Dec. 13, 2011
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Out of football for the first time in years and working in a Chicago-based advertising firm, Paul Carrington had a steady existence, but one that was severely lacking.
What was missing was Carrington's interaction with football. No longer playing, Carrington felt the tug of the sport he's loved his entire life and once thrived at while at UCF, the NFL and the UFL.
``The (advertising) job was interactive and we were out in the field a lot. We were doing in-store advertising for Home Depot and Direct TV, but I just missed football so much,'' Carrington said. ``Sitting behind a desk doing interviews and payroll, those things just aren't for me. I wanted to be around football so bad.''
That led Carrington to placing a call to his former coach at UCF, George O'Leary. Carrington, a former standout defensive end at UCF, was ultimately hired as an operations assistant at his alma mater. Carrington, 29, was so excited about the opportunity at UCF that he drove straight from Houston to Orlando to get started right away on his new job.
For now, Carrington will assist UCF's new Director of Player Personnel, Drew Hughes, with recruiting and development of existing players. During spring practice and the regular season, Carrington will work with special teams in hope of it eventually leading to a coaching staff position, preferably on the defensive side of the ball where he starred for the Knights.
``Coaching was always the backup plan after playing football was done,'' he said. ``It's something that I've always had a passion and an interest in. I love the idea of impacting young minds and teaching them about life. There's no greater game to teach you about life than football.''
Carrington helped UCF to its first-ever bowl in 2005 and had a decorated career. He recorded 139 stops, 30.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks in 46 games at UCF from 2002-05. He led Conference USA in sacks in 2005 with nine.
``Paul was really good in our program when he was here as a player and I'm looking forward to bringing him back to help us,'' O'Leary said recently.
In Carrington's eyes, his return to UCF is more about giving back to a school and a football program that meant so much to him. After leaving UCF, Carrington was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Falcons where he had 37 tackles and three sacks during the 2007 season. From there, he also played for the Denver Broncos and the California Redwoods of the UFL before starting his job with the advertising firm in Chicago.
But missing football and wanting a return to UCF pulled him back to Orlando. Also, he wanted to do what he could to repay O'Leary for the guidance that he provided him as a player.
``It's time to give back for everything that he taught me, not just as a football player, but as a young man,'' Carrington said of O'Leary. ``He helped me mature and learn how to deal with adversity. It's time to come back and give back to UCF.''
Carrington's legacy at UCF was helping the Knights get to the Hawaii Bowl in 2005 and building the foundation for the program's successes in recent years. Now, he's hoping to leave a new legacy at UCF: As a coach and mentor to players in a spot similar to where he was 10 years ago.
``How the campus has grown from when I first got here 10 years ago to where it is now - good gosh, that makes me feel old - it's nice to know I was a part of the growth,'' Carrington said. ``Getting the stadium on campus was so big for this program and after meeting with the players I noticed a professionalism around him. It's just so good to be back.''
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.