Nolan Carroll, cornerback for the Miami Dolphins, visited The Fast Life to discuss his rookie season with the club.
For the 2010 Dolphins 5th round draft pick, the selection was as much a dream realized as a homecoming of sorts. “For me coming back to [Florida] . . . it’s very special,” says Nolan Carroll who explains, “I went to the school at the University of Maryland so a lot of people that were back home in Florida didn’t get to see a lot of my games, so now that I am down in Miami, a lot of my friends, a lot of family members now are able to watch the games.”
The Green Cove Springs, Florida native Carroll says for his dad, a senior master sergeant in the United States Air Force who has “been a long time Miami Dolphins fan . . . it’s real special . . . for his son to play on the team that he grew up watching.”
The 145th overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft by his childhood team came as a complete surprise reveals Carroll. “I had no idea. You have so many teams that are calling you, telling you, ‘you are going to be picked next by us’,” explains Carroll who admits, “It’s a long three days and you don’t know where you are going to wind up and you have to try and prepare yourself mentally.”
And mental preparation is something that plagued the team at home during the 2010 season. “I think we were still feeling a little complacent from winning that away game,” observes Carroll of the team’s success on the road, but “when we came home, not as much effort was put forth mentally, I think physically all the tools were there, it just mentally we couldn’t get it done.”
The Dolphins “got it done” one time at home against the Tennessee Titans winning 29-17 in week 10. “When we we’re on the road we just felt that it was us against the world, and that’s how our mindset was going into the whole week,” says Carroll, “We knew the crowd was going to be against us. We knew it was a must-win for us it seemed like every week.”
After a brutal Monday Night 41-14 week 4 home loss to New England, Carroll explains, “We watched the film, we knew it was fundamentals that beat us. We went back . . . like it was training camp . . . on special teams getting down our footwork, on punts getting down our timing right, getting off the line on kick-off, getting our blocking assignments right on kick-off return . . . from special teams to defense, offense, everything.”
Coming out of the week 5 bye and back on the road for a game against the Packers at Lambeau Field, Carroll assumed kick return duties. “I came in excited knowing that I was going to Lambeau,” recalls Carroll as the rookie returned 5 kicks for 130-yards in the 23-20 win over the eventual 2011 Super Bowl Champions. “For me to actually play in that stadium I took it as one of those exciting memories and I am glad I was able to . . . help the team and contribute to the win.”
The winning streak was short lived as the Dolphins returned home for a week 7 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers losing a close one 23-22 on a controversial call. “I could hear what the ref was saying and his explanation was ‘he didn’t know who had the ball after the fumble’,” recalls Carroll pointing out that, “one of linebackers gave [the ref] the football and it was on the replay that Ben [Rothlisberger] had fumbled the football. And I still don’t understand it.”
Even more perplexing was the week 14 game on the road at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets. “When I saw it on replay, when we were going into the airport, I couldn’t believe it,” say Carroll referring to Jets trainer Sam Alosi who intentionally tripped him from the sidelines during kick coverage. “I remember, just playing gunner and what they tell you at gunner, if you’re getting doubled, and I was getting doubled, they said try and work outside because the rules are if you go outside, the guys that are doubling you, they cant touch you anymore. So my job as a gunner is, get outside, out of bounds and use the sideline to my advantage so I am not getting touched and I can have free access down the field. And I remember, when I was running down the field, I just remember seeing the punt returner and that was it and the next thing you know I am falling,” details Carroll who simply says “[Alosi] called and apologized. I wasn’t mad at the situation; I wasn’t hurt. I was just happy we got the [win].” Miami defeated the Jets 10 – 6 for their sixth road victory of the season.
The game also saw Carroll record his first career interception, “We were in a zone, and I remember I disguised it. I remember seeing both receivers and I saw the #2 receiver go vertical and then I saw Santonio Holmes. And I was looking at Mark Sanchez at the same time. Mark Sanchez was getting ready to throw it, but Santonio Holmes wasn’t out of his break yet, so I figured, I’m just going to go ahead and jump it because he looked like he was getting ready to throw the ball. I just made sure I caught it and stayed in bounds and that’s how it all developed.”
Overall Miami improved its 29th ranked defense from a year ago to 6th best in the league in 2010. “Everybody on the defense took pride in that, every practice, every scrimmage every game, we took pride in that,” emphatically stats Carroll who feels “that we got better as every game went all along and we got comfortable with [Mike Nolan’s] system. Now that we have a year under our belt, we feel that we should be able to dominate coming into next year 2011.”
Individually, Carroll feels “the last six games of the 2010 season I started getting confident. Started seeing things a lot faster, the game started slowing down; and I know I can be build upon that because I haven’t been playing this position that long and I’m very happy with the progress that I made, I know I can only get better.”