Small rose, big goals for Leonte Carroo and Rutgers

CHICAGO -- Leonte Carroo needed something to pull his outfit together, but he also wanted something with a little sentimental value.

The star Rutgers wide receiver called on his mom, and like usual, mother knew best.

Part fashion statement, part message to the rest of the Big Ten about Carroo’s goals for this season, the small red rose was exactly what he was looking for ahead of his visit to Big Ten media days. And despite its relative lack of size, it proved that the goals for the Scarlet Knights heading into their second year in the league have increased dramatically in a hurry.

“She picked out my suit, and I told her that I kind of wanted a nice accessory to go with it,” Carroo said. “She said how about a rose? That was actually perfect, because I told her my goal this year was to get to the Rose Bowl.

“If you get me a nice rose that I can wear with my suit, that way everybody will know this is where I’m going.”

Rutgers tweeted out a photo of Carroo from Big Ten media days on Friday:

The most likely destination for Carroo this fall seemed to be the NFL, both because of projections that had him pegged for the early rounds of the draft and the fact that he would have a new, inexperienced quarterback throwing him the football after the departure of Gary Nova at the end of last season.

But just like the Scarlet Knights turned heads by posting an unexpected eight-win campaign thanks in part to the production of one of the nation’s top targets, Carroo opened eyes by deciding to stick around and then making it clear that the program is aiming for something a little more ambitious than the Quick Lane Bowl this year.

“Well, you know, ultimately the highest goal is the national championship,” Carroo said. “And after our bowl game last year, one of our leaders, Paul James, stood up and said, ‘Hey, next year we want a 10-win season.’ That’s our goal, we want a 10-win season.

“But my goal is a 10-win season plus the Rose Bowl. That’s where I want to go.”

The path to Pasadena obviously won’t be easy, particularly given the amount of talent in a loaded East Division that features reigning national champion Ohio State, preseason No. 6 Michigan State and traditional powers Michigan and Penn State.

The Scarlet Knights had some issues during their debut season against the best the Big Ten had to offer, getting blown out in matchups against the Buckeyes, Spartans and Badgers of Wisconsin, and they never threatened to win the league or looked like a team capable of representing the conference in the Rose Bowl.

But if it’s going to make a run at it this season, Rutgers will have to lean heavily on the guy who plans on wearing his newest accessory every time the team hits the road.

“I came back just to finish this off the right way,” Carroo said. “A lot of people are going to see a different Rutgers team when we open the season. Last year, we got our feet wet in the Big Ten, but now we know what to expect, we know who the teams are and how we can beat them.

“I promised Rutgers fans when I came here as a freshman that me and Darius [Hamilton] were going to win them a championship, and that’s what [I've] set out to do. I’m here to finish this with my brothers and the guys that I came here with, and ultimately that’s to win a championship.”

Obviously, Carroo has a preference for a title that might come with some long-stems that can complement his outfit.