Tech wide receiver C.J. Carroll arrived as a walk-on, didn't play for two years and gradually worked his way into a prominent role
Four years ago, I was a high school senior finishing up the football season at Good Counsel High School in Olney, Maryland. I had played football my whole life, but at this point, my future as a football player was in question. I wanted to play at the next level, but no one was willing to take a chance on a 5-foot-7, 150-pound slot receiver. February of 2014 rolled around, and I still had nowhere to play in college. I always wanted to play college football. However, I realized my time as a player might be coming to an end.
But then I received a phone call. The call was from Coach Aaron Moorehead, who, at the time, was the wide receivers coach for Virginia Tech. He called me and said they were interested in me as a preferred walk-on and would like to have me come down for a visit. At the time, I didn’t really know exactly why he called, but I later realized that Kendall Fuller, my high school teammate and good friend, had told Coach Moorehead about me and asked him to give me an opportunity.
I went on a visit to Virginia Tech the next weekend and fell in love. I eventually came to Tech as a walk-on and realized quickly that I was back at the bottom of the food chain. My freshman year, I didn’t even make the 120-man roster and wasn’t able to participate in camp. When I finally started to practice, I worked on the scout team all year, while getting faster and stronger. I redshirted that year.
After my redshirt year, I worked to actually play and get on the field, but unfortunately, I wasn’t quite ready to play. In some people’s eyes, I was still too small. I spent my entire redshirt freshman year on the bench and found myself questioning if I really wanted to play any more. I was determined to work my butt off every single day. I may have been a walk-on, but I wasn’t going to give up on the dream.
Toward the end of my redshirt freshman year, Coach Beamer decided to retire, and Coach Fuente came in as our new head coach. With the new coaches and a different offensive scheme, I decided to continue playing and see what would happen. I finally worked my way into the rotation and got my chance to play.
My first game action came in 2016 in the season opener at Lane Stadium vs. Liberty. I was extremely nervous. My first career catch went for minus-3 yards. But after that, I played the entire season and even got to wear the BeamerBall No. 25 jersey against Notre Dame. That night, I had three catches for 80 yards in what would be one of the biggest fourth-quarter comebacks in the history of college football. After the 2016 season, Coach Fuente awarded me with a full scholarship.
I am now a redshirt junior. I’ve come a long way since my senior year of high school when I had zero scholarship offers. I am forever grateful to the Fuller family, along with Coach Beamer, Coach Fuente and their staffs, for giving me the chance to live out my dream as a college football player.
From starting as a walk-on my freshman year to finally getting on the field to scoring touchdowns and earning a scholarship, it’s been a blessing and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. To all the undersized athletes out there
… never give up on a dream.