Fourth-year coach Glenn Caruso told Sports Headliners his roster includes many players recruited by Division I and II football programs but the Division III powerhouse Tommies have no plans to play at a higher level in future years.
The 5-0 Tommies are ranked No. 3 nationally and last Saturday whipped MIAC tradition-rich Saint John’s 63-7 (49-0 at halftime). In Caruso’s first season of 2008 he led the Tommies to the third biggest turnaround in Division III history. In 2009 St. Thomas was 11-2 and last season the Tommies were ranked No. 4 in the country and had a 12-1 record.
Caruso said St. Thomas is comfortable at the Division III level, offering student-athletes a “balance” between academics and football. That Division III tag, though, hasn’t stopped Caruso from attracting quality players. He estimates “probably half” his roster is comprised of players who either could play in the higher divisions, or received offers from Division I or II schools.
Among his standouts are wide receiver-kick returner Fritz Waldvogel and offensive lineman Chad Vandergriff. Could those two Division III preseason All-Americans play for the Gophers? “Oh, geez, I don’t know,” Caruso said. “And for me to speculate on that would probably be ignorant. Just glad they’re playing for St. Thomas.”
Caruso isn’t ready to label the 2011 Tommies his best club “but what stands out is this team hasn’t made similar mistakes twice.” The Tommies were plenty good last Saturday, dismantling the Johnnies with a performance that only surprised Caruso a “little bit.”
“It wasn’t like it was out of the realm of possibility,” he said. “I have often been asked could you ever have dreamed this in your wildest dreams? Well, heck, yea. …I wouldn’t be a competitor if you couldn’t dream about where your program is going to go at the highest of levels. But I did not expect that to necessarily happen this Saturday, but it felt pretty good.”
Caruso, who grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut, has worked hard to turnaround the Tommies program. It’s a work ethic he and his siblings learned from their father Frank, an attorney who practiced law at home to give his children more direction.
“My dad worked tirelessly to make sure all of his kids were hard workers, were good- natured people that cared about others (and) that tired to look at the world optimistically,” Caruso said. “…My dad worked his butt off every single day not to try and make our lives easier, but to try and teach us how to navigate all the stuff that’s going to happen throughout our life.”
Caruso and the Tommies are navigating pretty well these days.