One of four U.S. Army All-Americans at Don Bosco, Carroo emerged as one of the nation's top wideouts. He notched 77 catches, 1,559 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns since the start of his junior year, and helped lead the Ironmen to 46 consecutive wins.Read More Below
Like many eighth graders growing up in Plainfield, N.J., Leonte Carroo came to idolize Don Bosco Prep. He watched Ironmen football regularly on MSG Varsity, cheering as they dominated opponent after opponent. Star players became icons: Ryan Grant, Corey Wootton and Brian Toal -- all current members of NFL rosters -- once played for the program.
By the time his freshman year rolled around, the sprinter-turned-receiver had no doubt in his mind: He wanted to play for the maroon and white.
"I told my mom I would love to go to a school like that," Carroo said. "From there, it was history."
Four years later, Carroo has exceeded all expectations. The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder amassed 77 receptions, 1,559 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns since the onset of his junior season.
"Leonte has another gear," said coach Greg Toal. "He's one of those guys that can separate and really stretch the field vertically."
Of course, he's just part of Bosco's football powerhouse, a well-oiled machine that seemingly churns out blue-chip prospects. This year alone, four seniors participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl -- Carroo, defensive end Darius Hamilton, safety Elijah Shumate and cornerback Yuri Wright -- and two others committed to BCS programs. The team's track record is astounding: Since 2006, it's 70-1 (including 46 straight victories) and has won six consecutive New Jersey Non-Public Group 4 titles.
"Don Bosco is like the Miami Hurricanes in the '80s," said Shumate. "Everybody wants to go there."
But don't let the achievements fool you. Since Toal took over in 1999, the program has thrived as a result of relentless training, not simply gifted athletes. The Ironmen's summer workouts consist of up to nine hours of football-related activities -- from practice to weightlifting to film sessions -- and their schedule routinely features many of the nation's premier programs (they've knocked off teams from California, Alabama, Florida, Ohio and Maryland since '08). They're the best for a reason.
"If people had seen the work that we put in that results in Saturdays, they'd know why we win all the time," said Shumate. "We probably work harder than the Marines."
Take Carroo as an example. After enrolling at Bosco in ninth grade, he faced a series of daunting challenges. He woke up every morning at 5:30 a.m. to catch a train to Ramsey, N.J., or had his mother drive him more than two and a half hours to school. He seriously considered transferring, swayed only after the family of his quarterback, Mike Yankovich, offered to let Carroo live with them. Since then, he's upped his commitment -- and discovered a newfound appreciation for his teammates.
Then there's Elijah Shumate, the hard-hitting safety -- coaches called him Troy Polamalu in grade school -- who pledged to Notre Dame on Jan. 7. After coming to Bosco from Paterson Catholic (N.J.) following his sophomore year, he bolstered a defense that surrendered a meager 8.2 points per game from 2010-11. More importantly, he continued to play in honor of his grandmother, who passed away before she could watch him play a game. The Ironmen spirit only strengthened his resolve.
"Just going out there and keeping her on my mind, I have to make it," Shumate said. "I have to keep fighting every day to make her proud."
That seems to be a common sentiment around Ramsey, where football has become king. The game is more than just a game -- it's a means for personal maturation.
"You can learn a lot of benefits from football," said Toal, who doesn't cut anyone from his 160-player roster. "Football is all about teamwork and doing your job and coming to work every day with the right attitude. It's the same thing that's gonna carry you on later in life."
With National Signing Day fast approaching, focus has turned to recruiting, the early February rite of passage for many prep stars. And while Shumate has already committed, Carroo and Hamilton remain question marks. Carroo, a Rutgers commit since August, is reportedly undecided after coach Greg Schiano was hired as the next coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while Hamilton, Rivals' No. 11 prospect and the son of former New York Giants great Keith "Hammer" Hamilton, is still weighing his options. They'll likely make their decisions on Feb. 1.
"I want to go to a place where I could have the opportunity to play early," said Hamilton. "I feel like I can make the most out of that."
No matter what happens, one thing seems clear. Given their experience at Don Bosco, laden with unparalleled success and tenacious expectations (both on and off the field), Carroo and the rest of the Ironmen should be well prepared for anything the future holds.
"Playing for a program like this has taught me not only the best football, but some life lessons," said Carroo. "It's about growing up and becoming a man. That's what Don Bosco did for me. I came here as a 14-year-old child, and I can pretty much say I'm leaving as a man."