Georgia Bulldogs Football: An Afternoon with Former Dawg and NFL Hopeful Isaiah Crowell
A few weeks ago I interviewed Isaiah Crowell briefly for a piece on National Signing Day that ran on Bleacher Report. In that article, Crowell talked about why he signed with Georgia, expectations that were placed on him and the impact of being a high school All-American.
Last Saturday afternoon, with the help of his representatives, I got to sit down with Isaiah at the Loews Hotel in Atlanta. The final product of that interview went up on Bleacher Report last night and can be read here, but I think it’s worthwhile to add some thoughts that were either cut due to word count restraints (I came in a bit strong at about 3800 words initially) or never written in initial drafts. Here are some of those thoughts.
The theme of time is addressed in the published article, but I’m not sure the final edit paints the fullest picture. When I arrived at the Loews Hotel, Isaiah was signing autographs. Not for fans and passers-by. He was signing hundreds of autograph placards that will soon adorn trading cards. That’s part of his job now as he upholds an already high standard for memorabilia endorsement deals, etc. When he wrapped that up, he grabbed a drink of water and showed up right on time for our chat.
Even though he was on time (I was early) he apologized for being late. On one hand, that was a nice gesture. On a more telling note, however, it shows how busy life is for a draft prospect like Crowell. He was in Atlanta to be recognized as a Black College All-American, he was there for just a few days following his trip to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine and he had his pro day at Alabama State coming up on Tuesday. What could have been a nice little break between the two most important workouts of his life was defined by a full calendar.
Crowell’s up against the clock on the 40-yard dash, but he’s also up against the clock on a dailybasis. And yet, he gave me all the time I wanted and was gracious throughout our conversation.
Perception vs. Reality
An ongoing theme in our conversation was the public’s perception of Crowell vs. who he actually was (and is).
Fans ordained him as the next Herschel Walker. He wanted to be the first Isaiah Crowell. Fans expected a Heisman Trophy. He just wanted to get on the field and help as a freshman.
Fans thought Crowell took himself out of games too often. As he explained to me, he battled bruised ribs against South Carolina (and stayed in the game and won SEC Player of the Week), fractured his wrist against Ole Miss (and again one Freshman of the Week) and tore ligaments in his ankle against Kentucky. Was he injury prone? I don’t know. But he was also an 18-year old kid adjusting to the physicality of college football and playing through bumps and bruises.
Crowell told me, “I would never want to be labeled as hot-headed or a trouble-maker, because that’s not who I am.”
After spending time with him and peppering him with an array of personal questions, that assessment is right. He’s mostly a laid back, soft-spoken dude.
Bigger Things Going On
As the article points out, Crowell wasn’t just dealing with football during his freshman year. He was also coming to grips with the death of two loved ones and simultaneously learning that he was going to be a father. These things drastically impacted his demeanor as he confessed to having a shorter fuse because of them.
There’s a rich silver lining to that, though. The fact that off-the-field components—things like family and death—matter more to Crowell than football is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, Isaiah perked up to a higher level every time we talked about the game he’s hoping to make a career, but he has balance in his life. And that’s a very, very good thing.
As much as Isaiah loves football, I don’t think it defines him. He works hard at the game both on and off the field and seems poised to be a true professional, but there’s more to life for him.
The article is light on this, but Crowell is a family man. His parents, who he pointed out are still married, are hard-working folks and huge influences in his life. His dad owned a truck and does lawn service while his mom manages an assisted living facility. He’s got four older siblings and he speaks with them daily.
His grandmother, interestingly enough, was the hardest person for him to tell about his arrest.
His son is impacting his every move. He’s training for his son. He’s maturing for his son. He’s doing it all for his son.
I was around Isaiah for a little over an hour in total, and he smiled for at least 58 minutes. The smile was partially (in my opinion, not his words) a reflection of his contentment and partially just who he is.
He was soft-spoken, light-hearted and forthright for the entirety of the interview. While he gave his fair share of “right” answers, he also gave enough depth to defy the notion that the interview was scripted or in any way inauthentic.
I’m five years older than Isaiah, and he called me “sir” every time he responded to a question.
Perhaps the most ringing endorsement I can give of his personality is that I’d do it all again under completely different circumstances. What I mean by that is this: If you take away my need to write a story, his NFL Draft aspirations and our combined connection to the University of Georgia…I’d still love to spend an afternoon with the guy. He was genuine, courteous and intriguing.
I can’t say that about everyone I’ve written about or covered.
Again, the article can be found here.
That’s all I got/