On January 17, 1933, J.C. Caroline was born in Warrenton, Georgia. He was named after his father, James Caroline. When he was a boy, he was given the initials J.C. for a nickname. The nickname stuck for the rest of his life. He went to Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia, South Carolina. Buddy Young recruited him to play football for the University of Illinois.[i]
In 1953, J.C. was a sophomore running back who made All-American and led the nation in rushing. In 1955, he played for the Toronto Argonauts and the Montreal Alouettes in the Canadian League. Then he earned a physical education degree from Florida A&M University.
In 1956, J.C. was a 7th round choice of the Bears in the NFL Draft. He played running back, defensive back, and special teams for the Bears from 1956 through 1965. He played in the 1957 Pro Bowl. He played on the Bears’ 1963 Championship team.
On November 17, 1963, the Bears played the Green Bay Packers at Wrigley Field. J.C. made a great tackle on a kickoff. The Bears won 26–7. In the film session the next week, the team gave J.C. a great round of applause.
After his playing career, J.C. was an assistant coach and a recruiter for the University of Illinois. Then he taught physical education at Urbana Junior High School. In 1980, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
When J.C. played for Illinois, Charlie Finn was the team manager. Many years later, Charlie asked J.C. to preach where Charlie went to church. J.C. delivered two wonderful sermons: one for the adults and one for the children.
On Saturday, November 25, 2017, at 12:00 p.m., the Stone Creek Church in Urbana celebrated the life of J.C. who had died on November 17. The Reverend B. J. Tatum officiated. Pastor Tatum told us that J.C.’s daughter Jolynn said he had died peacefully. J.C. was prepared for the inevitable. He tried to get everyone to heaven that he could. He knew his Lord. He had support from his family. He left peacefully. J.C. was an excellent husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather.
[i] Buddy Young was a diminutive college and NFL athlete who became the first African American executive in the NFL.
J.C. Caroline is one of the Sports and Faith Good Guys who we covered in book 4 of the Sports and Faith Series, called Worthwhile Struggle.
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