CHAMPAIGN — Once upon a time, at Centennial High School, Mike Carroll set a season rushing record that stood for 27 years. Now, 32 years after he last played in the backfield for the Chargers, Carroll still has the second-best rushing mark in school history.
If the name sounds familiar, it should.
The area’s career receiving leader is St. Thomas More senior Kevin Carroll. With a playoff game remaining, the younger Carroll needs 36 receiving yards to secure a top-10 position on the all-time IHSA list. He would move past former Casey-Westfield and UI athlete Jeff Finke (2,806 yards).
The Carrolls are a father and son who’ve made a lasting impression on the C-U football scene.
“I’ve heard so much about him,” Kevin Carroll said, “and I’ve always looked up to him. I hope people talk about me 20 years down the road like they talk about him now.”
Kevin Carroll was the area’s leading receiver as a junior and ranks first again as a senior. He was third in receiving yards as a sophomore. Entering the postseason, he has 111 career receptions for 2,771 yards.
He currently ranks 12th on the all-time IHSA list for receiving yards. He is tied for 17th all time for career TD receptions (30).
Catching passes has always been his passion.
“If I’d been a running back, I would have tried to beat his records,” Kevin Carroll said, “but being a receiver is where I needed to be. I’m glad we don’t have to worry about that competition.”
Though they played different positions, the Carrolls followed a similar path.
“His love into high school was basketball,” Mike Carroll said, “as was mine. After I moved here from Michigan as a sophomore, I wasn’t sure I was going to play football. If I had stayed in Michigan, I probably wouldn’t have been out for football my sophomore year.”
His change of heart occurred for one reason after his arrival in the community.
“I didn’t know anybody,” Mike Carroll said. “A good way to meet people is to go out for sports.”
He made a quick impression. On the first day of tryouts, Mike Carroll scored highest on the team on a series of fitness tests. He earned a varsity uniform, became a two-way starter and, in the 1977 season finale, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against Springfield Lanphier.
Kevin Carroll burst onto the area scene as a sophomore and now has drawn recruiting interest from Harvard, Washington University (in St. Louis) and the University of Illinois, where he is considering enrolling as a walk-on.
Whatever college he picks, he plans to follow in his father’s footsteps, at least academically.
Kevin Carroll wants to be a pre-med major with hopes of becoming an anesthesiologist. His father has been the head of the anesthesiology department at Carle for 14 years.
What pleases him most is that for Kevin, effort has matched success.
“It’s encouraging and rewarding as a father to see anybody give 110 percent and get to where they want to be,” Mike Carroll said.
As for his own still-standing marks at Centennial (he still has the triple jump record in track), Mike Carroll realizes the name on the board may be his, but they’re not his alone.
“It wasn’t just me,” he said. “I had good teammates and great coaches. It’s easier when the line blocks and there are good coaches calling good plays.”
Though it has been decades since he was the one in uniform, some things haven’t changed. The comments are just as applicable now for Kevin Carroll and his stellar career at St. Thomas More.