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Rod Boam
Jaycee Carroll talks about how the Logan Institute of Religion has affected his college years.

LOGAN — Since arriving on the campus of Utah State University in August 2004 following an LDS Church mission, Jaycee Carroll has been an elders quorum president, a ward clerk, a ward missionary and a Sunday School teacher. He's also majoring in Spanish teaching, working toward applying for graduate school and was married in the Logan Temple last year.

And he's managed to become the all-time leading scorer in the history of the school's basketball program.

For those who know Carroll through his association with the Logan Institute of Religion, the 24-year-old from Evanston, Wyo., is defined by much more than the 2,281 points he's scored in an Aggie uniform. It was his play as a freshman that first earned him notoriety in this loyal Aggie-blue town. But up here, Carroll has become known as much for service as he has for shooting — someone who's committed to the responsibilities of being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as well as the most prominent athlete in Cache Valley.

"He looks for ways to have a positive influence on people around him," said Corey Killpack, an instructor at the Logan institute who has taught Carroll. "That's a very selfless kind of person that I think is pretty rare in society today."

Carroll's numbers at Utah State are not only rare, they're unprecedented.

With 13:35 left to play in the first half against Idaho on Jan. 19, the senior guard hit a 3-pointer that made him the program's all-time leading scorer, passing Greg Grant's record of 2,127 points set in 1986. Carroll holds several other school records, including total minutes played.

But according to two of Carroll's instructors at the Logan institute, it's hard to tell off the court that he's such an accomplished athlete.

"He's not a regular guy, but he is a regular guy," said Wayne Henderson, who taught Carroll as a freshman. "He doesn't put himself above or beyond anyone just because he is the star athlete at Utah State University."

While Henderson has been a friend to Carroll since the two met in 2004, he acknowledges that "everybody's got a Jaycee story." The fifth-year instructor, who is also a stake president, says Carroll is always willing to give time to others and goes about serving in a quiet manner.

Killpack has a "Jaycee story" that involves his then-7-year-old son, who met Carroll following a preseason scrimmage autograph session and was given an unexpected invitation by the basketball star.

"He said, 'Why don't you come to your dad's class with me tomorrow?"' said Killpack, whose son attended and was able to sit by Carroll. "He's just that kind of a person."

Carroll said he feels an obligation to make a difference when he can.

"You have a responsibility to be a good role model to kids, to teach them, to get out in the community and help any way you can," he said.

Part of fulfilling that responsibility is speaking — and speaking some more. Carroll estimates that he has participated in 80 different church activities where he has addressed youth groups, including 40 in the most recent calendar year. Henderson said his friend's schedule is "booked up" with firesides.

"I feel sorry for him sometimes," Henderson said.

Carroll places value on not only learning how to apply gospel teachings to his life but also on encouraging the growth of others by sharing his experiences. One of the more unique opportunities came when Carroll spoke last year to his peers at the institute's "Religion in Life" devotional series.

"It was cool to be able to stand in front of people who watch me play basketball ... to let them see the other part of me, the part of me that I think is most important," he said.

It was about that time that another engagement was looming. When institute instructor Curtis Jacobs announced the devotional to his class, he reminded the women that Carroll was single. A student named Baylee Roche, a Utah State cheerleader, raised her hand.

"Yes, but he's not available," Jacobs recounted her saying.

Carroll and Roche were married in July 2007.

As an athlete and returned missionary, Carroll knows people are watching.

He knows this because he paid close attention to the other LDS athletes in Evanston.

When he was 12, Carroll was determined to become a state champion swimmer and an NBA player — and maybe go on a mission. He said the positive influence of a Seminary teacher during his freshman year of high school helped solidify his resolve to serve, but the examples of other LDS athletes helped facilitate the decisionmaking process. Among his influences were Evanston High's Brady Poppinga, former BYU and current Green Bay Packers starting linebacker, and Kelly Poppinga, who played football for both Utah State and BYU. Both served missions.

"It just gave me the confidence that it could work," Carroll said. "They were huge examples for me, just proving the fact that you could play college sports and go on a mission."

Carroll said that when he left for his mission in Chile after committing to play at USU, he adopted the mind-set that if he served diligently his life would "work out." Letters from Utah State that were meant to update him on the program went into the garbage can — unopened.

Those who know Carroll say his words and example have encouraged others to serve missions. Carroll won't say as much but does hope he's played a part.

"I hope that sharing my experience has helped some people get over the hump, has helped some young people decide that a mission is important," he said. "An honorable, full-time mission is important, not just going, but serving the entire way like you should."

Carroll is not unique on his team; he's joined in the starting lineup by three other returned missionaries — Tyler Newbold, Tai Wesley and Gary Wilkinson. Matt Formisano, another RM teammate, was a counselor to Carroll when he served as an elders quorum president.

Killpack said Carroll goes out of his way to be a good influence on teammates, but Carroll just seems to appreciate the shared experience.

"It provides opportunities for us to share missionary experiences between us but also with our teammates, because there are so many of us, those things come up," Carroll said. "It's really great to have the opportunity to share different experiences that we've had of a religious nature in a basketball atmosphere."

Henderson is familiar with Carroll's offseason workout program, where the 6-foot-2, 175-pound sharpshooter meticulously tracks his shots with a goal of taking 20,000. This past summer, however, Carroll resolved to make 20,000 shots, a goal that he accomplished.

Henderson saw the same kind of commitment from Carroll in the classroom.

"He never missed class, unless they were on a basketball trip," said Henderson, who also noted that at times Carroll would attend for 30 minutes before rushing down to the Spectrum to catch the team bus. "That was darn impressive, but after you've been around him awhile, that's his character."

He's also committed to a professional basketball career. Last year, Carroll explored the possibility of entering the NBA Draft but ultimately decided to return to school. Although he is prepared with a backup plan, Carroll fully expects to be on a court somewhere next season.

"That's what I hope to be doing," he said. "If that doesn't work out, I'll re-evaluate and go in a different direction. But either way, I'll work real hard and find a way to be successful."

By returning to school for his senior season, Carroll was able to experience the most memorable on-court moment of his career — becoming the school's all-time leading scorer. He was honored that night with cheers, handshakes from administrators, a video presentation and a trip around the court on the shoulders of his teammates.

"The school administration, my teammates, the community, the students did such a good job of making that night special for me," he said.

But according to Henderson, there's still one more thing Carroll wants to accomplish at the Spectrum — and that's giving a fireside talk to an arena full of people. Plans are being worked on right now to make that happen.

Said Henderson: "That's the (final) thing he wants to do at the Spectrum as a student at Utah State University."


• Passed Greg Grant's mark of 2,127 career points on Jan. 19.

• Named preseason Western Athletic Conference player of the year heading into senior season.

• Named first-team all-WAC and Associated Press honorable mention All-American as junior in 2007.

• Named second-team all-WAC as sophomore in 2006.

• Named freshman all-American and Big West freshman of the year after 2004-05 season.

• Averaged 39.4 points, nine rebounds as senior at Evanston (Wyo.) High School.

• Named Wyoming player of the year as junior and senior.

E-mail: ashill@desnews.com