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Can’t Touch This

San Jose State assistant football coach has got the moves

On his unconventional career path, Alonzo Carter left college to tour with M.C. Hammer before coaching football and heading back to school for his degree. Submitted by Alonzo Carter

Two more semesters, and Alonzo Carter would have had his bachelor’s degree.

But it was the summer of 1989, and a part of his life unrelated to playing football and studying at Cal State Hayward, now known as Cal State East Bay, had taken an unexpected turn. Finding his way back — to both football and his degree — would require 30 years and some life lessons he never anticipated.

The divergent path started simply enough: Carter was a college junior when he and a buddy showed up at an Oakland, California, club because one of their favorite emerging artists, the soon-to-be-famous M.C. Hammer, was shooting a video there. The two brought their signature style, a blend of fraternity stepping and hip-hop dance, to the “Let’s Get It Started” video, then showed up again a few weeks later for the “Turn This Mutha Out” shoot.

That’s when the recording artist took notice. “Hey, didn’t I just see you?” Carter recalls him asking.

Soon, the starting defensive back was choreographing routines in his dorm room during spring football training. Then came an invitation to join the Budweiser Superfest 1989 tour (“I looked at it as a summer vacation,” Carter says). That led to an appearance on “The Arsenio Hall Show,” when Carter and the other three dancers — who by then were known as Ho Frat Ho — wowed the audience in white gloves, crisp white shirts and baggy white pants. “It was a smash,” Carter recalls. “Everybody loved it.”

He returned to school in August 1989, only to tell his football coach: “I’m not going to be here this fall.”

What followed were concert tours, an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” awards shows — the MTV Video Music Awards, the American Music Awards, the Grammys — and even a separate record deal for Ho Frat Ho.

But in a few short years, musical tastes changed, M.C. Hammer needed to change up his act, and Carter was searching for his next step. “This was supposed to be just a summer job for me,” Carter says. “At the end, I had three years of college and four years of Hammer.”

That’s when Carter turned back to Oakland. His former math teacher, who was by then the high school principal, invited him to coach. Carter started with track and field — and knew he had found his calling. “I sold a Corvette to buy uniforms for the track team, and I bought a smaller car,” says Carter, who soon moved on to coaching football. “Once I started coaching, I didn’t want to be the dude who danced for Hammer. I wanted to be the best coach.”

Over 18 years, Carter’s teams — both high school and community college — compiled a 129-69-3 win-loss record and won 11 league championships. He was named league or conference coach of the year seven times.

He also finished that college degree, changing his major to African-American studies. Degree in hand, he qualified for his most recent position as running backs coach at San Jose State. And this fall, when Carter made his NCAA coaching debut in the team’s home opener against South Florida, his old friend M.C. Hammer made an appearance on the sidelines.

See Carter break out his old moves for his team at a practice this spring.

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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