‘Loving to hit people’: defensive lineman Dylan Carroll provides GVSU with leadership

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

GVL / Sheila Babbitt

Kellen Voss

It’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s still true to this day: defense wins championships. Thankfully for the Grand Valley State football team, their defense is in great shape thanks to the leadership and determination of senior defensive lineman Dylan Carroll.

Carroll has been appearing as the villain in the nightmares of opposing GLIAC quarterbacks over the past four years, as he’s tallied 139 total tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks as of Sept. 21, 2018.

Like many college football players, Carroll started his playing career as a running back, but found a passion for playing on the other side of the ball early on. 

“I started playing tackle football back in the fourth grade,” Carroll said. “I was a running back until eighth grade and started at running back and linebacker in middle school. I’ve always had that physical mindset of loving to hit people.”

Carroll has used that same physical mindset to dominate people this season, racking up 22 total tackles, 3.5 tackles and five sacks through three games.

Similar to many college students, Carroll heard of GVSU through word of mouth and stories from his sibling. Once he visited campus, his decision to become a Laker was set in stone.

“My older sister came here, so I was kind of familiar with the campus when I came on campus for a visit, and I loved it,” Carroll said. “Great coaches, great players and I love the winning tradition we have here.”

Carroll has had many memorable experiences with the Lakers, including clinching the GLIAC two seasons ago with a win against Saginaw Valley and multiple semifinal runs along the way.

Improvement and leadership on and off the field are qualities that GVSU football coaches treasure, and it’s safe to say they’ve seen that improvement over Carroll’s illustrious career.

“He does a lot for us outside of the playing field. He’s on my leadership committee, providing a lot of leadership for all the little things regarding our program,” said head coach Matt Mitchell. “You can’t break him. He has a high work capacity, and when one of your best players is one of your hardest workers, that translates to other people seeing that and that has a positive impact as well.”

National Football League scouts have visited GVSU practices and games to see if Carroll has what it takes to play professionally.

“To be honest, we don’t really pay much attention to that,” Carroll said. “I’m focused on this season, and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. We’ll worry about that after the season.”

Even if he can’t make it to the NFL one day, Carroll is prepared to take his leadership skills into a career one day. After graduating last December with multiple degrees, Carroll has a bright future ahead of him.

“I’ve graduated with two degrees, one in supply chain management and one in business marketing, and then I had a construction management internship this past winter as a project manager,” Carroll said. “I’m currently getting my masters in communication too. I definitely want to own my own business, work for myself one day and set my hours.” 

When asked where Carroll’s never-give-up mentality came from, Mitchell speculated that former Laker and current Baltimore Raven Matt Judon’s work ethic has rubbed off on him.

“Matt Judon was one of the most talented players, and also one of the hardest working players in the program,” Mitchell said. “A lot of things Dylan is passing down to our young guys are things he learned from Judon.”

When talking about the 2018 season, Carroll is encouraged with the great start his team has gotten off to and is excited to see how deep of a postseason run this team can make.

“I love the team chemistry we have here. Everyone’s getting along, it’s a real close-knit group,” Carroll said. “We can’t become complacent. We have big goals for this season, and we want to achieve them.”

With the skills he’s already shown off the field and the determination he has on the field, he’s one of those players that makes everyone on the field with him better, and Mitchell is confident that Carroll will be successful beyond his career with the Lakers.

“He comes in on his own outside of required times and spends a lot of time watching tape. He has brought a lot of young guys with him, focusing on the details of the tape,” Mitchell said. “He’s provided leadership that way. He’s also provided leadership when we don’t have energy, he’ll be vocal and provide a positive energy for the guys.”