Super Bowl coach set his goals at College of Marin
By Kyle Kelly and Max Wolf-Johnson
Pete Carroll: Super bowl champion, former 49ers defensive coordinator, and College of Marin graduate. It has been over four decades since the boyishly cheerful head coach of the Seattle Seahawks attended school here at College of Marin.
Born in 1951 in San Francisco and raised in Greenbrae, Carroll found an early love for sports. Later, as a student athlete at Redwood High School in Larkspur, he played basketball, baseball, and football.
In his freshman year, he only weighed 110 pounds, requiring a doctor’s clearance before he could try out for football. Despite his size, Carroll lettered, made the all-state team, and eventually was inducted into Redwood High School’s sports hall of fame.
As a teenager, Carroll was known for his carefree attitude and boisterous competitiveness, making him popular with his teammates and coaches. His friend Ken Roby described to the San Francisco Chronicle how Carroll drove around Marin while steering from the passenger seat of his red Valliant, giving startled pedestrians the impression that the car was driverless.
Carroll brought that same attitude with him to the NFL. In his post-Super Bowl speech to his team he said, “You can stay out all night long tonight, I will meet you at the pool at sun up with our robes on.”
Carroll was as energetic on the field as off. And while he never sought the center of attention, his Redwood High teammate and friend Pito Diaz described him as a natural leader.
In addition to baseball and basketball, he played quarterback and defensive end on the football team. Carroll’s passion for football and life was clear.
“He was a lot of fun to coach,” his former Redwood High football coach Al Endriss said. “He was just like what you see right now.”
Carroll has remained in touch with many of his friends from Redwood High and College Of Marin. In fact Endriss mentions that, “He was close to a lot of the players. Once a year we’re invited up there to watch a game… I had a ticket to the Super bowl but I didn’t go. I was afraid it would be too cold down there, but five of his other friends from the area went.”
One of those friends was Pito Diaz, who cheered Carroll on from the stands as his high school teammate coached the Seattle Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory in front of over one hundred million Americans.
When asked about the experience, Diaz didn’t mention the view from his seat, or how it felt to watch the Seahawks clobber the Broncos. Instead he shared, “Even though we didn’t get to see [Carroll] during Super Bowl week he texted us and called us everyday to see how we were doing. Even after the game I sent him a text saying ‘Hey congratulations.’ He must have had five thousand texts, and he writes back to me, ‘Yeah it was really cool, it was just like when we beat Terra Linda [High School]’ It was the last game of the season and it was a big deal for us to win that game…and he brought it right back to a moment like that, that’s his ability to relate to people… it was just special.”
After Redwood High Carroll decided to attend College of Marin. He spent two years (1969-1970) as a key player on the COM football team under his well respected coach, Pete Limm.
As it is for many students, Carroll’s time at COM was a transitioning phase in his life. While he eventually went on to the University of the Pacific, his playing career at COM earned him a letter, and as recently as 2010, an induction in the school’s hall of fame.
While Carroll has come a long way since playing football in Kentfield, it is clear that he has not forgotten his community. “During football season he’d invite us to come out…when he got into the NFL we’d go visit him a couple of times a year… and that’s just continued…With a lot of his friends from Marin county that’s just been constant,” stated Diaz.
At the University Of the Pacific, Carroll became one of four other alumni to win a Super Bowl. He was an all-conference safety, but when he found himself unable to take the next step to the pros, Carroll decided to find work as a roofer.
This did not fit his personal interests, so he returned to UOP as an assistant football coach.
Carroll’s time at UOP served as a launching point to greater opportunities and he eventually filled college coaching positions for such teams as Arkansas, Iowa State, and North Carolina State.
His second attempt to enter the NFL, this time as a coach, was more successful. Carroll spent time with the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, 49ers (defensive coordinator 1995–96) and Patriots before eventually returning to the collegiate level as head coach of the USC Trojans.
He spent nine years in Southern California, and achieved a 96-19 (83.5 percent) winning record. Carroll’s success at USC was tarnished by a minor scandal while he was coach, involving a star player who received NCAA-banned financial benefits. Still, his coaching ability caught the attention of the Seattle Seahawks, who offered him the position of head coach in 2009.
In his first two seasons Carroll was only able to achieve a pair of seven and nine records. In 2012 his team improved to 11, but nonetheless lost in the playoffs to the Atlanta Falcons.
They would return in 2013 to win 13 games and secure the number one seed in the NFC for the playoffs. After beating the New Orleans Saints, the Seahawks advanced to a highly anticipated conference championship game against their rivals, the 49ers. Seattle secured a trip to the Super Bowl in the last 22 seconds of the game when star corner back Richard Sherman tipped a would-be game-winning touchdown pass into the hands of fellow teammate Malcom Smith.
Super Bowl XLVIII was held at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The game was advertised as a match up between the NFL’s best offense, the Denver Broncos, against its most dominant defense, the Seattle Seahawks. It failed to live up to expectations as Carroll’s Seahawks managed to clobber Peyton Manning and the Broncos, outscoring them 43-8.
Pete Carroll became the first ever Seattle Seahawks head coach to hoist the Lombardi trophy, 44 years after he played football at College of Marin. His success in the NFL is a testament to what is possible, even for students who begin at a Junior College like COM.
In a post-game interview, Carroll told a reporter, “I feel like a kid, I always do.” While Carroll doesn’t seem to have changed much in the last 44 years, it is clear that College of Marin can be proud to have him as an alumnus even if you are a 49ers fan.