Larry Carwell was an exceptional Iowa State football player from 1964-66. He was also a huge success as a professional, playing six seasons (1967-72) in the AFL for the Houston Oilers and New England Patriots, collecting 14 career interceptions along the way.
Today is a day we need to remember Carwell for something besides gridiron success, however.
On this day 33 years ago, Carwell lost his life serving his country.
Carwell entered the United States Drug Enforcement Administration in 1974 shortly after retiring from the pros. He soon became a special agent for the DEA, and on Jan. 9, 1984, Carwell, along with four Air Force servicemen, died in a helicopter crash during an anti-narcotics mission.
Carwell was sent to Miami with the task of stopping drug runners in the Bahamas. During the 1980s, cocaine smuggling was at its peak and the Bahamas was a key link in the smuggling chain.
Just off the coast of the Bahamas, his helicopter developed complications. The aircraft suffered from a dual engine flame out and crashed into the sea. All five bodies were never found.
Carwell was 39 years old.
A native of Campbell, Ohio, Carwell lettered three years at Iowa State as an outstanding defensive back. He tallied 127 tackles and picked off seven passes in his career. On Oct. 8, 1966, Carwell picked off two Kansas passes and returned the interceptions for 123 return yards. His interception return yardage that day is still a Cyclone school record.
Carwell started over 50 games in the AFL during his distinguished professional career. He had five interceptions for the Patriots in 1971 and returned two interceptions for touchdowns in his career.
Unlike today’s professional athletes, players in the 1970s were underpaid. They needed a second career to survive, and Carwell was determined and ready for another challenge.
Anybody who knew Carwell would quickly tell you about his love of children and his hatred for drugs. He was sickened how drugs filtered down to kids and ruined their lives. He was going to join the fight and the DEA was his calling.
Carwell was stationed in Houston with the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration’s Houston Field Division soon after becoming a special agent. He was a Sunday school teacher for a local Baptist church and active in drug prevention and sports programs in the community.
It was important for Carwell to set an example for his wife, Lural, and his two children, Larry Jr., Shauntel.
Without a doubt, he did just that, and his legacy is still visible today.
Carwell posthumously received the Association’s Medal of Valor in 1984 and the Houston office where he worked was dedicated as the Carwell Wallace Building in 1997. His high school, Campbell Memorial, also sponsors a $300 per year scholarship in his name to college-bound athletes to this day.
The world could definitely use more Larry Carwells.