Pete Carroll And Robin Williams Were High School And College Classmates — And Almost Football Teammates
Robin Williams would have been 65 this July, still relatively young, presumably going strong. That's the big tragedy of his suicide in 2014 -- he was far too young. Pete Carroll will be 65 in September. You may know that the two of them were high school classmates at Redwood High School in Larkspur, CA -- Class of '69.
But did you know that they were also college classmates? And that the two came within one year of being football teammates? Both played freshman football in high school -- Carroll at Redwood High, Williams at Detroit Country Day School in Michigan. But prior to his sophomore year, Williams' family moved to Marin County when his father took early retirement -- and Williams began attending Redwood High. But by then he had quit football.
In Larry Stone's recent column about Carroll, Stone visited the Marin County hamlet where Carroll grew up and toured all of the Seahawks' coach's old haunts. One thing that Stone leaves out, however, is that Carroll and Williams were also college classmates.
After high school Carroll attended College of Marin, a community college in Kentfield, CA, where he also played football. Marin was a junior college then, and after two years he transferred to University of the Pacific. Williams went to Claremont College in Los Angeles after graduation, studying political science. But he dropped out after one year and enrolled at Marin to study acting.
And so they were classmates once again, although they remained pretty much two ships passing in the night. In high school Williams ran cross country, but otherwise existed mostly in the theater department. Carroll was a jock. One might think that Carroll relished his high school years while Williams found them difficult and restricting. Actually, the opposite was true.
Because of his small size, Carroll was frustrated that other athletes were passing him by. Meanwhile, Williams was thriving in theater.
Fun fact: Dana Carvey also ran cross country, and not too far away. He attended Carlmont High in Belmont, CA, and was about three years behind Williams. Larkspur is 11 miles north of San Francisco. Carlmont is about 24 miles south of SF.
Oddly, Carroll doesn’t remember high school with particular fondness. A three-sport star in youth ball, he watched others get their growth spurt before him and pass him by athletically. When Carroll turned out for freshman football at 5 feet 4, 110 pounds, he didn’t reach the minimum 125-pound weight requirement and had to get a doctor’s note to be allowed to play.
“I didn’t like high school,’’ Carroll told Esquire in 2009. “I was always pissed because I wasn’t who I wanted to be — the person I knew myself to be just wasn’t happening. At one time I was the best. And then in high school … I looked like the mascot in the frickin’ team picture.”
Carroll and Williams weren't friends, but knew each other. Carroll, to Sports Illustrated last year:
"We were not real close. We were in the same graduating class and all that. But everybody knew that he was there. [His death] is a huge loss. What an extraordinary personality and character. He’s been so constantly great for so long. This is a terrible loss for everybody that loved him so much. It’s really a hard day, hard day."
So Carroll and all of his Greenbrae childhood buddies turn 65 this year. And one can't help but wonder, what would it have been like if Carroll and Williams had been close friends? Analyzing the effects and causes of clinical depression and chemical abuse are above my pay grade, so forgive me if this sounds naive. But I think that maybe a little of Carroll's indomitable, life-affirming spirit may have been just the thing that Williams could have used in his darkest moment.
Anyway, it would be really great if both were still around making us smile instead of only one.
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