top of page

Love Beyond the Buzzer: A Valentine’s Day Love Story

Tre Carroll and Suron Draden, two Florida Atlantic students, recently got engaged – to the delight of friends, family…and fans who followed the news on Instagram. Carroll is a forward for the Owls, and Draden is his middle-school sweetheart.

Photos by Chardly Zetrenne (Courtesy)

Laurie Mermet | MediaLab@FAU

Feb 13, 2024

Etched into the Delray Beach shoreline, a sign spelled out the words that would change everything: “Marry Me.” Suron Draden, overcome with surprise, found herself in the presence of her now-fiancé, Tre Carroll, who knelt gracefully before her, eagerly awaiting a response. 

Carroll is a forward for the Owls Men’s Basketball team who is having a career year while earning a degree in Communication Studies at FAU. Draden, his grade-school sweetheart, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Florida Atlantic. The two first crossed paths in elementary school in Port Charlotte, where they became best friends. 

“I asked her out in the sixth grade, and she rejected me and put me in the friend zone,” Carroll said in a Zoom interview with Draden by his side. 

Carroll and Draden started dating in the seventh grade. 

“Back then, [Draden] was probably the only person I could really be myself around, and that wouldn’t make fun of me for being me,” Carroll said. “I used to get bullied when I was younger.”

Draden expressed what she saw in Carroll from early on, as the two have been inseparable since they first got together. They simply see eye-to-eye, though he is 6’7 and she’s 5’1.

“What attracted me to him back then is he’s just so goofy, and he really knows how to make me laugh, and… he also knows when to be there for me,” Draden said. 

Draden and Carroll faced challenges that tested their bond, particularly during college when both underwent significant personal growth. 

“Our relationship was definitely tested,” Draden said. “When we came to college, we also reached new levels of maturity individually, and I think that we had to navigate that new level of maturity with each other, which was kind of hard.”

Mia Rodriguez, an FAU student majoring in nursing and a close friend of Draden's, has known the couple since freshman year and described them as “two halves of one whole.” 

“When I first met Suron and Tre, they were still adjusting to dating in college. Previous child-like issues from their past would arise, and they were still moving past these things,” said Rodriguez. “It's so encouraging to see that two people who truly love each other can work things out in such a healthy way.”

Carroll’s commitment as a D1 athlete, with its demanding schedule, added an extra obstacle to their journey. Carrol was a part of the Owls’ historic run to the Final Four a year ago, and has continued to grow on the court, seeing increases in both minutes and points from last season’s averages. Currently he is averaging 50.7% from the field and 20.8% from beyond the arc. 

“[Fatigue] was probably the most difficult part and just not being able to do things [Draden] wants to do because I’m just mentally not there,” Carroll said. “I get really tired because I’m working out two to three times a day… And I’m so thankful that [Draden] is a very understanding person.”

During basketball season, Carroll’s routine consists of an 8:30 a.m. rise, heading straight to the gym for his first daily workout. He then engages in team weightlifting and collaborative workouts, typically spanning from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. After a brief downtime, Carroll returns to the arena for a practice session at 5 p.m.

Despite this time-consuming schedule, Carroll and Draden always make time for each other. 

“It is difficult because I have my own life as well and my own job, classes, clubs, and things that I do, and it doesn’t always match up with him,” Draden said. “[Carroll’s] schedule isn’t really changeable, but mine, I can kind of move things around, so I will accommodate his schedule to make sure that I’m spending enough time with him in the morning before he goes or in the evening.”

“I like to go out, I like to try new things,” Draden said. “And this is a new area for us. I'm always like ‘Let's go do this, let's go do that,’ and I had to just realize this man is tired.”

FAU undergraduates Tre Carroll and Suron Draden on the night Caroll proposed to Suron in Delray Beach. Carroll is a forward for FAU Men's Basketball. Photo by Chardly Zetrenne (Courtesy)

Carroll proposed to Suron in December 2023, having carefully kept his plans a secret since October.

“I really just want to be with this woman for the rest of my life because I have 15 going on 16-plus years of life with her, and that’s just not replaceable,” said Carroll.  

Carroll discreetly bought the engagement ring in October, one day after practice, telling Draden he was going to the mall to get Popeye’s. To authenticate his cover story, Carroll actually went to the mall to buy Draden Popeye’s after buying the ring. He hid the ring under his bed. 

“I kept that secret for two months, and it was the hardest secret I've ever kept,” Carroll said. “It was the third ring I saw, and I was like, ‘That's the one.’ It's simple, but it's beautiful, just like Suron.”

Suspicions began to creep into Draden’s mind about a week before the proposal when Carroll went out to buy a new dress shirt. 

“This boy right here?” said Draden, breaking into a laugh. “To go out and buy new clothes?”

However, Draden never anticipated a proposal. The idea did come to her mind briefly, prompting her to ask Carroll about it. Supposedly, Carroll’s response was, “I’m too broke to propose to you.” 

“I was graduating, so I figured that this might be a graduation surprise,” Draden said. 

Draden was telling her best friend, Mia Rodriguez, of her suspicions, but Rodriguez was in on the proposal plan. 

“They honestly are one of the reasons I truly believe in love,” Rodriguez said. “I  hope one day I can find someone that equally cherishes me the way they do for each other.”

On proposal day, Carroll had his mom and her friend arrange the setup –complete with a red carpet adorned with roses and candles and a sign that spelled “marry me” in bold white letters– while Carroll was helping Draden move a new bed into her apartment. Carroll had Draden close her eyes until they reached the setup, leading her to believe it was a simple beach picnic date. 

“I had already started crying before I even opened my eyes,” Draden said. “It was beautiful, I was so happy.”

A photographer and close friend, Chardly Zetrenne, along with some of Carroll’s close family members, were present to capture this moment. 

“The moment felt so surreal,” said Zetrenne, an FAU junior and film major. “I really felt the love between them, and it just really showed in the [photos].” 

The wedding details, including the location and date, remain undecided, but the couple has set their sights on Aug. 1, 2025. 

“I’m super excited,” said Draden. “I've been dreaming about the day that I could just call this man my husband. I envision us being super happy together.”

Engaging in extensive wedding planning and venue exploration, Carroll and Draden aim to wait until both have graduated – Carroll with his bachelor's and Draden with her master's. The couple is thinking about living in Miami, West Palm Beach or Port Charlotte, their hometown on the west coast of Florida. 

“I'm looking forward to the day I get to have a ‘#1 Dad’ mug,” said Carroll.

Carroll had his mom and her friend arrange the surprise setup, complete with a red carpet adorned with roses and candles and a sign that spelled “marry me.” Photo by Chardly Zetrenne (Courtesy)

bottom of page