Penn Hills’ new assistant school superintendent Joseph Carroll prefers the moniker of “educator” over being known as an “ex-NFL player.”
Carroll describes his National Football League experience as “the means to an end” — most notably his education, noting that he’s 30 years removed from the NFL.
The day before the famous 1972 playoff game with the Steelers, known for the “Immaculate Reception,” the Oakland Raiders’ linebacker paid his tuition to attend classes at the University of Pittsburgh in the off-season.
He earned a Master’s degree in higher education administration before his playing days were cut short by an ankle injury. As it turned out, he didn’t qualify for a football pension.
“That’s another story. I knew from day one that I wasn’t going to be playing in the NFL forever,” said Carroll, 54, of Stanton Heights. “That’s how I paid my way to go back to school. I wanted to invest in myself.”
He initially considered law, and then decided on the coursework to become a college athletic director. Donald Henderson, then the associate provost at Pitt, thought Carroll was hemming himself in too much.
“He said, ‘You don’t have to hold it there. How would you eventually feel about becoming a dean?'” Carroll recalled.
The retired linebacker went from defending the goal line to defending his doctoral dissertation in education in 1978.
Starting out as an English teacher and coach at Wilkinsburg High School, Carroll went on to become assistant principal there before moving over to the Pittsburgh City Schools.
But it was during the nearly 10 years he spent as principal at East Allegheny High School beginning in August 1987 that he met Patricia Gennari, when she was working with the Mon Valley Initiative.
Gennari was hired this month to be Penn Hills superintendent and Carroll applied for the job to become the first black central office administrator in a district that is very close to 50 percent minority population. He will earn $94,000 a year at his new post.
“But there are 6,000 students in the district that I’m concerned about,” said Carroll. “I’m there for everybody. I want to find out as much as I can about the district and see where I can intervene to make a positive impact.”
He basically “won the school board over with the enthusiasm he has for education” in his final job interview last week, Gennari said. He won the job over about 24 other candidates.
Carroll is assisting Clairton school board with finding his replacement as high school principal. Earlier this week, Clairton varsity football coach Tom Nola checked in with Carroll to go over the academic eligibility list. Nola also brought Carroll a bright red Pittsburgh Pirates ball cap — the closest thing he could find to a Penn Hills model.
“I was going to get him a Clairton cap, but now he’s moving on,” Nola said.
Carroll said he’s going to miss his one coaching assignment — The annual power puff football game in Clairton.
“That’s the only coaching I’ve done, and I’m going to miss that,” he said.