Isaiah Crowell is a lot of things to a lot of people.
To those closest to him, he’s a young man pursuing a career in—or perhaps more appropriately on—a field he loves.
To NFL scouts, he’s a talented running back defined by both a potent combination of size, speed and athleticism and an unconventional college career.
To Georgia fans, he’s an explosive offensive playmaker whose time in Athens was plagued by injuries and weapons charges (all of which were dropped last spring according to Tim Gayle of USA Today).
But before he was any of these things, he was one of the nation’s most sought after recruits making a decision on national signing day.
Destined to Dazzle
From the beginning, Crowell established himself as a star at Carver High School in Columbus, Ga. Over a four year career he accounted for 4,872 yards and 61 carries on just 429 carries (11.36 yards per carry). A consensus 5-star recruit, Crowell was considered one of the nation’s best prospects by every major recruiting service.
|Isaiah Crowell as a Recruit|
|Recruiting Service||National Position Rank||National Overall Rank|
|Various Recruiting Outlets|
Crowell received scholarship offers from practically every college football powerhouse in the country, but ultimately the youngster narrowed his choices to Georgia and Alabama.
The decision did not come easily. “I actually didn’t decide until the day before [national signing day].” Crowell confesses. “I woke up and realized I just felt more comfortable at Georgia than anywhere else.”
With the eyes of the nation watching, Crowell made his announcement on national signing day. In doing so, he put on one of the greatest signing day spectacles in college football history by pulling out a bulldog puppy to relay his collegiate selection.
After the ceremony, Crowell offered a simple enough explanation for the puppy’s appearance, telling Chip Towers of The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, “It was my friend’s dog. I figured it’d be a good idea since he already had a dog.”
As Seth Emerson of Macon’s Telegraph later reported, the dog belonged to Georgia super-fan Mike “Big Dawg” Woods.
While Crowell’s unique announcement captured the eyes of the nation, for him it was nothing more than the culmination of a long, tenuous recruiting process.
The Impact of Recruitment
Crowell is quick to acknowledge the perils that accompany blue-chip recruitment. As one of the class of 2011’s gem recruits, there’s a degree of both authority and trepidation that accompanies his recollection of the period:
One of the major pressures is that people—fans, media, everybody—put such high expectations on you, expectations that you hadn’t placed on yourself. That pressure is difficult to deal with at a young age. As you mature, you learn that you can’t allow the expectations that others have for you affect the ones you have for yourself.
And yet, not all of these pressures proved to be detrimental. The key, according to Crowell, is to use the surrounding hype of recruitment and hoopla of national signing day to fuel a fire within.
“I think a high profile recruitment like mine can be a positive thing,” Crowell insists. “It’s extremely motivating. I walked on campus wanting to show everyone what I could do.”
Glimpses of Greatness
For much of his freshman campaign, Crowell lived up to his billing as one of the most highly touted recruits in recent Georgia history.
|Georgia's Highest Rated Recruits In Each of the Last 10 Years|
|Year||Recruit||Position||Overall National Rank|
|2012||Keith Marshall||Running Back||12|
|2011||Isaiah Crowell||Running Back||6|
|2008||A.J. Green||Wide Receiver||7|
|2007||Caleb King||Running Back||33|
|2005||Kade Weston||Defensive Tackle||28|
|2004||Brandon Miller||Defensive End||5|
In just his second collegiate game, Crowell broke the 100-yard barrier against a talented South Carolina defense. Against the Gamecocks he accounted for 158 yards of offense and two touchdowns on just 18 touches.
He went on to rush for over 100 yards against SEC foes Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn en route to being named SEC Freshman of the Year.
Even as an Alabama State Hornet this year, Crowell experienced success running against an SEC defense as he ran for 84 yards and one touchdown despite toting the football only 12 times against the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Value of the Right Collegiate Decision
Three years ago, Isaiah Crowell was poised to assume the mantle as the next great Georgia Bulldog running back. He was supposed to follow in the footsteps of legends like Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst and Knowshon Moreno.
Obviously, that trajectory was altered. But while Georgia fans may harbor disappointment based on expectations that Crowell would consider unfounded, the NFL hopeful still believes he picked the right university on Feb. 2, 2011.
Crowell offers the following summation: "My time at Georgia was very important to my development as a player and as a person," he said. "I’m very grateful for the opportunities that Coach Richt game me while I was there. So no, I don’t have any regrets."
And while expectations may still attach themselves to Crowell’s name, he continues to use them as motivation.
“I’m just ready to be back on top where I feel like I belong,” Crowell offers confidently. “I’m working very hard to make sure that happens. I’m more motivated now than I’ve ever been.”
Isaiah Crowell is proof that no matter how entertaining national signing day presentations may be, selecting a university is only the beginning of a prospect’s journey.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics, rankings and ratings courtesy of 247Sports.