Hurricanes defensive end Thomas Carroll has one job when he’s on the field: getting to the football. Glory or no glory, getting that job done is crucial for the ‘Canes on the road to the Bowl Championship Series.
The defensive line may be the least recognized part of a football team. But, as Carroll contends, it’s as important as any.
“[In general defensive ends] don’t get as much respect, just like offensive linemen don’t get any respect,” he said. “Quarterbacks get all the glory, running backs get all the glory…we do the dirty work. People on the team realize what we do, but the fans really don’t see all that.”
After red shirting in 2001, Carroll had six tackles and a sack as a backup in 2002. He has 24 tackles so far this season, making at least one in every game. He had a personal-best eight against FSU. High numbers translate into a good time for Carroll.
“My best game was maybe Florida State. I had fun in that game,” he said.
A Lakewood (New Jersey) High School standout, Carroll had 117 tackles, 18 sacks, and three blocked kicks during his senior year. On offense he played tight end, gaining 292 yards on 20 catches as a senior. Carroll was a SuperPrep All-American at Lakewood. Coming to Miami, he, like all rookies, was thrown to the bottom of the pile.
“Everything’s faster in college,” Carroll said. “At every level, things pick up…it’s more mental here than in high school.”
On the gridiron Carroll’s mind is on only one thing. He hears the crowd, and no matter where he is playing, the noise is an inspiration to bring down his opponent’s offense.
“Nothing [is on my mind], just beating the guy across from me,” he said. “It’s pretty blank out there; I’m not really thinking about too much. Once you step out and hear all the fans screaming, no matter if it’s their fans or our fans, it’s just an instant adrenaline rush.”
Carroll is thankful for his opportunity to play as a Hurricane. He is amazed at his success with the sport, and admits the impact it has had on his life is far-reaching.
“I don’t know where I’d be without football right now,” Carroll said. “It’s paying for my schooling, and it got me around guys I probably would never get to meet if I were not playing. It keeps me out of trouble, and occupies a lot of my time.”
Without his grandparents, Carroll may not have ever had football in his life. His family has kept him grounded, pushing him every step of the way.
“My grandparents have been my biggest inspiration throughout my life,” he said. “They taught me the difference between right and wrong. I do a lot of this stuff because [of them]. I think about them in my everyday life.”
With five games left in the regular season, Carroll and the ‘Canes have a lot of work to do before they can taste the sweetness of sugar. But be sure to keep an eye on the defense. How many championships are won without it?
Melissa Teich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org