It’s hard to pinpoint which part of Leonte Carroo’s journey to the NFL is most fascinating.
Is it his claim that he has only dropped four passes — total — since botching six touchdowns catches in a New Jersey state championship game?
Is it Carroo’s fight to clear his name after a woman accused him of slamming her head against the ground on the Rutgers campus?
Or was it his parents’ decision to send him to live with a wealthy family 70 minutes from his hometown of Edison, New Jersey, getting Carroo out of what he acknowledged was “a rough neighborhood.”
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“It was a little weird at first, being a 13-year-old little boy,” Carroo told Miami reporters Friday. “I'm here, out of my comfort zone. ... Now I'm in Ramsey, New Jersey, which is a pretty wealthy neighborhood. I'm not used to some of the things, but that family made it very welcoming for me. They had three kids of their own. I stayed with them, and they treated me like I was their son for years.”
That family was the Yankoviches, and they welcomed the talented young man into their lives.
Fast forward nearly a decade, and every member of his family — both blood and not — is excited to see what’s next for this talented wide receiver.
The Dolphins didn’t have to take Carroo last week. And they certainly didn’t have to ship three draft picks to the Vikings to take him late in the third round.
They already have a full, talented receivers room. But Adam Gase, Chris Grier and Mike Tannenbaum believed Carroo’s ability was too great to pass up.
And so they took him — even knowing about Carroo’s domestic violence arrest from last fall. He was charged with assaulting a woman outside the football team’s training facility. The charges were ultimately dropped, but not before Carroo missed multiple games to suspension and had his reputation tarnished.
“I do believe it did hurt me [in the draft],” Carroo said. “But at the end of the day, it's behind me now. The Miami Dolphins obviously believed in me since Day One and believed that it wasn't true, which it wasn't.”
Carroo added: “I was exonerated and back with my team two weeks after the incident happened. I'm just happy that stuff is behind me, and I'm ready to play football now.”
Carroo, who chose Rutgers to be close to his sister Kenisha, believes he “was the best receiver in this draft class.”
NFL teams saw it differently. Eight receivers went ahead of him last week — a slight he won’t soon forget.
That’s not a chip on Carroo’s shoulder. It’s a boulder.
And that’s good news for the Dolphins. The last time he used embarrassment as fuel, he transformed into one of the most dependable receivers in the nation.
During his junior year at Don Brosco Prep, Carroo’s team reached the state championship game.
Carroo, who had some 20 touchdown catches that season, admits he didn’t prepare as seriously as he should have.
“I thought I was the man,” Carroo said. “That week, I wasn't practicing as hard.”
The result: Six dropped touchdown passes.
Luckily, his team was good enough to overcome it and still win the game. But his college prospects took a hit.
He came back as a senior determined. He worked on his hands “every single day,” getting into the building before anyone else to catch 100 passes from the Jugs machine. He did the same after practice.
And he plans to do the same here.
“From that junior year experience, I told myself I would try not to drop a pass again because it was embarrassing,” Carroo said.
“It was a lifelong lesson for me.”
One of many.