WASHINGTON, December 29, 2016 — Former Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons defensive back Keion Eric Carpenter slipped and hit his head during a family vacation in Florida on Thursday. The 39-year-old died from injuries from the fall.
The family called the incident a “freak accident.” They told friends and fans that Carpenter was in good health and playing with his son when the accident occurred.
“They were running to the car when (Carpenter) slipped, fell, hit his head and slipped into a coma. It was just a freak accident,” Carpenter’s cousin Jamila Smith told the Baltimore Sun. “He was always healthy; he went to the doctor, ate well and worked out.”
Carpenter’s NFL career spanned six seasons. He played high school football in Virginia before playing for Virginia Tech. In 1999, after college, Carpenter started as an undrafted free agent with the Buffalo Bills. He started 22 games for Buffalo before joining the Atlanta Falcons in 2002. He started 39 games in over three seasons with the Falcons.
At the end of the 2003 Carpenter tore his ACL and fractured two vertebrae during a game. The vertebral injury required spinal fusion surgery. Carpenter was one of the few players to successfully return to football after spinal fusion surgery. He missed the entire 2004 season, but returned to start 15 games in 2005.
Off the field, Carpenter made an impact through The Carpenter House, a non-profit organization he founded that focuses on creating healthy homes and environments for low-income children.
Founded in 2005, The Carpenter House was led by Carpenter and board members Aaron Maybin and Bryant Johnson, who worked together to “leverage their NFL experience, relationships and resources, Keion, Aaron and Bryant are investing in the communities they thrived in.”
The group’s vision statement says that The Carpenter House “is to support the development of healthy homes and environments for low-income children to thrive and reach their highest potential for academic success. Achieved through a holistic approach that provides access to outstanding mentors, enriching activities and organized sports to youth while creating a gateway to deliver multigenerational resources, such as nutrition and financial literacy, that aim to break down barriers to creating healthy homes. Our goal is to invest in, build and inspire communities of change.”
Keion Eric Carpenter is survived by his three daughters—Kymiah Carpenter, Kennedy Carpenter, and Kierra Carpenter—and his son, Kyle.