Long road to Indy gives Canadian an edge

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:30 PM ET

INDIANAPOLIS, QMI AGENCY - Tyrone Crawford feels he has an edge at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The 22-year-old from Windsor, Ont., is one of only two Canadians invited to take part in drills and testing at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Crawford is a defensive end from Boise State University in Idaho, where he made his mark as a pass-rusher. Philip Blake of Toronto, the other Canadian at the Combine, is a centre from Baylor University.

Reached by phone Wednesday evening, Crawford said he believes his long route to Indianapolis has prepared him well for the rigours of the Combine.

"It's definitely helped, absolutely," he said.

Upon graduating from Windsor's Catholic Central high school in 2008, he did not qualify academically for NCAA college football. He had to go the junior college route. Crawford played two years at Bakersfield College in California, but along with his play at defensive end he hit the books hard and turned heads with his work on the field to attract the recruiters at Boise State.

Crawford played the past two seasons with the Broncos, one of the rising western powers in U.S. college football. He didn't start straight away in his first season, but he finished the season with 13.5 tackles for a loss.

This past fall, as a senior, he was dominant. Crawford rang up another 13.5 TFLs, forced three fumbles, recovered two fumbles (racing one back for a touchdown) and had 6.5 quarterback sacks. He was named an all-conference defender (in the Mountain West).

Now, he's hours away from getting a big chance to realize his ultimate dream of playing in the NFL. And he doesn't intend to blow it.

"The long road I took to get in this position, and all the sacrifices I've had to make, aren't a big deal for me anymore," Crawford said. "I think it all taught me a lot about commitment. That's how I look at it."

Crawford projects best in the NFL as an end on a team that plays a 3-4 defence, but he isn't ruling out his talents in a 4-3 defence.

"I think they're going to work me at both at the Combine," he said. "I'm ready for both."

Crawford, 6-foot-4 and 276 pounds, is regarded as a likely first or second overall pick in this year's CFL entry draft, but his focus right now is on the NFL.

"The CFL is always there as a good backup option," he said. "I'm going to give it my all this week in Indy. Playing in the NFL would be a dream for me. I want it -- and I'm hungry for it."

NFL talent guru Mike Mayock said Crawford impressed at the East-West Shrine Bowl workouts as an end in a 3-4 scheme.

"That Crawford kid I like a lot," Mayock said. "He's long enough. He's strong enough. He can line up right across from the tackle and smack him in the mouth. The 3-4 teams love to find these kinds of guys.

"I think he's a natural mid-round pick."

Blake, meantime, spent his time at Baylor, in Texas, snapping balls to -- and protecting -- the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, Robert Griffin III.

The 6-foot-3, 320-pounder also had to go the junior college route, playing at Tyler Junior College in Texas before landing with an NCAA team. He started 25 games at Baylor and was an honourable all-Big 12 lineman last fall.

He, too, is projected as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the CFL draft.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/KrykSlants


Videos

Photos