Story of Chandler Carroll: From Quiet Force to Vocal Leader
For three years, Chandler Carroll sat in Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddle meetings at Yorktown (Ind.) High School and just listened. He preferred to lead by example rather than with words, and he did so exceptionally well, whether that was on the football field, the wresting mat, in the classroom or in his relationship with God.
A quiet force. That was Carroll prior to his senior year of high school. But that was before he rushed for a school-record 2,529 yards as a senior, including eight touchdowns and 520 yards in one game alone. That was before Carroll was selected as the Wendy's High School Heisman Award winner for the state of Indiana. And, most recently, that was before Carroll was named one of six male finalists for the National High School Heisman Award.
"Chandler has been getting so much press this year," FCA Area Representative and YHS co-huddle leader Jeff Mosier said. "And he's taken it upon himself to use that as a platform to share God's Word."
Yorktown High School head football coach and co-huddle leader Mike Wilhelm agreed.
"He was that quiet, lead-by-example guy. No one could outwork Chandler Carroll on the football field or classroom," Wilhelm said. "Since he's become that guy everyone knows in our area of the state, he's used that attention in a positive way and is now a vocal leader in the hallway, classroom, football field, and now in FCA."
Rising to the Occasion
Mosier described Carroll as a quiet force, someone who speaks out only when necessary. But when he does speak, people listen. Carroll puts thought into everything he says and is not afraid to be bold for the sake of the gospel and to challenge his peers to do the same.
In the midst of his rising fame, Carroll took advantage of the platform and led a devotional at the Yorktown High School huddle meeting for the first time. He challenged his peers with a message called, "Are you a Sunday Christian, or a Sunday-to-Sunday Christian?"
"In his soft-spoken and non-confrontational demeanor, he ever so carefully called out students who attend youth group and FCA, yet use profanity in the hallways, simply stating, 'that's just not right,'" Mosier explained.
Following, he shared of the need for daily devotionals and prayer to be more than just Christians who go to church on Sundays. He used his own life as an example, and revealed the way he starts out each day that not even Mosier or Wilhelm previously knew.
Carroll said that he has placed a piece of paper on the floor beside his bed. Every morning, as his feet hit the floor and he's just waking up, he feels that paper under his feet, which causes him to look down. There he sees on that piece of paper the words: HOLY GROUND.
"I start every day knowing that I am standing on Holy Ground," Carroll told his peers.
Carroll said that this daily reminder helps shape his perspective, no matter the circumstances.
"I've had a lot of accomplishments in the past few months," Carroll said. "But this reminder keeps me from thinking about myself. All the accomplishments are worldly things and very miniscule compared to God's work. Each day, I know that I'm walking on Holy Ground. Every opportunity comes from God, and I'm trying to make the most of it."
Carroll's vocal leadership has extended outside the walls of YHS as he recently went to speak to 150 middle school students at Yorktown Middle School's weekly FCA meeting.
"The crowd sat in silence, riveted by their high school hero as he shared a message on how to overcome peer pressure," Mosier said. "He walked the same halls and knows the peer pressure they are going through. He encouraged them to not be the one influenced, but the one influencing in the lives of others."
Road to the Heisman
Wendy's High School Heisman Award recognizes not only athletic accomplishments, but also academic success and community involvement, which makes those who know Carroll the least surprised that he would be a finalist for as prestigious of an award
Wilhelm is not only Carroll's head football coach and co-huddle leader, but he's also his teacher for Advanced Placement (AP) Biology, which happens to be Carroll's favorite subject.
"I am amazed when I look at his schedule," Wilhelm said. "He's currently in six AP classes, which you never see, and especially never see with someone who plays two sports."
Because of the way AP classes weigh on a student's grade-point average, Carroll has an outstanding 4.083 GPA. Even Carroll admitted that he spends almost all of his time studying outside of class, practice, church and FCA.
"He doesn't get to do some of those things other kids do because he spends a lot of time studying," Wilhelm said. "But he's done a masterful job of that balancing act. Later in life, he will do great things because he understands now how the be successful."
Carroll credits his success to a tremendous amount of focus and never losing sight of his priorities: God first, school second, and sports third. As a result, his list of achievements alongside athletic All-State recognition and records broken also include Academic All-State for both football and wrestling and the Indianapolis Colts' Scholar of the Week in 2012.
Amidst a long list of accomplishments, a national finalist for Wendy's High School Heisman Award is the most prestigious honor that Carroll has received. Yorktown High School held a surprise assembly in the middle of the school day to announce that Carroll was a national finalist, an experience that Carroll described as "very humbling."
He is one of twelve national finalists, including six males and six females from six different regions, who have been invited to New York City to participate in the collegiate Heisman weekend festivities on Dec. 12-15. The finalists and their parents will attend an awards banquet and get to meet the college football Heisman finalists, which will surely be a memorable experience for Carroll.
Video cameras, photographers and reporters have followed him around the hallways in preparation for the Heisman weekend. With all the publicity, Carroll knows that it can only be used as a platform, and wants to be a Christian athlete who uses his athletic ability to share God's Word with others. Whether it's to his natural personality or not, he plans to do so vocally.
"He would rather it not be him, but his teammates recognized with him. But, he's one of the best players in the state in both [wrestling and football]," Wilhelm said. "Award after award, he takes it all in stride and he knows it's the path he's been put on, and it's all through God."
About the Author
Maggie Hull-Tietz is a freelance writer based out of Lawrence, Kansas. She graduated from the University of Kansas, where she earned All-Big XII Conference and Team MVP honors, while finishing among the nation's leading hitters. In the classroom, she was an Academic All-District selection, and was an intern in FCA's Communications Department in the spring of 2013. Following her collegiate career, she spent the 2013 season playing professionally as a member of the Chicago Bandits of National Professional Fastpitch. She and her husband, Kevin, were married in the summer of 2013.