NFL career began in the Big Apple with the New York Giants, but he recently reconnected with his southern roots by giving back to his old high school, owning a family farm and playing for his hometown team. This is the story of Carter's relationship with the place he's always called home.
Lorenzo Carter didn't envision living on a farm when he was drafted by the New York Giants in the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, when he returned to the state of Georgia to play for the Atlanta Falcons two seasons ago, it felt right to trade in the concrete jungle for a 50-acre farm.
It felt right because he was home.
"I'm a southern boy," Carter said.
Carter is true to his home state through and through. After a successful prep career at Norcross High School, he chose to stay home to play for the University of Georgia.
It's a symbiotic relationship between the Falcons linebacker and his home state. As much as playing at home gives to Carter, he returns the favor.
Carter recently had the chance to honor his old high school coach, Keith Maloof, with the Falcons Coach of the Year award and Super Bowl LVIII tickets, but that drop-in wasn't a one-time occurrence. He often comes back to Norcross, his alma mater. Before that, Carter had visited to hype the football team up ahead of their first playoff game in November. The Falcons linebacker is also a part of the "The Blue Way" program in which he mentors current Norcross Blue Devil players.
Carter's ties to Norcross High School and its people have, and likely always will, run deep.
Ironically, it was Maloof who helped find the land for Carter's farm near the Norcross coach's own home in Winder, Georgia. It was perfect, Carter said, as land was already set up as a farm. Now that he and his family have made it a home it's lovingly named, Lucky Charm Family Farm, after the late-family dog.
It's not uncommon for Carter to make the 30-mile drive from the farm to his old high school, like the day when he surprised Maloof with Super Bowl tickets. To get there, Carter drove a heavy-duty Ford truck up to his old stomping grounds with his dad and one of his two older sisters alongside him.
When the family arrived, Carter walked back into the school like he never left. He quickly received a swarming hug from the football building's janitor, Harold, who's worked there for decades.
"That's my guy," Carter said.
As Carter and Maloof met on the football field, the linebacker was struck by the memories of the place.
Thinking back to his teenage years, Carter credits Maloof for setting him on the football path when he was initially more interested in basketball. Maloof gathered the Carter family together and explained why he believed football was the right direction for Carter. Two state championships with Norcross, an SEC title with Georgia and a third-round NFL Draft selection later, Carter can see Maloof's vision. He can sit back and appreciate it, even during the most grueling parts of a 5 a.m. workout.
Maloof has coached at Norcross for 25 years, and he knew Carter was a rare talent when he played for the long-time head coach. After all, Maloof knows talent, as seen in the fact he became the winningest coach in Gwinnett County history in September.
On the field where Carter helped deliver Maloof several of those wins, the video board overhead displayed a rolling slideshow of Norcross legends.
The program was the genesis of several NFL careers including Carter's former Blue Devil teammate now division rival Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who Carter is tackling in his photo on the video board.
Carter looks up at the board with a smile but not with awe. He's seen it before, time and again when he comes back. It's a familiarity and fondness only a select few can truly understand.
"His legacy will live on forever at Norcross High School," Maloof said.
Off to the side, Carter's father, Leo, looked on as his son caught up with his former coach. It wasn't lost on him how special the moment was. Carter may have just been gifting his high school coach Super Bowl tickets, but it was the accumulation of the last two years of having Carter back in the place he knows best.
"Having Lorenzo home is a dream come true," Leo Carter said. "...We don't want him to go anywhere else."
A pillar of the Carter family is giving back. That's why Carter makes his trips to Norcross High School frequent. The whole family is involved in volunteering at Norcross and the Atlanta Public School system as a whole. From donating time to donating turkeys during Thanksgiving, the close-knit family of five may look after each other first, but second, it's all about picking others up and bringing them along.
"I thank God for (Lorenzo). Everyone says he's a nice kid, and he is a nice kid," Carter's father said. "I don't take it for granted."
The Carter family doesn't take the Falcons linebacker playing in Atlanta for granted, either. It's a welcome, familiar change of pace watching Carter play under the covered, temperature-controlled Mercedes-Benz Stadium in contrast to his four seasons with the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.
For Carter himself, it's simple. Players and coaches often talk about their "why" — why they play the game. His family is his why, his motivation. It's a lot easier to be reminded of the reason to keep going when they're in close proximity at all times.
"It makes it just that much more special," Carter said. "It makes it all worth it."