Nolan Carroll remembers being a freshman in high school the first time he met the president of the United States.
“He said, ‘You’re a handsome young man,’ ” the newest Dolphins starting cornerback recalls George W. Bush saying.
Carroll’s mother Jennifer got involved in politics in North Florida after a decorated career in the Navy. Now the Lt. Governor of Florida, Jennifer Carroll has been able to watch her son’s football career blossom in the Sunshine State.
When the Rams visit Miami Gardens on Sunday, Nolan Carroll will be back in the starting lineup for the second week in a row. With Richard Marshall out with a back injury, Carroll has been pressed into service.
Now in his third season after being a fifth-round pick in 2010, Carroll came into this season with four career starts. Carroll played receiver in high school in the Jacksonville area, as well as in his first year at Maryland, but he said he always wanted to play defense.
“I haven’t played the position as long as some, so every day is a learning process,” he said.
Carroll didn’t play much as a rookie, although he found himself playing more as the season went on. Carroll said having Sean Smith helping him out on and off the field was beneficial.
“He has the confidence and knows what he is doing out there,” said Smith, who now lines up across from Carroll in the Miami defensive backfield. “In this game, there are a lot of shifts and motions, and coverages can change. I think he’s confident now in knowing that whatever happens he’s prepared enough to take care of it.”
Confidence is a something every cornerback needs, because without it, receivers are going to sense that fear and take advantage of the situation.
Wide receiver Davone Bess said he has noticed Carroll gaining more and more confidence in his game. Bess goes up against Carroll quite a bit during practice and said it makes him feel good to help in Carroll’s development on the other side of the ball. Carroll said going up against Bess in practice as a rookie “really shook me up.”
“Being a cornerback in the NFL means you have to know what you’re doing; you need experience,” Bess said. “If you don’t handle your business, you will get exposed by receivers in this league. Nolan is doing a good job. He came in, kept his nose down and did the work. That is showing now. He’s making plays.
“And it doesn’t matter what position it is, you’re happy to see someone make strides like that with their game. It means a lot.”
Carroll often credits his upbringing for his discipline. Not only did his mother spend 20 years in the Navy, his father, Nolan Sr., rose through the ranks as a senior master sergeant.
With mom and dad both cut from military cloth, Nolan and his two siblings knew what was expected of them. Their chores were regimented and Nolan Carroll now laughs when he looks back at his disheveled locker area.
“There was discipline, but they let me do what I wanted as long as I didn’t get into any trouble,” he said. “If I did get in trouble, there would be disciplinary measures. … I think that played a big role in my hard work and determination. It’s helped me now because I’m on my own right now. I have to trust in myself that I’ll always do the right thing every day. That’s helped me become a better person.”
Jennifer Carroll got into politics when Nolan Jr. was in middle school and he remembers being part of her support staff, stuffing envelops and knocking on doors asking strangers to “vote for my mom” as she ran for the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in 2000.
Those formative years seem to have soured Nolan Carroll on politics as he saw how dirty things could become. Jennifer Carroll, a Republican, lost two elections to Corrine Brown in 2000 and 2002.
In 2003, Jennifer Carroll won a seat in the Florida House and held onto it through three more elections before joining Rick Scott in his successful bid for Florida governor.
“My mom didn’t have that supporting cast to mail out envelops. We were doing it,” Carroll said. “Instead of playing video games and having fun, I was going door-to-door handing out flyers. It was some hard work. That’s her life, and I’ll support her. But I don’t get involved with politics at all.”