BOURBONNAIS — David Carter’s grandparents owned a barbecue restaurant in Los Angeles. Meat was in his blood, and on his body; at 6-5, 300 pounds, the Bears defensive lineman’s paycheck depended on his girth.

He wanted to try something different, though, after being cut by the Cowboys two seasons ago. On Valentine’s Day, 2014, he relented to his wife Paige’s pleas, and practice, for years.

He became a vegan.

He lost 40 pounds in the first two months, something akin to career suicide. His agent called him crazy. The UCLA alum eventually figured out he needed to force himself to eat every few hours to keep his football figure. He studied the nutritional value of food and got back to 300 pounds.

Carter doesn’t eat meat, dairy, honey or butter. After signing with the Bears on July 28, he met with sports science coordinator Jen Gibson to customize an eating plan. Gibson had worked with vegans when training Olympic hopefuls.

Olivet Nazarene University chefs prepare his off-menu items. Last week, he walked out of Ludwig Dining Hall with to-go boxes of beans for protein and pasta for carbs.

“I don’t have the soreness I used to have before,” said Carter, who thinks the diet is good for the environment and will extend his lifespan. “I’m not sluggish. I recover a lot faster. If I get a little bump or bruise, it hurts for a second and then it goes away. I’m a lot stronger.

“I was shocked. When I first started, I was, ‘What the hell? I have more energy. I’m a lot stronger than I was before.’”

Bears defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who trained with Carter before the draft, joked he might try the diet after football.

“It’s definitely working for him,” Jenkins. “He’s looked very good.”

Carter has a good opportunity. He and Jenkins are the only two Bears to play ever 3-4 defense end in the NFL. Carter started four games on the Cardinals defensive line from 2011-12, and appeared in 28 more. He suited up three times for the 2013 Cowboys.

“Opportunity is everywhere,” he said. “I just have to come in here and do my job. There’s not a lot of depth at this position.”

He won’t be recruiting any players to join his diet — unless they ask.

“I let people do what they’re gonna do,” he said. “This is people’s’ jobs here. “

 

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Email: pfinley@suntimes.com