FINDLAY - As the younger sister of a star NFL quarterback, Carlee Roethlisberger embraces the accompanying limelight.
But the Findlay High School senior also hopes her own athletic prowess is beginning to shine through the large shadow cast by big brother, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback "Big" Ben Roethlisberger.
Carlee Roethlisberger is a two sport standout who was recruited by major Division I colleges in basketball and volleyball. The 6-foot-1 wing verbally committed to play basketball for the University of Oklahoma last November.
Roethlisberger scored 32 points in a win over Centerville last Saturday to move into second place on Findlay's all-time scoring list.
When she was named to the All-Ohio first team in volleyball last fall, Roethlisberger became the first female athlete in Trojan history to garner first team all-state honors in two sports.
"I think it's always important to make my own way and do it myself," Carlee said. "I have goals that I want to reach and I don't want them to be just because of my brother. I'm proud of all the things he's done. I love being Ben's sister. He has a positive image. But if I can work my own way up and make my own name that would be great. But I'm sure I'll never be bigger than him."
Carlee has scored 1,460 points in her career, 147 behind Amy Jauert's 1,607. She also holds single-game scoring records for points (40) and free throws made (16).
Roethlisberger helped lead the Findlay volleyball team to four straight Greater Buckeye Conference titles and the Trojans never lost a league match in her career. A four-year starter in basketball, she has led Findlay to back-to-back regional appearances.
Findlay (16-2, 8-1) can clinch a share of a fourth straight GBC title with a win at home tonight against Napoleon. Roethlisberger leads the team with 21.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. The Trojans were ranked seventh in the final Division I state poll.
Carlee said signs of her brother's stardom are never far away. She said opposing fans chant and make billboards regarding her famous brother.
"Nothing is private anymore. Everyone wants to know everything," Carlee said. "For me, away games are different. The fans are pretty creative. You have to have fun with it. It motivates me."
She said at one game fans were admitted for free if they wore any NFL jersey other than a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey.
"At another school, all the kids were going to wear helmets to the game. But [school officials] didn't let them," Carlee said.
Carlee said she would play basketball in the driveway with her brother when they were kids. She played soccer and swam competitively before focusing on basketball and volleyball when she got to middle school.
By the time she started as a freshman on the Findlay varsity basketball team, her brother had already set Ohio high school passing records and was making a name for himself at Miami of Ohio.
"Some girls on the team thought I was starting because of who my brother was," Carlee said. "But by the middle of the season I think they saw I could play. Coach Connie [Lyon] came in at the same time and we helped each other fit in."
Lyon said she had no idea who Ben was at the time and that it was obvious Carlee already had the athleticism, height, agility and versatility to play at the varsity level.
"It's been exciting to see her develop and see how her role has changed each year," Lyon said. "She is that total package. She's a great student, a great competitor and an outstanding athlete. She's become a leader and has so much confidence. Her teammates just feed off of that."
Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale cited Carlee's versatility as her biggest strength.
"There is no telling how good she can be," Coale said shortly after signing her last November. "Carlee is just a great kid. She has tremendous leadership ability at the ripe old age of 18. I think her upside is huge. She has great leaping ability and has great anticipatory skills. She is blessed with those instincts that great athletes have. She can do anything. She can shoot the 3. She can get to the rim. She has a nice pull-up jumper."
Roethlisberger narrowed her choices in volleyball to Ohio State, Minnesota and Nebraska. She said Purdue and Oklahoma topped the basketball list.
"You get a call from a school ranked in the top 10 and you think, 'Oh man, this is great. They really think you're that good,'•" she said. "Picking between the sports was the toughest decision I ever had to make."
Roethlisberger said she chose Oklahoma because of the coaching staff and players. She said she hopes to crack the lineup as a freshman.
"They treated me like family. I felt like I was at home," she said.
Coale has led the Sooners to seven consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament, including a trip to the Final Four in 2002. They are currently ranked 11th in the country.
"She just loves to play and I thought that was an early indicator that she would love our program," Coale said. "My favorite thing about her is that she does all the little stuff. She has a chance to be special."
The word "special" and the Roethlisberger name have long been intertwined, especially after Ben became the youngest QB to win a Super Bowl when the Steelers beat Seattle in Detroit last February.
Carlee said she and her mom and dad go to Ben's home games and stay at his house.
"It is kind of surreal," Carlee said. "Everyone sees him on TV and they think: wow, he's a great pro athlete. But to me he's still just my brother."
On June 11 last year, Roethlisberger told her family that she had decided to play basketball at Oklahoma. The next day Ben was involved in a motorcycle accident in which he suffered severe head injuries.
"I was in the locker room getting ready to play [an AAU basketball game] when a friend called me and asked me what was going on with Ben, and that she heard he was in some motorcycle accident," she said.
Carlee said she thought her friend was joking.
"I told her it wasn't funny at all. But she said it was on ESPN that he was on his way to the hospital. I ran into the gym looking for my dad [Ken] and I couldn't find him right away," she recalled. "It was crazy."
Carlee said she and her dad, who were in Cincinnati, immediately got in the car and drove to Pittsburgh.
"That was the longest trip I've ever taken in my life," she said.
Carlee said they turned on the radio and the Cincinnati talk show hosts were especially cruel as they discussed the situation of the Bengals' rival quarterback.
"They made it sound so much worse than it was," she said. "My mom [Brenda] was at home and they had reporters and cameramen taking pictures of her in the driveway while she packed."
Carlee said she and her dad were treated similarly when they arrived at the hospital.
"It was scary," she said. "We couldn't see him right away because he was in surgery."
But her brother fully recovered in time to play for the Steelers this season.
A far better memory came months earlier when Ben won the Super Bowl.
"We got to go on the field afterward. It was a lot of fun," Carlee said. "At an after party I got to meet Snoop Dogg. It was surprising. He was very nice."
Carlee said she and her brother are seven years apart, and they have grown closer as they've gotten older.
"When we were younger he was older and cooler and had all his own friends," Carlee said. "But we actually got closer when he went to college. Now we're really close. I see things that other people don't see. I like the way he acts. He respects people. He made it his own way. I'd like to do that, too."
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