FORT WORTH, Texas — He didn’t have a stellar high school football career at Beavercreek High. In fact, Michael Carroll may have spent as much time resting on a pair of crutches along the Beavers sideline than he did defending passes in the defensive backfield.
The 2014 BHS grad had been harboring an unreasonably huge dream ever since sixth grade. He wanted to play football for a prestigious Division I football program.
Carroll was a second-team all-Greater Western Ohio Conference Central Division selection at defensive back as a senior, but he was over-shadowed by his friend and training mate, the GWOC Central’s Defensive Player of the Year, Airius Moore, who went on to play Division I football at North Carolina State and is a likely NFL draft choice later this month.
“Despite my injuries, I had been working out with other guys on my team. Airius, and another friend who went to Toledo to play football before transferring to another school,” Carroll said. “I knew I was capable, but because I didn’t get that opportunity, because I was hurt, I didn’t get the chance to really showcase myself. By the time I did, and came back from my injuries, it was too late.”
Too late, because it was late in the recruiting season and most schools had made their scholarship offers, by the time Carroll was healthy. Carroll said the ‘Creek coaches at the time weren’t pushing him to college recruiters. To the coaches’ credit, it’s tough to sell an athlete who’s spent nearly half their high school career injured.
“I had to realize that I had to get that opportunity on my own,” Carroll said, by phone.
He’d get up at 5 a.m. and go workout at the high school before his classes. Then he’d do his school work, and go to football practice (or basketball practice in the winter), then he’d go home and do his homework, then start selling himself to college football programs around the country.
“I would stay up until 2-3 a.m. on a consistent basis, sitting down and drafting up emails, then sending them off to schools. None of them contacted me. Not a single school,” he said.
A high school teammate had moved into the area from Amarillo, and told Carroll about the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, and how their Division I football program was on the rise. Practically on a lark, and nearly two weeks after the school’s application deadline had passed, Carroll applied to TCU.
And was accepted!
So the National Letter of Intent signing day rolls around, and Carroll is still without a school. His Athletic Director at the time asked to see the wiry defensive back’s list of schools, and suggested that Division II powerhouse Saginaw Valley State might be a good option.
SVSU showed an interest, but Carroll’s dream was to be on a D-I football program. So, without a scholarship and having never been to Texas, and not even knowing whether the Horned Frogs were looking for defensive backs, the Battlin’ Beaver headed west.
“I really took a big leap of faith to make that move and chase my dream and shoot for the stars,” he said.
Now don’t play the celebration music just yet. Carroll’s story had barely begun.
He tried to get on the team that Spring as a walk on, but didn’t receive medical clearance from his doctors back in Ohio in time for him to workout with the other walk-on hopefuls. Instead, he later worked out with the scholarship players. He went into the Director of Football Operations office feeling as if he’d proved himself.
“He said, ‘Michael, we’ll not be picking you up this year. We don’t think you can be of any service to us.’ I thought he might’ve misspoken, so I asked him to tell me that again,” Carroll said.
Everything Carroll had been working for, seemed to have just gone down the drain. But he didn’t give up.
Instead, Carroll tried to build his athleticism by joining the …. wait for it ….. the TCU women’s basketball team!
No, he didn’t suit up in hopes of making the varsity squad. He volunteered as a practice player, using his talents as a former Beavercreek varsity player to help make the TCU women’s team better.
Carroll, all 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds of him, returned to Spring practice that year and tried walking onto the football team once again. And this time, he was faster, quicker and more agile.
“After that first workout, one of the receivers coaches came over to me and said ‘Who are you? I want you to play receiver for me.’ I said ‘Okay. Yessir!’” Carroll said, still sounding amazed.
All those years of defending passes in high school sure didn’t help Carroll catch them in college. He wasn’t very good at it.
His determination would put him into that similar routine that got him into college in the first place.
Early morning workouts. Hard work with this studies. He’d even sneak into the TCU practice facility, slipping a rock in the door, to catch blazing fast footballs from a Juggz machine until his fingers bled.
“The next year, I made the travel squad!” Carroll said, still excited about the news nearly two years later.
He saw action in games against Stephen F. Austin, Texas Tech, Texas and West Virginia as a freshman. Carroll played in four games during his sophomore season, wins over South Dakota State, Iowa State and SMU, and a double overtime loss to Arkansas.
After the Alamo Bowl that year, one of TCU’s offensive coordinators told Carroll he was the team’s most improved player that season, and looked forward to seeing what the gangly Beavercreek product could do this season.
In a bitter twist of fate, before his Senior season could even begin, Carroll’s football story came to an end. The years of knee injuries had caught up to him once again, and he was unable to perform at a peak level any more.
“I couldn’t hit a full sprint, and I would limp off the field. Two days before school started, right before two-a-days, I tore my meniscus. Then I learned that I had no cartilage in that knee, and a large portion of my quad muscle was scare tissue from my last two knee surgeries, and it could mean more surgery,” Carroll said. “I had wore my knee down to the point where I now have arthritic conditions there already, and I’m only 22 years old!”
He was medically released from the team.
Carroll focused hard on his studies, trying to figure out the next chapter in his life. Shortly after returning from Winter Break, he was at a student conference at North Texas State University in Vernon, Texas when he received a phone call telling him Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson wanted to see him in his office right away.
“Coach P is a very busy man. He’s very dedicated to his football. He’s just not going around doing things in a lackadaisical manner. He’s serious. So I’m thinking ‘Am I in trouble? Did I do something wrong?”
Knowing of Carroll’s physical hardship, the appreciative veteran TCU coach wanted to lend him a hand. He offered Carroll a full-ride graduate school scholarship. Carroll is a recipient of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program scholarship, which is designed to help first-generation college students fulfill their dreams of a higher education.
Michael Carroll, an oft-injured battered Beavercreek Beaver whom hardly anybody wanted, played Division I college football and fulfilled his dream on the playing field. He’s majoring in Sociology with a minor in Social Work and Philosophy and the McNair Scholar plans to continue his education in graduate school somewhere.
He had some advice for people who might want to pursue their own dreams against all odds.
“Whatever you have in your heart, whatever you have in your mind, or your dreams, it’s possible. … Never give up, because you don’t know when you’re on the verge of achieving greatness,” he said.
“For me, God blessed me at the very end. The very end! Never give in. Never give up!”
Robert E. McNair, of whom TCU’s post-graduate scholarship is named after, was a NASA astronaut who soared to the Heavens as part of the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle crew in 1986.
On his own path, and with incredible will and determination, Michael Carroll continues to soar.
Contact John Bombatch at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.