Roosevelt High School football coach Matt Carroll didn't set out to make history. It just worked out that way.
But make no mistake: Carroll, 41, doesn't take the significance of his hiring lightly.
When he got the job at Roosevelt in mid-March, Carroll quietly broke through a barrier by becoming the first African-American head football coach in the 63-year history of the North East Independent School District.
I didn't think a whole lot about it initially, but people have brought it up as I've gone into the community, Carroll said. I know it's important to some of them. The kids may see that more, too. I'm here to motivate all our kids, but I think it's important that they see someone like me can get there and do the job.
Carroll, who grew up in West Texas and graduated from Andrews High School, was head coach at Waco University High School for five seasons before succeeding Neal LaHue at Roosevelt. The Trojans went 20-32 and made the playoffs once under Carroll.
It was a great thing to see Matt get the Roosevelt job, said Brackenridge coach Willie Hall, one of seven African-American head football coaches in Greater San Antonio. Black kids notice when somebody that looks like them gets that position, and they talk about it. As the saying goes, seeing is believing.
It s like when Obama became president. It opened a lot of doors for a lot of kids in different ways. The mental aspect of something like that is very important. It can t be overstated.
Roosevelt s enrollment during the past school year was 57.3 percent Hispanic, 18.6 percent African-American and 15.5 percent white.
Carroll former Roosevelt assistant coach
Even though Carroll was born in Denver City near the Texas-New Mexico border, his hiring at Roosevelt was a homecoming of sorts. He began his career at the school on Walzem Road as an assistant under Bryan Dausin in 1995, when the Rough Riders won the 5A Division II state title.
I ve told our kids now that I was fortunate to be here back then, Carroll said. Some of the players on the 95 team still call me. It was a very special group and we developed everlasting relationships.
Carroll coached the running backs at Roosevelt for 11 seasons, the last nine when Glenn Hill was head coach, before going on to a two-year stint as offensive coordinator at Reagan.
When LaHue resigned at Roosevelt in mid-February to become head coach at Hays, Carroll became the popular choice to succeed him.
Roosevelt has always been home to me, Carroll said. This is where I want to be. That s made the transition easier for me. I ve always wanted to work in the North East district because of the emphasis it puts on academics and athletics. Coaches are held to a different standard. I feel that I have an opportunity to make a difference at Roosevelt. That s what intrigued me about the job.
Carroll and his wife, Dawn, have two sons, Bryson, 14, and Brennan, 7. Bryson will be a freshman quarterback at Roosevelt this season.
Carroll applied for a promotion at Roosevelt when Hill resigned in 2006 to take the head-coaching job at Conroe Caney Creek, but LaHue got the nod and Carroll left to join David Wetzel s staff at Reagan.
I hadn t ever been a head coach, so I knew I had to go outside the district and get a head-coaching job, Carroll said.
His opportunity came at Waco University in 2008. The Trojans had their best season under Carroll in 2009, when they went 7-5 and reached the second round of the 4A Division II playoffs.
Dausin: Carroll 'a greatfit' for Roosevelt community
Carroll praised longtime NEISD athletic director Jerry Comalander for giving him the opportunity to head the Roosevelt program. Besides being head football coach, Carroll is also the school s athletic coordinator.
Any success the North East district has in athletics starts with Coach Comalander because of all the good things he does for the entire athletic program, Carroll said.
Dausin and Hill were among the first to congratulate Carroll when he got the job at Roosevelt.
He is a great fit for that community, said Dausin, a Roosevelt graduate who is now head coach at Warren in the Northside ISD. He understands the dynamics. More importantly, he brings all that tradition he helped establish when he coached at Roosevelt.
Matt can get along with a lot of different people and he cares about kids, works very well with kids. He has a great disposition and is a great people person. He's a hard worker and knows what he wants to do. I'm very proud of him.
Hill, who was Dausin's defensive coordinator at Roosevelt before succeeding him as head coach, also was ebullient in his praise of Carroll.
I'm very hesitant to use the word 'proud' because it sounds like I've had more to do with his success than I really have, said Hill, now head coach at Churchill. But he is a great person and he was a huge part of the success we had at Roosevelt. He was truly my right-hand man.
I never used the title assistant head coach, but he filled that role for me. He took on some responsibilities and did a great job. I knew he was going to be a successful head coach. I'm proud of his work ethic, proud of his character. He does things the right way.
Carroll expressed his gratitude to both Dausin and Hill.
I learned so much from Coach Dausin and Coach Hill, Carroll said. Not only about football, but how to treat kids.
College coach a father figure to Carroll
Carroll and his twin, Mike, were the youngest of nine children born to Mae and A.J. Carroll, who farmed for a living near Seminole.
We lived out in the country, Carroll said. I started working in the fields when I was a kid. I was only 10 when I learned how to drive an International D-17 tractor. All we knew was work. My dad was a perfectionist. The crops we had was what we made a living on. There was no room for error.
I think about that mentality as a coach now and what we do on the football field. I always tell our kids that it translates to the real world. They re going to have a job one day. If you mess up as a football player, it will cost you playing time. But if you mess up in life, it will cost you your job.
Carroll was only 11 when his father died of complications from diabetes at age 45 in 1984.
My mom was a single mom and we struggled through a lot of hard times, Carroll said. But she did a great job of raising us.
A standout running back at Andrews, Carroll played college football at Hardin-Simmons under Jimmie Keeling. It didn t take long for Keeling to become a father figure to Carroll.
He stepped into that role, Carroll said. My mother did everything she could as a single mother, but coaches have always played a big part in my life. They bridged that gap that was missing. I became very close to Coach Keeling and I still talk to him often.
First as a player and then a coach, Carroll found his calling on the football field.
There was no doubt about what I wanted to do for a living, Carroll said. I wanted to do the same thing for kids that my coaches did for me. I want to get up every day and try to make a difference in their lives.
Welcome home, Coach Carroll.
The Matt Carroll file
Born: June 10, 1972, in Denver City.
Family: Wife, Dawn. Children, Bryson, 14, and Brennan, 7.
Education: Graduated from Andrews High School in 1990, earned bachelor's degree in kinesiology from Hardin-Simmons in 1995, and master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix in 2007.
Football career: Played running back at Hardin-Simmons for four seasons (1990-93).
Coaching career: Roosevelt running backs coach, 1995-2005; Reagan offensive coordinator, 2006-07; Waco University head coach 2008-12.
Career record: 20-32.
Noteworthy: Carroll coached the running backs at Roosevelt in 1995 when the Rough Riders won the Class 5A Division II state championship and finished 16-0.