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April 14, 2012

Dolphins DB, Nolan Carroll Interview

by Max Strauss

Nolan Carroll played college football at the University of Maryland. He played in 38 games, with six starts during his career. He totaled 61 tackles, and 9 pass breakups and he started only two games during his senior season because of a severe injury that he suffered. He entered the 2010 NFL Draft, and was selected in the 5th round, 145th overall by the Miami Dolphins. In his two years with the Dolphins, he has totaled 35 tackles, six pass deflections, and two interceptions. He has been a stud as a gunner on Special Teams. This interview was done after the 2011 NFL season.

Click here to download the audio interview with Nolan Carroll.

Nolan Carroll : This is Nolan Carroll, #28 on the Miami Dolphins and you’re listening to http://www.prointerviews.org.

Announcement : My name is Max Strauss with www.prointerviews.org/, www.facebook.com/ProInterviews/ and www.twitter.com/ProInterviews/. I’d like to welcome you to the interview with Nolan Carroll. Carroll played collegiately at the University of Maryland from 2006 through 2009. In the 2nd game of his senior season, he got hurt and had to miss the rest of the season. He entered the 2010 NFL Draft, and was drafted in the 5th round, 145th overall by the Miami Dolphins. He has played with the Dolphins the last two seasons and been very successful on defense as well as Special Teams. Here is the interview with Dolphins Defensive Back, Nolan Carroll.

Strauss : How do you connect with your fans?

Carroll : I try to be on twitter. I try to get back to people I can. There are so many people that I can’t get back to everybody. I’m sorry that I can’t get that back to everybody, but I try to, but it’s just hard sometimes, but that’s probably the best. I did have a Facebook, but that just kind of got out of hand. I try to email back some folks and go to community event sometimes. My mom helped me out a lot just because of what she does. She’s the Attorney General so anything I do could impact her, that may help me out too. Other people might be fans of her and me at the same time.

Strauss : What was your high school football experience like?

Carroll : It was great. We had a pretty good. Our team was from all over the country. We had a lot of training and a lot of people who would just come out to our game to support us. We had a lot of camaraderie on our team. We also had rivalries between the teams in our area like Middleburg [High School] and Orange Park [High School] and Ridgeview [High School].  There were loads of people who came to our games though.

Strauss : What was the whole recruiting experience like for you?

Carroll :  For me, it was a good experience. I had some friends who helped me out as well. My teammate in high school was Cliff Avril and he was being recruited by a lot of teams. There were other guys before him that were recruited also. I looked at them and learned from their experience and they told me what to do, that’s why I was educated a bit as far as the recruitment process. A lot of guys didn’t know what to do and a lot don’t know how to go about it. But for me, I had people telling me what to look out for, and what things to watch for when choosing a school. It made my experience a bit easier and it made it fun too. I had a lot of schools coming after me which really made my experience easier.

Strauss : What was the transition like to Maryland?

Carroll : It was definitely different. For me, coming from a smaller area to a bigger city like Maryland. Maryland was close to Washington D.C. like five or ten minutes away. For me, it was different because the city life was more fast-paced The school and training programs were different. Honestly it was hard for me being able to balance your school life with your football life, and so I had to, with some kind of a struggle because I  have to figure out how to do it. What worked for me. What didn’t worked for me as far as time management. What time I could use to study. What times I could take a rest. Also, what times I had to stay focused with football. I had to learn how to do all that in a span of nearly two semesters, and I was struggling during my first year, but I was able to adjust after that.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite game from your time at Maryland?

Carroll :  I think it was 2007 when we played Boston College. They came to us and this was when Matt Ryan was on their team. They were number 8 in the nation at the time. They came to Maryland and we ended up beating them. I think the final score was 42 to 35. It was one of those games where a lot of people counted us out. We ended up show the nation there that we are a good team, regardless of our record. I think our record was either 6-7. We had a couple disappointing games during the beginning of the season. For them to come to us, and we showed that our defense was pretty good and that we could handle Matt Ryan even when he had all of that hype. That was pretty special for us.

Strauss : You missed your senior year due to injury, and how disappointing was that for you?

Carroll : It was very disappointing because I put all of this work in that off-season starting from January until my injury. I know I put in all of the time that I had before I went out. I would go and watch film in my room, and sometimes I wouldn’t go out. I would work late at night and to try and get better, and try to be the best. For me to get hurt, it was more disappointing than anything else because I felt like that I let my team down. I was the captain and I was the guy that a lot of people looked up to. For me, most of the time it was that I let my actions speak for me and not my words. I had to flip the switch because I had to use my words to help the younger guys out. They we’re lost and they saw me as the guy that they can watch and see how to do certain things on the field. Now that they didn’t have me, they have to kind-of learn on their own. I felt bad because you wanted to tell them one thing but when you tell them, it might not be the same way that you show them. That was the hardest thing and it was the most disappointing for me. The most disappointing thing for me also was that I also had goals that I wanted to complete when I was Maryland. And, since it was my last year and since I was not able to do that, it was really very frustrating.

Strauss : What would be the most important thing you took away from the injury and learning about it and dealing with it and going through rehab and all that? What would be the most important thing you’ve learned from it?

Carroll : The most important thing that I learned from it was determination. I knew when the injury happened I just told myself that every day I will get better and that every day I have to get better. You have no choice, but to get better. That’s all I thought about the whole time. I never thought about, “Man, I’m done. I can’t play football anymore.” I never thought about that. It never came to my mind. I always had determination ever since that injury. I didn’t stop regardless of what people said, and you always have to continue to work hard. That’s what I got from that. In the worst situation of my life, I was able to do what I needed to do to get back and prove to everybody that I’m the same player I was before I broke my leg.

Strauss : Do you think you are now?

Carroll : I think I’m better now. Not only was that challenge more mental than physical, and I think if I didn’t go through that mentally, I don’t think that I’d be the same person I am now.

Strauss : What do you think helped you through it though? Did anyone else helped you through it or was it just your determination or?

Carroll : I had to do with it, but I had a supporting cast that I’m not going to lie. I had players that would come and check on me, I had coaches that would come and check on me. I also had my parents that checked on me. I had a lot of people who supported and made sure that I was able to get back also. They were the ones that kind of catapulted me into thinking that I can still do this. There were a lot of people that were just supportive and believed that I could do it. I kind of stepped out, and don’t try to isolate myself and think it was just me, I just continued to work hard knowing that other people will going to support you because you know that you’re a good person.

Strauss : You were invited to the combine. Did you participate in the drills?

Carroll : Actually I didn’t. I tried to see my agent. I remember he told me not to work out. He said you should do it in your pro day in a more comfortable setting, just pass the physical. That is the biggest reason I went to the combine is to pass the physical. The biggest question was should we yield? At the combine, that’s when teams figured out, ‘Yeah, we could probably take a chance with this guy because he has been out.’ I did everything there at my Pro Day and I knocked that out of the park.

Strauss : What was your Pro Day like?

Carroll : For me, I was just relaxed all the time. I didn’t put any pressure on myself. I didn’t come here thinking I have to do this, I have to do that, I already knew what I was going to do, so I had no problems. I just went out there to had fun and relaxed. I did everything they asked me to do. I think when I was done I didn’t ask for my times. I didn’t do any of that stuff because I knew what I could do. I had done it at Maryland since December, January, and February, and doing  it until March, when my Pro Day was. I knew what I could do. That’s how I did it. I showed them that I was ready.

Strauss : What was your draft day experience like? What were you thinking about the fact that you got to come back to Florida?

Carroll : I tried not to make it stressful. I tried not to look at the Draft, but some tension builds up because you’re wandering who’s going to draft you, if you are even going to get drafted. I remembered just getting a whole bunch of phone calls from teams that just said, ‘Watch the TV and wait for that phone call because we might get you next.’ I just keep hearing that, not the first day but more towards second and the third day, that’s all I kept hearing, just be by the phone. Be ready. ‘Just give us this number where we can call you, and another number we can reach you.’ That is what I keep hearing because I was wondering what team is it going to be. Then, finally, I got a call from the Dolphins.

Strauss : What was it like to be on the phone with the Miami Dolphins?

Carroll : It was quite fun. I’m not going to lie, it was my dad and I watching at home. He was the one who ended picking up the phone because I was actually kind off chickened out because I just, I was just kind of so anxious. I was ready to climb out and go to sleep and probably getting ready to chicken out. When the phone rang, and it showed a 9-5-4 number and he talked to him a bit. He gave the phone to me and I remembered them asking, ‘Do you want to be a Miami Dolphin?’ and I said yes. And, for my dad, it was big for him because he’s been a Miami fan ever since he was a kid. He’s from Miami. For him, he just started hollering and he was very happy. I think he felt in the moment like a little kid because it was one of those dream things that doesn’t happen often. For his son to play for his favorite team is just proud moment for both of us.

Strauss : What was your first preseason like with the Dolphins?

Carroll : It was bullets all over the place. It was more authoritative because we had to learn everything so fast. It was something that I wasn’t really accustomed to because in college, they kind of give you a bit of time. In the NFL, they expect you to learn that stuff right then and there. They expect you to take it from the meeting room to the field. They throw a whole bunch at you when you’re working and they expect you to know it all. They understand, and they know, it’s a learning experience so they may give you some time. But, you feel like your head is spinning because you have to know those plays on special teams, you have to know certain things on defense, you have to know certain packages of defense. For me, I was in every package, and I played every position, except for safety. I was the nickel, I was the left corner, the right corner, so I had to learn different technique on different sides and I had to know how to play a nickel. I had to know different plays when I was in the nickel. I had to know just situations. I had to know things like, ‘Clear this.’ There were lots of things that I had to memorize. It was definitely one of those things where you’re just thinking like in Miami when am I going to to learn it? But I guess after a week or a week and a half, things start to cool down once you start getting more experience. You get more reps and then it starts to slow down, and slow down. At the time, you’re not just thinking anyways, you’re just reacting.

Strauss : What was it like to have your first interception against Mark Sanchez and the Jets?

Carroll :  It was definitely special because it was my first pick. It was really exciting, not only that, it got us all off of the field. Our defense stressed turnovers, so that’s what it was. That was a big advantage on defense. But for me, it’s just special because not only was I excited, but I felt like I did my part. I was part of the defense. I didn’t play most of my senior season, and I spent my time in the gym. I was able to contribute though and be a part of the team. I knew it was a special moment for me.

Strauss : Then, you had another interception this past year…

Carroll : That one for me also was different. It was a different season, but this one was just for us. We only kept hearing about how we’re not getting turnovers, and how our defensive backfield needs to step up, and for us we took that to heart. We were slow at the beginning of the season. There was something about that day. I don’t know, that day we just heard that the Bills are all over the place, and that they’re faster. That’s what we kept hearing and we all got kind of get pissed off right before the game. We were just angry and we were not just playing, but we were getting picks left and right. For me, I remembered it was almost like a Cover 2 Zone, and I remember the ball going through this guy’s hands and I remember seeing it. I’m also kind of excited because that night because I came back from an injury. The week before, my hamstring, but for me to come back and be able to contribute once again. It’s one of those things that I was proud of being part of.

Strauss : You have a pretty big role on Special Teams as a gunner. Will you talk to me about your role on special teams and where do you see your role going on special teams and on defense next year with the Dolphins?

Carroll : They describe as one of the core guys on special teams. They kind of dug a base for me, and that was my role for most of the season. I was doing everything they asked me to do as far as special teams. Finding that way to contribute on the team and that’s what I did. Like on kickoff return, I was a jammer. On punt return, I was a gunner. On the kick off, I was one of the speed guys that came on the field. On field goal, I was the block man. For me, that was it. Personally I was everything except field goal and that’s basically what you should do. If you are not a starter on defense, you play special teams. You kind of look at it like, “Oh man, this player is the best playing on defense.” You can’t look at it like that, because not everybody can be on the field at the same time. You got to find your niche, and find out how you’re going to contribute. In special teams, that is how it was taken. Besides playing defense, how else could I contribute. I put up most of my time in Miami season playing and watching film on Special Teams because I knew that’s what I was going to be doing the most. For next year, it’s what ever they tell me to do, I’ll do. All I know is that, for us is that we were the 2nd-ranked Special Teams unit in the NFL, but we wanted to be number one. Going into next year, that’s our goal. We can do it by everybody doing their job.

Strauss : Tony Sparano was the coach that drafted you, and you had two years with him, and now he is the Jets Offensive coordinator. What do you think that the Jets now have in Tony Sparano?

Carroll : I really think they got a good coach. I don’t think he’s a player’s coach man, He’s the kind of a guy who will care for you, He’s hard nose at the same time, but he will care for you. He’s the kind of guy that will push you to your limits to see how far you can go, mentally and physically. He just fits the Jets well, because that’s the type of organization they are. They are the ones who are tough-hard nosed organizations. They’re going to try and punch you in the mouth. I think Tony fits that role perfectly.

Strauss : He was fired kind of towards the end of the season. Then Todd Bowles became the head coach and he was the defensive backs coach. What was Bowles like? And I know he’s with the Philadelphia Eagles right now but, what was he like as a head coach for you guys?

Carroll : I didn’t see any difference. He didn’t act any different. He stepped in for Coach Sparano’s role as far as far at team meetings he’d say a few words about the team we’re playing. But, other than that, he acted like he was the same coach. He didn’t act at a different way.

Strauss : How was he in the locker room with you guys?

Carroll : He was a good guy in the locker room, and he supported us a lot. He got us ready for games. He told us not to fear anybody, not to fear your opponent, but to respect your opponent, but to go out there, and just punch them or they’ll punch us. He was big boxing fan, a boxing guru. He just told us to go out there and punch them in the mouth, and continue to punch and don’t stop until you put him down.

Strauss : The Dolphins a new head coach, Joe Philbin. What was it like when you met him?

Carroll : I like his ideals. He’s a good guy and he has this energetic way to go. He was a fairly lenient guy. He likes to put family first, and that’s the mentality that he’s trying to bring down to Miami, but at the same time, you can tell by just talking to him, he’s eager and ready to start.

Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?

Carroll : Oh man… I don’t know about that… That’s tough. Vanilla because I’m simple and plain.

Strauss : For someone who wants to play football in the NFL, What’s the best advice you can give them?

Carroll : Just look at the guys that are already in the NFL. Just learn from them, and learn to be the best by asking what makes them the best? You don’t necessarily have to be around them and ask them how they do it. You could just look at the film and see what makes them good. Just study one guy and you know and just work hard man. Just know that you have to work when nobody else is working. If you want it that bad, you have to do what nobody else is doing. You have to be one for the entire pack and willing to sacrifice a lot of things, and most people aren’t willing to sacrifice what they like, what they want to do first, in order to do what they need to do. That’s the best thing I have to say if you want to go to the NFL.

Strauss : Thanks so much for your time Nolan. I really appreciate it.

Carroll : No problem.

Announcement : Thank you for listening to the interview with Nolan Carroll. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you leave your comments below as well! Please check out my website www.prointerviews.org for other interviews, “LIKE” the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ProInterviews, and follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/ProInterviews. Thanks again for listening! Stay tuned for more, and feel free to contact me.

->Here are the personal questions that Nolan Carroll answered.<-

Strauss : If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?

Carroll : Honestly I’d have to say Kobe Bryant. I would like to ask him what him what drives him? For me, he’s already the best and a lot of people think he’s the best but he continues to work to get better. Because of that, I would like to talk to him and ask him, “How he does that?” Every year, he endures people telling him that, “We know you can do it.” I want to know what drives him to continue to work harder than everybody else, for him to continue to be great.

Strauss : Do you have a special pre-game ritual?

Carroll : As matter of fact, I do. I like to fold my hands together and sit in the locker room with a wet towel on my pad. I close my eyes and also put a towel over my head and just visualize what I’m gonna do in the game. I visualize the calls, and I visualize making those plays when those calls are made. That’s what I think about twenty minutes before the game, sometimes I even do it out on the field. I just go out, sit down on the bench and put a towel over my head and just the envisioning the stuff making play.

Strauss : How long have you been doing that?

Carroll : I’ve done that since high school. I would used to go in to the corner and wait for everybody who was getting rowdy before the game. I needed some quiet time. I just sat down and visualized what it will take. I just try to envision what’s supposed to happen before the game.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite TV show?

Carroll : I like both Martin and Family Guy the most.

Strauss : Who is your favorite character in Family Guy?

Carroll : Definitely Stewie.

Strauss : Who is a character you see yourself  most as in Family Guy?

Carroll : Oh man, that’s a good one. I would have to say that I have to say I’m Stewie man. I have that humor and that type of comedy.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite movie of all time?

Carroll : Back in the 80s, there was a movie called, “Big Trouble in Little China”. I love it man. That movie had John Carpenter and Kurt Russell.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite type of pie?

Carroll : I like pecan pie.

Strauss : If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Carroll : That would be all of superman’s powers, except the weakness to kryptonite. If I could only choose one though, I have always wanted to fly.

Strauss : If you could choose you’re last meal on earth, what would it be and why?

Carroll : Oh. Man, baby back ribs and some fries, that’d be my last meal.

Strauss : Thank you for answering the personal questions.

Carroll : Not a problem Max.

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