When most people hear the phrase “the first male winner of America’s Next Top Model,” someone like Keith Carlos wouldn’t be the first person to come to mind. But, among other things, that’s exactly who he is. Cut from a different cloth than most fashion models, Carlos’ road to the runway was a bit unconventional. The Bridgeport, Connecticut native is where he is today through good fortune and great mentors, as his life could have been drastically different had he made the wrong decisions along the way.

Before becoming a model, Keith Carlos was a Wide Receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles—before that, he was a teen navigating a rough neighborhood, surrounded by gangs, crime and desperation. Like most kids surviving those circumstances, the promise of a college education for top football recruits served as an escape route for Carlos—so much so that he jokes his favorite sports movie is Boyz n the Hood, referring to the parallels between the film’s plot and his own life as “the ghetto Olympics.”

In part, the comfort found in that sort of 90s nostalgia is what’s kept Carlos inspired throughout his life. Outfitted in Reebok’s Sole Fury, the brand’s latest offering featuring their 90s-born Split Cushioning technology, the athlete-turned-model met up with Complex in a New York City boxing gym to reflect on both the sports and fashion experiences that shaped his childhood.