John Carroll, an unlikely NFL pipeline
Several NFL executives, coaches called JCU home in the 1990s
What NCAA school boasts a pair of current NFL general managers and two current offensive coordinators among its alumni? No, it’s not Alabama. Sorry, not Ohio State. Not Oregon either.
It’s John Carroll.
Division III John Carroll University, to be precise. The school that is home to roughly 3,000 undergraduates and is nestled in a quiet town 10 miles east of Cleveland has produced a slew of NFL luminaries through the years, including general managers, executives and coordinators who graduated within a few years of each other in the 1990s.
“John Carroll doesn’t simply want to be known only for its football connections, but it’s certainly something that we take pride in,” said Chris Wenzler, the school’s longtime sports information director.
Tom Telesco, who was a wide receiver on the 1994 team that captured the Ohio Athletic Conference title, has been general manager of the Chargers since 2013. He credits simple diligence, an internship with the Buffalo Bills that he landed while attending John Carroll and the football program’s culture -- John Carroll went 69-19-4 from 1990-98 -- for his own rise to prominence.
“If you play Division III football, you are doing it for the love of the game, not the scholarship money,” Telesco said. “We had excellent coaches who could teach the game and challenge us every day. I think the combination of a student-athlete’s passion for his sport and the high level of instruction given can lead to a successful career in athletics.”
The school’s impressive football heritage dates back to legendary NFL coach Don Shula, a 1951 graduate, but the recent string of NFL success was catalyzed by longtime NFL executive Bill Polian, whose son Chris attended the school and later became general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.
John Carroll’s football stadium was named after Shula in 2003 and has a memorabilia room touting the football program’s NFL success stories.
“That room is definitely where the recruits go first,” Wenzler chuckled.
Recent John Carroll NFL notables:
• Chris Polian (’93 graduate)
General Manager, Indianapolis Colts (2009-2011)
Played seven games as a wide receiver as a senior, recording one catch for seven yards.
• Greg Roman (’94 graduate)
Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers (2011-present)
Recorded 145 tackles in three years as a defensive lineman, including 65 and six sacks as a senior.
• Tom Telesco (’95 graduate)
General Manager, San Diego Chargers (2013-present)
Lettered as a wide receiver his senior year, catching seven passes for 74 yards.
• David Caldwell (’96 graduate)
General Manager, Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-present)
Recorded 46 tackles in 16 games as a linebacker, causing one fumble, recovering a fumble and had snatching an interception.
• London Fletcher (’97 graduate)
NFL Linebacker (1998-2013)
Ohio Athletic Conference and Division III linebacker of the year in 1997 and a two-time All-American. He set a school record with 202 tackles in his senior year.
• Nick Caserio (’98 graduate)
Director of Player Personnel, New England Patriots (2008-present)
Quarterback and member of John Carroll Hall of Fame who held more than a dozen school records at the time he graduated, including 8,434 passing yards and 78 touchdown passes.
• Josh McDaniels (’99 graduate)
Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots (2012-present)
Switched from quarterback to receiver as a junior, where he started for two seasons and caught 41 passes for 732 yards and 7 TDs