Kettle Run football product Kroll working toward starting role at James Madison
Casey Kroll could be next in line to be James Madison's starting left guard. --Photo by Joey LoMonaco
Casey Kroll took the slow lane to Zane Showker Field.
Almost 39 months after graduating from Kettle Run High School, he finally got a taste of playing in an NCAA Division I game late last month when he took the field in Bridgeforth Stadium as an offensive lineman on the James Madison University football team.
But Kroll doesn’t regret a second spent on that elongated path to playing time because now, as a redshirt sophomore, he still has plenty of time to shine at JMU. Plus, he likely wouldn’t have earned a D-I scholarship had he taken a different route.
All other routes were impeded by roadblocks. Few college teams recruited Kroll out of high school and the 2010 Kettle Run graduate didn’t receive any scholarship offers. So he chose to play one season at Fork Union Military Academy.
As a result, Kroll secured a scholarship from JMU. However, he arrived in Harrisonburg a bit undersized as a left guard, so he used a redshirt and sat out his true freshman season.
Next, as a redshirt freshman, Kroll got stuck on the JMU depth chart behind left guard Earl Watford, whom the Arizona Cardinals later took in the NFL draft.
This season, however, Kroll is the No. 2 left guard on the Dukes’ depth chart. He earned his first playing time as a substitute Aug. 31 during a 38-14 win over Central Connecticut State University.
“I like the direction he’s headed in,” JMU offensive line coach Curt Newsome said. “He’s been nothing but an [ideal] young man. … He did a great job since this spring. He needed to get bigger and he’s done that.”
In fact, if the Dukes sustain any injuries on their offensive line this season, Kroll could be thrust into a more significant role.
“I do think he has the ability,” Newsome said. “I feel like a little more maturity from him as far as his strength [would help], but his work ethic and his knowledge, it wouldn’t be an issue."
Kroll will almost certainly take on a larger role next season after redshirt senior starting left guard Scott Jones graduates.
“I’m being groomed to take over the position next year,” Kroll, 21, said. “But who knows what the future holds. … I’m just trying to be a better [player]. I’m kind of waiting for my time to come to earn the starting job.”
If that time comes, Kroll will have Fork Union to thank, in part. He played there as both an offensive tackle and defensive end, all the while working in the weight room to bulk up.
“It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Kroll said. “I had a lot of talent, but didn’t know what to do with it. They helped me with that.”
Following his junior season at Kettle Run, Kroll worked out for Fork Union’s coaches. He quickly decided his route to an NCAA D-I scholarship would go through the prep school.
“They said I’d be able to go to a lower I-A school or a good I-AA,” Kroll said. “They told me I had a lot of talent, but I was raw and needed to put on weight.”
Kroll played as a high school senior at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds. Now, as a redshirt sophomore at JMU, he stands 6-6, 285.
“It’s awesome [playing] college football,” Kroll said. “Definitely something not a lot of people get to play. I’m blessed.”
Kroll didn’t actually play in a game last season, but he traveled with the team. So he has experienced the grandeur of college football, like entering the Washington Redskins’ FedEx Field last season for a game against West Virginia. Also, according to the NCAA, James Madison averaged an impressive home attendance of 22,783 last season.
“It’s awesome,” Kroll said. “We put in all this work, and sometimes you think, ‘This is too much.’ But once you come out of the tunnel on a Saturday. It’s all surreal. … I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Coming out of Fork Union, Kroll also earned a scholarship offer from the University of Texas-El Paso.
“I chose James Madison because of how close to home it is and how good it is academically,” Kroll said. “UTEP just didn’t compete.”
On the field Aug. 31, Central Connecticut just couldn’t compete with James Madison, which also has Kettle Run graduate Julian Drakeford on its roster. It was an interesting game for Kroll to get his first playing time because former Liberty High coach Tommy Buzzo is now a co-defensive coordinator for CCSU.
When Kroll was a high school junior during Kettle Run’s inaugural football season in 2008, Buzzo’s Liberty team pummeled the Cougars, 81-0. Then Buzzo’s 2009 Liberty team beat Kroll’s Kettle Run team, 70-7.
“Everyone reminded me of it too,” Kroll said after James Madison dominated Central Connecticut. “All I’m going to say about that is it’s nice to be on the other side of it.”
Since Kroll’s departure from Kettle Run, the Cougars have developed into an annual state contender. They advanced to the Group AA state semifinals each of the past two seasons.
“We knew it was only a matter of time,” said Kroll, whose 2008 Kettle Run team played without a senior class for coach Jeff Lloyd.
“Coach Lloyd is a great coach,” Kroll said. “We didn’t have the seasons we wanted, but you could kind of see it coming. I wasn’t surprised to see the program turn around.”
Kroll remains close with Lloyd and frequently returns to Fauquier County to watch his younger brothers play football, among other things.
“Casey is one of my all-time favorite kids,” Lloyd said. “A fantastic young man and has worked very hard to get to the point he is at today.
“He was hands down the most talented kid we had when we opened as a program,” Lloyd said.
- - - - -
The Kroll File
Status: Redshirt sophomore left guard at James Madison University.
High school: 2010 Kettle Run graduate.
Life in Harrisonburg: “It reminds me a lot of Fauquier, to be honest.”
Future plans: Major in public policy administration and work in corporate law or coach football.
Football family: Brother Carson is freshman on Kettle Run’s junior varsity team and brother Jack is a seventh grade player at Warrenton Middle School. “I come back on regular basis just to watch my little brothers’ teams … and catch up with friends.
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.
Get Headlines Every Tuesday and Thursday By Email