Pete Carroll
Pete Carroll
Year: Class of 2012
Sport: Football

More than 40 years ago Pete Carroll was in a van with the College of Marin football team driving to a game south of San Francisco when he heard then-Coach Pete Limm describe a former student player who had been a legendary safety.

“He talked about his style of playing and why he respected him,” Carroll said. “He talked about his timing, his athleticism. He talked about how he always kept a couple steps ahead of the rest of the game, how he really had something that few players had.”

The casual conversation influenced Carroll, the Redwood High School Athlete of the Year, who was still growing into his potential. “I wished someday he would talk about me like that. It really was a life changing moment.”

For Carroll, who has had an amazing coaching career at the college and National Football League levels, the early, formative days of attentive individual coaching has made all the difference.

He joined the College of Marin football team in 1969, seeing it as a transition, a time to grow into the player he wanted be.

“I needed some time to grow up a little bit,” he said. The three-sport (football, basketball and baseball) high school standout had played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. At College of Marin, he met coaches Limm, Dick Reed and John Panagakis. 

“These guys were really caring and took time to know you,” he said. “I listened to Pete like that because of his love for the game and his connection with others. I’ve tried to coach that way because it made sense to me from that level.” The coaches’ own athleticism helped them related to players, he said. “There were clear lines of communication.” Finally, Carroll was able to play at a level he was expecting to.

“It was the first time I could be an effective player,” he said. “That was a really important time for me. I was able to blossom. It led me into coaching too. It’s a time I’ll always remember fondly for finally being able to play to my potential.”

After three semesters, Carroll transferred to University of the Pacific where he was named twice as a free safety to the All-Pacific Coast Conference and inducted, in 1995, into the UOP Athletic Hall of Fame. He tried out for the World Football League and tried unsuccessfully to launch a career selling roof materials before returning to UOP where he earned a secondary teaching credential and a master's degree in physical education.

He started coaching professionally in 1974 as an assistant at UOP and worked at various college teams until 1983. In 1984-1999, he coached in the National Football League (Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots). From 2000-2009 he coached University of Southern California. He has been with the Seattle Seahawks since 2010. He has earned dozens of commendations, record titles and professional coaching awards.

Off-field, Carroll has also contributed generously to the wider community. Concerns about gang violence inspired him to help develop “A Better L.A.,” a non-profit consortium of local agencies and organizations working to reduce gang violence. In the fall of 2008, he helped organize “L.A. LivePeace 08,” a march and rally at the Coliseum to promote gang intervention and non-violence in Los Angeles. The USC School of Social Work provided him the Crystal Heart Award in 2009 for his gang-related work. The Pete Carroll Scholarship was established for students pursuing graduate study at USC and he received the Courageous Leadership Award from Women Against Gun Violence in 2005. In April 2009, Pete Carroll launched, a multi-player online game to introduce his “Win Forever” philosophy to kids. A portion of the proceeds from will go to support A Better LA.