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Where are they now? CB Nolan Carroll

Nolan Carroll
Nolan Carroll

There's only so much room on the team's roster, and so when Nolan Carroll became a free agent in 2014 after five seasons with Miami, the cornerback wasn't counting on joining the Eagles since they had signed Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher the year before.

"I didn't see myself as a guy that was really going to come in and be the starter. But now, as I look at it, it seemed like the right fit for me," Carroll says. "When I got there, they tried to use me in a bunch of different ways. They got me on special teams and I was heavily involved in that.

"I knew (Special Teams Coordinator) Dave Fipp, so that was just a comfort level for me and a trust factor. And (Defensive Coordinator) Billy Davis started utilizing me more and more in the dime packages. And then, sure enough during the season, dime almost became our base package, and I really started to flourish in that."

Becoming a full-time starter in 2015, Carroll accomplished something he hadn't done since he was a wide receiver in high school when he found the end zone in the Week 6 game against the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.

Tied in the first quarter, he picked off New York quarterback Eli Manning and returned the ball 17 yards for a touchdown. Philadelphia would never trail and won, 27-7.

"We practiced it, Malcolm Jenkins and I. We had seen that play on film probably 20, 30 times throughout a few games," Carroll says. "We just had to make sure in the coverage that we were in because it can become three coverages on the snap of the ball. But once we saw it and they lined up, we anticipated it was coming.

"I stopped (Rueben) Randle from running his slant and I saw (Manning) threw the ball into the coverage and we picked it. We practiced it a lot, just to be on the same page for that one play."

That "one play" was not only seen by the 69,296 Eagles faithful in the stands, but also by those who were watching the game on Monday Night Football and had Carroll's cell number.

"I got a lot of reactions. Most people didn't even know I was playing in Philly at the time. It was funny," Carroll says. "And I just think from that, it showed people that I was a starter, that I was somebody playing in the league that was making plays.

"When I was in Miami, I was a starter and making plays, but they didn't give me the recognition, you could say, to be a guy that can be considered somebody that was a good starter in the NFL."

Carroll had a considerably good season in 2015. Through the first 11 games, he had a career-high 52 tackles and 15 pass defenses. But in Week 12, a Thanksgiving loss in Detroit, he broke his right ankle and went on season-ending Injured Reserve.

"I thought I was very productive before I broke my leg. I thought I was playing at a Pro Bowl level," Carroll says. "I don't like to compare stats, but I felt like if you were looking at each game and the body of work that was going on within the games, I was playing just as well as any guy out there in the league that was playing corner."

In 2016, Carroll had gone through rehab and was back on the field. His dedication was recognized by his teammates, who chose to present him with the Ed Block Courage Award. It honors players who exemplify commitment to the principles of sportsmanship and courage.

"When I first got it, I was just like, 'Wow, this is just kind of cool that my teammates see me as somebody that earned this award,'" Carroll says. "But as the years have gone on and I've seen other guys get it, and their stories, I've come to understand that Ed Block is more than just an award. It's about perseverance. It's about resilience. It's about strength. And those are things I really needed to help me out when I had my injury.

"I thought I was on track to have the best season in my career, and to have it come up short like that and having to just watch the young guys play and not being able to help them, and then having to just come back and prove myself again for another year, that was testing.

"You don't do it for the accolades, for your teammates to see, you do it so you can be a part of the team again and make sure you're contributing to wins. And for my guys to vote me in as that, that showed that they trusted me. They saw the hard work that I put in to just be back on the field and be a part of the Philadelphia Eagles."

With the Eagles for three of his eight seasons in the NFL, what's one of Carroll's fondest memories from his time in Philadelphia?

"Just hanging with Darren Sproles," he says. "Sproles was one of the guys that I played against and I got to play with, and you always wondered how they are in the locker room. And Sproles is one of those guys that every single day, his attitude, his mindset, his purpose, everything he did, he did it with efficiency. He always made sure he put himself in that game-mode atmosphere.

"I was on punt return, so my job was to block for him so he could score, and I took that personally. I knew he was an added weapon on our special teams and that all we had to do was block enough to give him a crease. Just being able to be around a guy like that, that is so respected in the league and probably going to be a Hall of Famer, that was probably one of the highlights of my Eagles career."

Last year, Carroll and his brother, Necho, founded the Jacksonville Athletic Academy in Florida. It is to help young men continue their athletic careers in football by providing an affordable college experience.

"My brother brought it to my attention," says Carroll, "seeing what was going on with the pandemic and how kids were missing out on opportunities to continue their athletic career as well as their academic career. He thought this was something that could be a big solution to help these kids. I had people that showed me how to do it. And that's what got me into the NFL, people that were guiding me on what to do and what mistakes not to make.

"I just thought all the football knowledge that I do have, I can give it to them and show them how to be efficient. So when they do go somewhere else, they can be effective and can play right away and stick out. Hopefully, that gives kids the confidence to know that I have somebody that believes in me and I can go to the next level.

"And that's really what JAA is about. Showing these young men that there's an opportunity for you and we can show you how to do it. It's just about you listening. And once you listen, the opportunity will present itself. And when it does present itself, you'll be ready for it."

A junior college program that's partnered with Community Christian College, the 38 student-athletes who are at JAA are high school seniors and college transfers. Some of the older ones lost out during the COVID year and are getting workouts with professional leagues.

"I was avoiding coaching because I didn't know how to manage yet," says Carroll, a father to Nolan III. "Being a player and switching to a coach, it takes a whole different type of preparation. And when I was thrust into it, I just started using all the stuff that my coaches showed me what to do. Those values that they gave me, I'm giving it to them. And it's just good to see them applying it to their lives not only on the field, but off of it, as well."

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