Niles lineman passed big test

NILES – Those who think their job is tough need to read what Niles’ Randy Crawford did for the last two years.

Crawford, who stands about 6 feet 1 and 250 pounds, was the scout team defensive end for the Red Dragons as a sophomore and junior. That’s significant for one big, gigantic reason. The person he lined up against was 6-foot-8, 300-pound offensive tackle Josh Krok, now a University of Kentucky football player.

“He went against Josh Krok for two years and got his butt kicked, but he never stopped. He always came back,” Niles coach Brian Shaner said. “That’s a tough thing. How many guys can line up every day and do that? He did it, and he’s just a special kid because I don’t know how many kids can do what he does.”

In Crawford’s defense, pretty much every other defensive linemen on Niles’ schedule got their butts kicked by Krok too. Luckily for them, they didn’t have to come back and do it again the next day like Crawford did.

Believe it or not, he didn’t mind. Sure, getting pushed around by a monster of a football player wasn’t fun, but Crawford always reminded himself of the benefits.

“I’m not going to lie, it was really tough, but he made me a better player,” Crawford said. “He made me more determined. If I got knocked down, I got back up, and I came back and I gave 100 percent every single play just because I knew that if I did that, I would get better and he would be better.”

Crawford could have taken days off or asked to line up on the other side of the defense, and the coaches would have certainly understood, but he didn’t. He could’ve just made it look like he was trying his best and fell over when Krok gave him a shove, but he didn’t.

Crawford’s reasoning for always going hard is simple.

“The better you make the team, the better everyone else around you is going to do,” he said. “I’m just there for the team.”

It’s that type of attitude that Shaner loves about Crawford, and his relentlessness is why Shaner said he epitomizes what he wants out of a Niles Red Dragon. Crawford, now a senior offensive and defensive lineman, is a returning letterman on a young team, and Shaner hopes every one of his players learn from his example.

“Anywhere we need him on the offensive or defensive line,” said Shaner when asked what position Crawford plays. “He’ll do whatever we ask him to do. The perseverance he has on the football field, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

The tenacious approach has been there for as long as Crawford can remember. It was instilled to him as a boy and hasn’t changed as he’s grown up.

“Ever since I was little, I’ve always been determined to do everything to the best of my ability – 100 percent of the time,” he said. “I’ve just always had that mindset.”

But what about when the hot, humid weather that comes along with 2-a-days becomes too much? Why not just tone it down or take a break when the aches and pains are nearly unbearable? Crawford said he feels the bumps and bruises, but he finds his drive from the love of the game.

“Just the feeling of being out on the field – I just love it,” he said. “The adrenaline from it. I just really like the feeling of putting the pads on.”

This will be his last season of strapping on a helmet and shoulder pads at Niles, and he said the Red Dragons have the ability to be a contender.

“I feel we made the adjustments we needed to this offseason,” he said. “We just have have to play hard-nosed football. We’ve got to hang our hat on defense and pounding the ball up there (with the running game). I think we can be a very good team.”