Michael Carroll encountered doubters and naysayers as a Beavercreek High School senior in 2014 while telling anyone who would listen that he planned to play major-college football.
Those speaking into his life were only doing what they thought was best for him. He was an undersized safety with a bum knee who wasn’t even among the team leaders in tackles, and there isn’t much demand among FBS schools for players matching that description.
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“Those who were willing to help me saw me fitting into a small-school program, maybe the NAIA or Division III or II. But I knew I was worthy of something more,” Carroll said.
“My core friend group — I like to call them my brothers — all got Division-I scholarships. These are guys I worked out with daily. We competed against each other every single day. I knew I was on the same level as them. It was just a matter of it coming to fruition.”
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Although he had a few setbacks along the way, he enrolled at Big 12 power TCU, following close friend and Beavercreek track star Dekan Ekpo there, and his belief in the power of prayer, perseverance and positive thinking ultimately paid off when he made the team as a walk-on.
He appeared in seven games his first two years before a recurring knee injury ended his career. But the TCU coaches made sure he remained in the program and put him on an athletic scholarship for the semester that started in January — even though he can’t contribute anymore.
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He’ll graduate in December with a Sociology degree.
“God literally made a way for me,” he said. “And I think it says you can have the faith to dream something that’s bigger than your present reality — and it’s OK even if other people don’t see it. Go after it with everything you have, and God will reward you.”
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Former Beavercreek assistant Tim Minnich, who coached Carroll in youth and middle-school football, is one of the player’s biggest backers but didn’t see big-time college football in his future.
“We never expected him to get out of it what he did. Even knowing him as well as I do, I just didn’t think he was big enough and fast enough for that level. But he proved us all wrong,” he said.
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What’s even more astonishing to Minnich is that the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Carroll made the Horned Frogs as a receiver, given that he flopped at the position in previous trials.
“The funny thing was, he played safety for us all through high school, and he could catch everything in front of him. But when we had him run routes, that kid could not catch,” Minnich said with a chuckle.
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“I ran into him when he was doing things at TCU, and he told me how he went to the first tryout there and couldn’t catch anything. I said, ‘Michael, you haven’t caught anything since sixth grade.’ Before he went out again, he caught 1,000 balls every day, catching them from any kid at the school who would throw to him. The work ethic — you just couldn’t tell him no.”
Carroll has made the most of his time away from competition. He was named a McNair Scholar, which pays for graduate school for disadvantaged students earning high marks. He’s not sure yet what he’ll study but plans to use it.
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He’s also the president of TCU’s S.P.A.R.K. outreach program, an acronym for “Strong Players Are Reaching Kids.”
Minnich, now the Yellow Springs girls varsity basketball coach, believes Carroll’s journey can be an inspiration for others.
“For him, it’s all about kids realizing their dreams and what work does,” he said. “He’s found God and is pretty much into faith as well. He’s combined the whole package of how you get where you want to get to. Here’s a small, skinny kid that’s playing top-level D-I football. He just never gave up.”