After four-and-a-half years of active service in the United States Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, Casey Carroll was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to return to his alma mater as a first-year student at the Fuqua School of Business and play the sport he loves.
“Knowing that I wanted to go to business school and play another year of lacrosse, [returning to Duke] was a no-brainer,” he said. “When I came back to Duke, it didn’t feel like I was going back to school as much as it felt like I was coming home.”
A first-team All-American as a senior in 2007, Carroll had a year of athletic eligibility remaining after suffering a season-ending knee injury during his junior campaign. But his desire to enlist in the military took precedence over his athletic career.
“Growing up, I always had an interest in the military, and after September 11th, I knew that I absolutely wanted to join the military at some point,” Carroll said. “I just wasn’t sure in what capacity.”
When Army Sgt. James Regan was killed in February 2007 during his deployment in Iraq, Carroll’s indecision regarding which branch to enter rapidly vanished. A member of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Regan lettered in Duke lacrosse from 1999-2002.
“[Regan] was such an inspiring guy,” Carroll said. “I saw [his death] as a sign, a great way I could honor his memory as well as blaze my own path.”
Carroll quickly ascended the military ranks. Like Regan, he was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. The Baldwin, N.Y. native’s success in the Army came as no surprise to his coach or former teammates.
Shortly after his return to Durham, his wife, Erin, gave birth to their first son, Casey. The demands of being a new father and a full-time student at Fuqua didn’t take away from Carroll’s commitment to the Blue Devils or his professional lacrosse aspirations.
“Knowing Casey’s love for the game itself and that he had one more year of eligibility despite being a full-time student and a husband and a father, we were excited to have him back,” Duke head coach John Danowski said.
But Danowski’s plan to insert Carroll into the starting defensive lineup never came to fruition. Drafted by the Hamilton Nationals with the No. 18 overall pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft before being traded to the Charlotte Hounds, Carroll tore his ACL during the preseason. He underwent surgery in late January and is in the process of rehabilitating his left knee.
Carroll’s injury hasn’t kept him from making a positive impact on the Blue Devils, however.
“[Casey] sits right by the box where we sub and encourages the guys,” assistant coach Matt Danowski said. “He’s really excited just to be around lacrosse again. It’s good to see him enjoying himself as much as he can without playing—being a coach.”
Carroll will intern with Wells Fargo in Charlotte, N.C. this summer and is considering a career in investment banking. Carroll, who is awaiting a decision from the NCAA regarding another year of eligibility, expressed his gratitude for Erin, a source of endless support through his ups and downs.
“My wife has been incredible in trying to help me through this tough time,” Carroll said. “Hopefully we get to continue enjoying our young family life this next year before I potentially get into investment banking.”
Next summer, Carroll will seriously consider joining the Hounds, whose offer will remain on the table after his recovery.
Uncertainty surrounding the road that Carroll will travel lingers. But no matter where his journey leads, his upstanding character will follow.
“He’s the type of kid you want your son to grow up into,” Matt Danowski said. “If everyone turned out like him, we’d all be better off for it for sure. He’s a great guy, he’s a special guy, he’s had an amazing life experience so far and hopefully lacrosse can stay in the picture for him as long as possible.”