By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Marlborough/Clinton – While currently working his second stint as a Marlboro Shamrocks kicker, Patrick Caruso wears a helmet that’s older than some of his semi-pro football teammates.
A Marlborough native now residing in Clinton, he first joined the team at age 18 in 1980.
“It was my goal in high school to play for the Shamrocks,” he noted. “I still wear my original Shamrocks helmet that I got in 1980. I want to give the younger guys a background of how special it is to be a Shamrock.”
Preparing for goal
Growing up in Marlborough, Caruso frequented Marlboro Shamrocks games with his father. He also participated in youth sports programs including Punt, Pass and Kick competitions offered by the National Football League.
“Sports was my whole life when I was younger,” he recalled. “I liked the comradery and competition.”
After playing football in middle school, he continued at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School with its Aztecs team. By sophomore year, his positions were starting quarterback, punter and kicker.
A highlight as an Aztec occurred as a sophomore.
“I kicked a 38-yard field goal in overtime to win the game,” he recounted. “The guys gave me a ride on their shoulders.”
His Aztecs’ successes culminated as a senior when they earned the Colonial League football title.
Upon graduating in 1980, Caruso achieved his goal. He joined the Marlboro Shamrocks.
First Shamrocks stint
The rookie Shamrock accepted challenges.
“I was an 18-year-old kid, playing with men in their 20s, 30s and 40s,” he relayed. “That’s a pretty big age difference.”
As backup kicker for his first Shamrocks game, Caruso kicked a game-winning field goal.
“I endeared myself to the veteran players on that day,” he noted.
In 1986, he got the chance to play with the Shamrocks in Ireland. The original Marlborough-based WSRO-AM broadcast the game to America.
“We were the first American football team to play in Ireland,” he explained. “We were treated like rock stars. It wasn’t a very competitive situation.”
The Shamrocks won with a lopsided score, 36-0.
Caruso became the Shamrocks backup quarterback his second year, then kicker from 1982 to ’89 when he decided to leave the team. He played in five Shamrocks’ Eastern Football League championships during the 1980s. The Shamrocks folded in 2006.
Back on the field
In 2007, Caruso began a few-year stint with Framingham-based Metrowest Colonials followed by other semi-pro teams. Meanwhile, he regularly attended Assabet Aztecs football games.
Caruso got inducted into Assabet’s Aztec Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018. Among the ceremony’s attendees were his children Rachel and Joey along with circa-1980s Shamrocks.
He was nominated by his girlfriend Deb Harper, an Assabet teacher since 1994.
“Deb has always been very supportive,” he noted “She’s giving up summers for football.”
Shamrocks return to Marlborough
In 2019, Shamrocks’ original owner Bob Kays joined forces with Worcester-based Mass Fury team owner/coach Chris Chambers. They brought semi-pro football back to Marlborough’s Kelleher Field. With the move, the team’s name became the Marlboro Shamrocks. Eastern Football League closed, so the Shamrocks competed in New England Football League in 2019.
“Bob opened all the doors for us in Marlborough,” Caruso proclaimed. “The guy’s energy level – even now – is amazing.”
Caruso attended Shamrocks meetings with the intention of helping on the sidelines. However, at age 57 in 2019, he got signed to return as the team’s kicker.
The Shamrocks captured 2019’s New England Football League championship at Marlborough’s Kelleher Field. Subsequently, they won the Palm Bowl XIV national championship game in Florida in January 2020.
In addition to his 1980 helmet, Caruso now wears his ring from the Shamrocks’ most recent national championship.
“Playing in a national game and winning at my age is a blessing,” Caruso said. “I’m very lucky.”