Remembering Larry Carwell

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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.

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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.

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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.

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About Mike Green

I'm in my 21st year working in the Athletics Communications office at Iowa State and in my third year as Director of Communications. My passion has always been ISU Athletics and the seed was planted by my father, Ken, who was an All-Big Eight pitcher for Iowa State in 1960. I graduated from UNI in 1993, where I was a two-year letterwinner on the golf team, and received my master's at ISU in 1997. I've covered volleyball, wrestling, baseball, golf, football and men's basketball at ISU, including 13 seasons as the men's hoops contact. It's an honor to be the football contact for Coach Campbell and the Cyclones. I've got stories to tell, and I love telling them.
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2 Responses to Remembering Larry Carwell

  1. Bruce Rogers says:

    Larry Carwell is truly one of the all-time great Cyclones! God bless him and may his soul continue to rest in peace forever!

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  2. Cal Lewis says:

    I just discovered your story about Larry Carwell, and it rekindled very fond memories of a transformative time in my life. Larry Carwell, Doug Robinson, and I were teammates in the Cyclone defensive backfield during the 1965 football season. While our quarterback, Tim VanGalder was setting Big 8 passing records, our defensive backfield finished 5th in the country for passing yardage allowed during that season, and our team was one victory away from a bowl appearance, which was more exclusive back then.

    This was a period before freshman were eligible to play on the varsity, so as sophomores in 1966, it was the first year that Doug and I could play on the varsity, and Larry, as a junior, was the wily veteran in our three-deep defensive backfield. The gathering of three young starting players from other states in this successful defensive backfield was highly unlikely, but it was actually the future accomplishments that were even less likely. The story you shared about Larry is certainly the prime example, but Doug Robinson’s great success as a provost in the California university system is also quite noteworthy. I was fortunate to have my degree in Architecture lead to valuable professional opportunities, including the design of several buildings on our campus, with the most meaningful to me being the Jacobson Athletic Building overlooking our stadium (we played at Clyde Williams).

    In 1965 there were severe racial tensions in our country. As a white player from suburban Chicago, I did not know a single black person and had never even played against black players, much less play with them. Larry and Doug were black. It didn’t matter; we were teammates. Without even realizing it, I was experiencing one of the most important lesson of my young life; I will be forever grateful.

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