The art of making mini helmets: Maryville man turns hobby into a hustle


MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Georgia native Doug Carter came to East Tennessee to punt footballs for Maryville College. Besides football, Carter discovered and pursued another passion that he found a way to flip a profit.

Carter recalls his mother gifting him a mini helmet sporting an orange M and his jersey number on the back. He was impressed as he had never seen one in the college bookstore, turns out she made it— sparking an idea.

“So I started making them in my dorm here in Maryville college,” Carter said as he crafted a custom Loudon high school replica helmet.

After interest from his teammates, he started selling them. Soon, his hobby turned into a hustle.

“I remember I got a really big order from a school in Georgia and I remember I bought my first MAC computer and thought I was on top of the world,” said Carter.

Through social media, word of mouth and a lot of late nights and dedication — 97 Sports Promotions took off.

“Over the years gotten bigger,” says Carter, “The last 2-3 years I’ve really been pushing it,closing in on 3,000 helmets over the last 2-3 years. My goal this year was 1,000 helmets and we’re already close to 700. It’s getting bigger and better everyday.”

Despite COVID-19, this year has been his biggest in sales.

“In Texas it’s blowing up right now for me,” says Carter excited about his growing business,  “A lot of coaches are staring to come to me, and they want their historical timeline of their schools that they coached at so I’ll do seven or eight helmets of all the schools they’ve ever coached at.”

Carter has been producing the replica mini helmets for 15 years now. He and his parents will create custom decals. He starts with a blank Ridell helmet, either with color or he will paint them. Then, he decorates them with the decals, drills in the face mask, and finishes off the helmet with some heat.

“Everybody’s always blown away,” Carter says about his final product, “A lot of people they’re not able to have  their actual helmet from high school so a mini version is really cool and a cheaper way to do it.”

Carter produces a lot of helmets for high school football programs, but also creates them for middle schools, businesses and colleges.

While he mostly does business online, he plans to be at high school football games this fall barring a season goes on without a hitch.

Carter is also passionate about giving back to the community, finding ways to help through his business. Riding on the popularity of “Coach Duggs,” the NCAA 14 video game character created by Barstool Sports who brought back a title to Tennessee virtually as Tennessee’s head football coach, Carter created a helmet commemorating him.

97SportsPromotions is donating a portion of the proceeds to UT Medical’s COVID relief fund, supporting employees who were negatively impacted by COVID-19, whether it was getting sick, missing work, or having hours cut.

Photo provided by Doug Carter, 97SportsPromotions


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