DAVIE, Fla. (AP) – Since being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in April, cornerback Nolan Carroll has changed his mind and decided politics isn't in his future.
He remains interested in an NFL career, however, and it begins Sunday when the Dolphins open the season at Buffalo.
Carroll's the son of Jennifer Carroll, chosen last week as the running mate to Florida's Republican gubernatorial nominee, Rick Scott. In 2003 she became the first black female Republican elected to the Florida Legislature, and if elected with Scott, she'll become the state's first black lieutenant governor.
"I'm very proud of her,'' Carroll said Monday.
As recently as this spring, Carroll figured he might pursue politics himself after football. Watching Mom endure the rigors of her profession changed his mind.
"It's too much, the amount of work that goes into it,'' he said. "Just to see how she has traveled – in the last week she has had to go all over the state. … I tell her, `You need to take a break.' But I haven't seen her burn out yet. She must be on some energy drink.''
The younger Carroll has been working pretty hard himself.
A former star at Clay High School in Green Cove Springs, Fla., he started only six games at Maryland, and his senior season ended in the second game when he broke his lower right leg. As a result, he slipped to the fifth round in the draft and had plenty to prove when training camp began in July.
"Every day I practiced like it was going to be my last practice, to show the coaches I belong here,'' he said.
He survived the final cut in part because of his versatility on special teams. He's expected to return kickoffs, and he'll also play on kick coverage teams, and even with the unit defending against field goals.
"This guy has done an awful lot of jobs out there for us,'' coach Tony Sparano said. "We've had him all over the place on special teams. He has been productive and gotten better. And he's starting to get more comfortable on the coverage end of things. I think he's a reliable guy.''
Carroll might see action as a sixth defensive back in passing situations, but he's not lobbying for playing time. Because he started so few games in college, he figures he has lots of room for improvement in the NFL.
"Your rookie year is always going to be a learning process,'' he said. "My thing is to grab hold of the veterans and ask questions. I just want to soak everything in this whole season.''
Carroll's first pro game will come exactly one year after a titanium rod was inserted into his broken leg. It was late January before he was able to run, but he said he rarely thinks about the injury now.
He credits his resilience to the example set by his mother, saying she overcame stereotypes to succeed. She served 20 years in the Navy, working as a jet mechanic before retiring as a lieutenant commander, and is a former executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs.
"Her being an African-American, and she's a woman too – that's double,'' he said. "She had to work through all of that. Being able to see what she has overcome has rubbed off on me.''
He hasn't stumped for her in the locker room, however. And with his fall schedule full, he said he won't be involved in the campaign.
Not even a yard sign, or a Jennifer Carroll T-shirt?
"Nah,'' he said with a smile. "I'll be wearing a Miami Dolphins shirt.''
Pictured above: Nolan Carroll