July 16, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers counters Cougars' air raid with Carroo

Photo by Luo Zhengchen |

After sitting the first half of the season opener against Norfolk State, senior wide receiver Leonte Carroo broke out for three touchdowns and 129 yards.

When Leonte Carroo broke the Rutgers football program’s all-time receiving touchdowns record last Saturday in the season opener against Norfolk State, a certain Scarlet Knights legend paid homage.

On Twitter, the Rutgers all-time receptions leader (210 in three seasons) and current Cincinnati Bengals standout Mohamed Sanu called Carroo the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all-time).

Carroo, who said Sanu also personally reached out to him via text message to send his congratulations, laughed off the debate.

“I mean, we’re two different types of receivers,” he said. “I’ll just leave it at this — he left with the most catches, I left with the most touchdowns.”

Photo: The Daily Targum

Electing to return for his senior season, Leonte Carroo, left, has gotten off to a hot start on the final leg of a memorable career. But even after solidifying himself in as the program’s all-time touchdowns leader, he approaches the game as if he still has room for improvement.

These days, nothing seems to be able to stop the senior wide receiver. Sitting out the first half of last week’s 63-13 route of the Spartans seemed to have only bottled up Carroo’s impulses to rip off huge plays and ignite the offense.

When he returned in the third quarter, he exploded.

On the receiving end of three touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Chris Laviano, Carroo hauled in three catches for 129 yards in just one quarter.

None of that suprised fellow wideout Janarion Grant.

"When (Carroo) came in we knew just what was gon’ happen, nothing ever changed," the junior said. "He works hard each and every day, so we know what to expect from him, nothing less.”

“It was difficult, mainly, to watch knowing that I’m not out there with my teammates and I was disappointed I couldn’t be out there,” Carroo said. “But as far as going out there and getting ready for the second half, I’m a guy who’s played with a lot of experience. I’m a competitor at the end of the day, so I knew I was gonna go out there and be ready right away. I was just very emotional, anxious to get out there.”

Stretching the defense for game-changing plays is nothing new to Carroo.

In fact, just last year when the Knights opened the season in Seattle at Washington State, the Don Bosco Prep (New Jersey) product picked up right where he left off from his breakout sophomore season when he tallied nine touchdowns in just nine games.

On the first play from scrimmage for Rutgers, Carroo ran a double-go route before a pass from former four-year starter Gary Nova found his breadbasket. From there, Carroo took it 78 yards to the house, starting the season on the right foot as the Knights eventually outlasted the Cougars in a 41-38 shootout.

It led to a career year for the Edison, New Jersey, native, who received First Team All-Big Ten honors after racking up 10 touchdowns and 1,086 yards on 55 catches — a conference-best 19.7 yards per catch.

Kyle Flood doesn’t expect to see Carroo rattle off another three scores through the air in one quarter this weekend when Washington State comes to Piscataway with retribution in mind, but the fourth-year head coach wasn’t surprised by his captain’s performance in the season opener.

“Well, Leonte (Carroo) is a good player and I don't think that's a surprise to anybody. I'm sure when he came out in the second half, he was highly motivated,” Flood said. “One of the things that makes Leonte the player that he is he loves to compete, and when he doesn't get an opportunity to compete on the first half, you can pretty much assure yourself he'll be ready to go in the second half and he certainly was.”

From a mental standpoint, Carroo’s attitude and mannerisms are as humble as they come.

But when he lines up on the field for the Knights at the No. 1 wide receiver slot opposite of the opponent’s best cornerbacks — sometimes seeing double and triple-teams — nothing can break his focus.

“I’m a guy that likes to call myself a pretty selfish receiver. I want the ball all the time,” Carroo said. “If there’s an opportunity we’re gonna call a double-go and there’s a chance I can get the ball on the first play of the game, then by any means, I’m gonna take that.”

Senior running back Paul James, who has had to do enough from walking on to the football team to battling back from injuries time after time, commended Carroo for the work he does when no one is watching.

“I think, really, just his work ethic. He wants to be that great and he really works for that, so it’s great to see,” James said of Carroo. “He didn’t play the first half, just comes in there, steps on the field, first play he was in, he had a great block on the (defensive back). And then second play I’m pretty sure went for a touchdown. … I feel like he just works really hard to be that. There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes that people don’t see that he does that makes him that great.”

While he certainly takes pride in that, Carroo doesn’t take all of the credit.

Watching and rooting for Rutgers right around the block in Edison throughout his childhood, he’s watched the best of the best that have come through Piscataway.

Now, as he stands with them in the record books, he still acts as if he has a long way to go.

“Like I said before, it has nothing to do with me. It’s definitely people who was probably near me into this direction, into this day — my family, my friends, God, mostly importantly, past Rutgers receivers that I look up to,” Carroo said. “Mohamed Sanu, Kenny Britt, guys that have came here — Brandon Coleman — that have taught me and led me and showed me how to become a great Rutgers wide receiver. … I owe it all to them.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow @GarrettStepien and @TargumSports on Twitter.

Garrett Stepien

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