DURHAM, N.C. — Seven years after last playing in the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament, Casey Carroll has a final chance to help Duke play for another national championship.
He also knows his college playing career is winding down a decade after it started.
“The can can’t be kicked down the road any further,” he said with a laugh.
Carroll — the last active member of the 2006 team scarred by false rape allegations against three players — returned to Duke after 41/2 years in the military only to miss the season with a knee injury as the Blue Devils won the program’s second NCAA title in four years.
Now a 29-year-old husband and father of two, the former U.S. Army Ranger will play Sunday when the No. 1 overall seed faces Air Force in its NCAA opener.
“He just fits in,” coach John Danowski said. “He fits in like he never left.”
The defenseman started 15 of 16 games for the reigning champion Blue Devils (13-3). Sunday will mark his first NCAA game since the 2007 final, where Duke lost 12-11 to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
In addition to re-acclimating to college lacrosse, he recently completed a 2-year program in Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. His wife, Erin, had the couple’s second son in November and the family will soon move for Carroll to start work next month with Wells Fargo in Charlotte.
“He promised us: ‘If I can be out there, I’m going to be out there with you guys,’” midfielder Brendan Fowler said. “He makes a lot of sacrifices to be here and we all really appreciate what he does.”
Carroll, who arrived here in fall 2003 from Baldwin, New York, helped Duke reach the 2005 NCAA final in its rise to national-power status. Then, after the later-discredited rape scandal led to the cancellation of the second half of the ‘06 season, Carroll was an All-American during Duke’s climb back a year later.
Carroll graduated and enlisted in the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was honorably discharged in February 2012 and re-enrolled at Duke that fall.
The NCAA typically gives athletes four years to compete within a 5-year window, though it granted a fifth year of eligibility to non-seniors from the 2006 team to replace the year cut short by the scandal. The clock paused during Carroll’s enlistment and restarted when he returned to school, then the NCAA granted him a sixth year due to last season’s knee injury.
Danowski, whose first year as coach was Carroll’s last pre-graduation season, said Carroll “just wants to finish the experience.”
“We still don’t really understand how these kids feel about how they were treated and how people talked about them” in 2006, Danowski said. “Now when we look back, he just wants to get that back, before that whole thing happened. He just wants to be a kid again. And here’s his chance. We’d all sign up for that, for one year.”