PARKERSBURG -Like most youth football players growing up in the Mountain State, DJ Carozza dreamed of the day he would become a member of the West Virginia University program.
But the odds of that happening are monumental, even to a 300-pound tackle who served as one of Parkersburg High School's team captains last fall, when he also was honored as the Big Reds' Offensive Linemen of the Year.
There isn't much of a market for college linemen who stand just 6-feet tall, not at the Division 1 level, anyway. Carozza had several offers from Division 2 schools, but he had his heart set on WVU, which boasts one of the nation's top sports management programs.
File Photo by Jeff Baughan
Parkersburg High School lineman DJ Carozza will trade in his red and white uniform for the gold and blue of West Virginia University. Carozza has accepted an offer to be a preferred walkon for the Mountaineers.
Knowing good things come to those who wait, Carozza waited on WVU, which was considering him for a preferred walkon status. But with each passing day, there was no news.
Then, it happened! Carozza was attending a class at Parkersburg High School when he received a text message. He read it once, then again, to make sure it was real.
It was the news for which he had been waiting. WVU was giving him the opportunity to be a preferred walkon. It took Carozza all of about two seconds to make his decision.
"As soon as I saw the text, I knew this was it,'' he said.
How bad did Carozza want a chance to play for the Mountaineers?
When Parkersburg High's players were selecting their uniform numbers, Carozza chose 77, the number worn by Josh Jenkins, a three-time all-state selection at PHS and a three-year starter at WVU.
"Having Josh's number motivated me,'' Carozza said.
Carozza's motivation comes from within. He's a tireless worker who never missed a day in the PHS weight room, where he was one of the leaders.
Carozza is versatile. He can play tackle, guard and center. He figures he is more suited for the latter, due to his lack of height. And he's also willing to play defense.
Don't tell Carozza a walkon can't earn playing time at WVU. He watched with admiration as former Big Red Matt Lindamood did just that. And he's aware that former Morgantown High School standout Rich Braham went from WVU walkon to team MVP to NFL veteran. The odds may not be great, but Carozza just wants a chance and he now has it.
A preferred walkon does not receive a scholarship, but Carozza doesn't require an athletic grant as he earned a Promise Scholarship for his academic prowess. A preferred walkon does earn one a spot on the Mountaineer roster if the recipient lives up to expectations.
The son of Dan and Peggy Carozza is a huge sports fan in general and a Pittsburgh Pirates fanatic in particular. His future dream job is to be the general manager of the Major League Baseball franchise.
Asked his favorite memory of Parkersburg High football, he said it was participating in the annual city rivalry game with Parkersburg South.
"It was a crazy experience playing before a packed house.''
But that packed house included about 8,000 fans. The next time Carozza runs onto a field with a packed house, the crowd could be 10 times bigger.
"College football is intense,'' he said. "You have to leave everything you've got on the field. There is is so much competition. There is no room for error.''
Carozza learned on Friday that Parkersburg South graduate Ron Crook, who was a member of the Stanford staff, had accepted the job as offensive line coach at WVU, yet another hometown connection.
Carozza plans to attend WVU this summer, getting an early start on academics and athletics. He knows this is the chance of a lifetime and he plans to do everything he can to make his dream a reality.