Learning to Win with Pete Carroll, COM Alumnus and Head Coach of the Seattle Seahawks, winners of the 2014 Super Bowl.
Pete Carroll, head coach and executive vice president of the 2014 Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks, still remembers what it was like to sit on a team bus almost 45 years ago and hear stories of legendary College of Marin football players who left their mark on the game he loved.
It was 1969, and Carroll, a Redwood High School Athlete of the Year, was a new recruit on the College of Marin football team coached by Pete Limm. He remembers Limm describing a former College of Marin football player’s style and how he respected him.
A Life-Changing Moment
“Pete talked about his timing, his athleticism” Carroll said. “He talked about how this player always kept a couple steps ahead of the rest of the game, how he really had something that few players had.” It was a seminal conversation that inspired Carroll to grow into his potential. “I wished someday he would talk about me like that. It really was a life-changing moment.”
Carroll, 62 would go on to build a “win forever” philosophy that has served as the foundation of his much admired coaching style, competitive drive and push to maximize one’s potential on and off the field. Carroll went on to serve as coach of the New York Jets, the New England Patriots and the University of Southern California Trojans—where he led the team to national prominence with a 97-19 record over nine seasons before moving to the National Football League. Four years ago, he stepped up as head coach for the Seahawks, leading them to a Super Bowl victory this year.
A Time to Grow Up
Looking back to his early days at College of Marin, Carroll remembers a struggle to come into his own as a player. He was a three-sport (football, basketball and baseball) high school standout and had played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back, but he “needed some time to grow up a little bit,” he said.
Coaches Limm, Dick Reed and John Panagakis all reached out to him during his time at the College. The coaches’ own athleticism helped them related to players, he said.
“These guys were really caring and took time to know you. 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. There were clear lines of communication.”
It was, he recalled, the first time he could be an effective player.
“That was a really important time for me,” he said. “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 College of Marin
After three semesters at COM, 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.
Carroll 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 earned dozens of commendations, record titles and professional coaching awards.
The Super Bowl
The Super Bowl victory hasn’t changed his perspective in any way, he says.
“I’ve just been grateful to be part of something that had this much impact in the Northwest where the people enjoyed so much of it had such a great time with it. It’s obvious the impact of a world championship in the NFL is different than the impact of a college, national championships. Just the spread of the influence is much greater in the NFL”
Carroll still misses playing on the field.
“Every day wish I was playing,” he said. “I would not even care what sport it would be. I’d just like to keep playing.”
A Zeal for Community Service
Carroll’s passion off the field to inspire others has contributed to the creation of several new community organizations with far-reaching impacts. In 2003, concerns about gang violence inspired him to develop “A Better L.A.,” a non-profit consortium of local agencies and organizations working to reduce gang violence in the Los Angeles area. A Better LA supports community-based organizations and individuals who work to reduce and prevent gang violence, as well as organizations that offer opportunities for citizens to improve the socio-economic climate of inner city Los Angeles. Carroll received the Courageous Leadership Award from Women Against Gun Violence in 2005. In the fall of 2008, he helped organize “L.A. Live Peace 08,” a march and rally at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum to promote gang intervention and non-violence in Los Angeles. The University of Southern California 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. In April 2009, Pete Carroll launched CampPete.com, a multi-player online game to introduce his “Win Forever” philosophy to kids. A portion of the proceeds from CampPete.com will go to support A Better LA.
He continues to oversee work at A Better LA from his new home in Seattle where he has founded A Better Seattle, which focuses on reducing Seattle area youth and gang violence.
When he heard about Canada’s We Day, a movement to inspire and empower voluntarism among young people through an all-day inspirational event and a year-long educational initiative, he rallied heavy hitters in the Seattle community to make a We Day event happen in Seattle in 2013. This year, the second annual We Day in Seattle drew 15,000 young people and featured inspired speeches and performances by pop stars, Seattle Seahawks players, Hollywood stars and young activists.
“We were fortunate to have been very active in Los Angeles for A Better LA,” Carroll said. “It carried some momentum in starting A Better Seattle up here, and also connecting our community efforts with a great organization, We Day. We were able to kick off the first we day in the United States in Seattle in spring of 2013. As it starts to spread out across the country, we’re really proud of our ability to be associated with all that.”
Carroll’s philosophy was collected in Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion, (Penguin Group, 2011).
“The challenge of putting this team back together and responding to the expectations that will surround us this year,” Carroll said. “It will be a great challenge.”