By Tyler Waldrep
The odds were never in his favor, but that didn’t stop Zachary Carroll from creating his lacrosse wish list years before he joined Mountain Brook’s varsity team as a freshman, the school’s first eighth-grader to do so.
Years later, in the summer of 2015, his determination took him to the University of Delaware to compete in front of some of the best Division I programs in the country. All he had to do was stand out from the rest of the hopefuls, a group that his mother, Perryn Carroll, estimates numbered as many as 1,300.
“We felt like he had the talent and we knew he had the drive and the determination and the desire, but there are a lot of kids out there,” Perryn Carroll said. “And sometimes it is just being in the right place at the right time.”
His performance there earned him a spot in an All-Star game. Suddenly the odds began to shift, and before the Carrolls could board the plane in Baltimore, Maryland, they received a call. He didn’t need a wish list any longer. The school at the top of his list, Denver, a program that just weeks earlier had won its first national championship, wanted Zachary Carroll.
“It’s a big, big deal,” Mountain Brook coach Brian Doud said. “Let me put it this way. It would be like Alabama, in football, finding some kid in the hinterlands of Canada and yanking him out to play middle linebacker.”
If it were anyone else, Doud might not have believed it, but with Carroll, he said, he wasn’t surprised when he heard about Denver’s interest. He had known how good Carroll could be when he made him a team captain as a sophomore.
He told Carroll upfront that leading a team filled with older kids would be a challenge. But in three years, Doud has yet to find any major fault with his leadership.
“He knew when to put an arm around the guy, he also knew when to challenge a guy to get better,” Doud said.
A Team Leader
Carroll also possessed the ability to recognize and make the most of an opportunity when it presented itself, he said.
“We had a player that came to Zachary to talk about playing time. ‘I want to do more, I want to do more. Here’s how I think I could help the team,’” Doud said.
“Zachary came to me with an idea how to use him better, how to integrate him into our rotation, and it worked for us. This guy ended up being one of our best face-off guys, but it was up to a guy like Zachary to help make that happen.”
That sort of behavior was not out of character for Carroll. He finished his senior season with 20 more assists than anyone else on the team, a total of 34.
“We have a lot of guys on our team that can score, but being able to dish the ball to other guys and watching them have fun scoring and stuff, it’s pretty awesome,” Carroll said.
That’s not to say he didn’t get his own shots in, Carroll scored 41 times this season on a team-high of 130 attempts. He finished his varsity career with 132 goals.
Although Carroll believed lacrosse would be his future, he didn’t let that stop him from playing football, as well. He started at safety for the varsity team during his junior and senior seasons, and he believes his time on the football field helped him become a better lacrosse player on the field and in the film room.
For a film junkie like Carroll, knowing how to break down and analyze game film for tendencies was a must.
“I can’t tell you how many times he and I talked about film,” Doud said. “We watched film together. We watched it separately and then talked about it. We’ve emailed about it. He’s a student of the game. He loves watching the game and studying the game and going out and spending time alone working on his game. The elite players do that.”
Mountain Brook’s bid to secure a championship this year was denied when the Spartans fell one goal short of Briarwood Christian in the semifinals, but Carroll is still proud of all that he and his fellow seniors helped the program accomplish.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Carroll said. “When I was on the team in eighth grade, we struggled to go .500 and we went into every game having, maybe a chance to win. And then my junior and senior year, every game we were really expected to win and there was no excuse if we lost.”
It’s that attitude Carroll will take to Denver with him this fall, where the lacrosse team will be trying to claw its way back to the national championship again.