This is how one warrior achieved his ultimate Memorial Day moment.
Casey Carroll arrived at Duke University in 2004 as a highly-touted lacrosse recruit, and quickly lived up to expectations. In his freshman year, he played in every game and excelled as a defenseman and ground-ball specialist. In his sophomore campaign he was elected Honorable Mention All-American, scored his first goal in the NCAA quarterfinals, and helped Duke reach the championship game. On that Memorial Day, 2005, Duke came up one goal short, losing 9-8 to Johns Hopkins. And then came 2006, a season which started with promise and ended in tatters. Duke was the odds-on favorite to win the national championship. But on March 6, Carroll blew out his knee in practice, ending his season. A week later, three members of the team were accused of rape, and the Duke program went into a free fall. Though the accusations later proved false, the team’s coach lost his job and the team lost its season.
2007 offered a chance for redemption. Running on a rebuilt knee and playing for a new coach, Carroll was the best defenseman in the country, earning first team All-American honors and driving Duke to an ACC Championship and a rematch with Hopkins for the national title. But on Memorial Day, 2007, he came up one goal short once again as Hopkins won 12-11. Carroll’s title aspirations were apparently over.
So what does a remarkable Dukie do next? Well, during his senior year, Carroll had learned that a former Duke player named Jimmy Regan, who had gone on to become an Army Ranger, had been killed while on duty in Iraq. Carroll dedicated his season to Regan and, upon graduation, joined Regan’s 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger regiment. He shipped off to Iraq, where he served three tours of duty, and then he was reassigned to Afghanistan for a fourth tour. But Carroll always stayed connected to the Duke program. He would catch up on scores via the Internet and stream the video feed when it was available. On Memorial Day, 2010, he was sitting in front of his computer hitting the refresh button like a madman trying to keep up with the game score, as Duke beat Notre Dame in overtime for its first national championship. Carroll enjoyed the moment, alone, in the desert.
Still, Carroll longed to be an actual part of a championship Duke team. And due to his “lost season” of 2006, he still had a year of eligibility left. So Carroll quit the Army and applied to the master’s program at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, and was accepted. He returned to campus and at the age of 27 he rejoined the Duke program to play alongside kids he had once coached as teenagers, and to be coached by one of his former teammates. All went well until Spring practice when – again – he suffered a knee injury that ended his season. But Carroll endured. He remained on the roster, and attended all the team’s home games and playoff games.
Duke progressed through the tournament and made it to the title game, against Syracuse. In the first quarter, the Orange rushed out to a 5-0 lead. But Duke slowly took control and won a convincing 16-10 victory. As the players swarmed onto the field, Carroll was there – along with his wife and his young son – as an alum, a fan, a mentor and a team inspiration. Most importantly, on this Memorial Day, 2013, almost ten years after first arriving on campus, Casey Carroll was a member of a national championship Duke lacrosse team.
(Oh, one other thing. Due to his second season-ending knee injury, 28-year-old redshirt senior/former Army Ranger/Duke All-American Defenseman/#37/Casey Carroll still has a year of eligibility…)