Michael Crabtree: Reason for Elation in Ninerland

Raymond MullanCorrespondent IJune 17, 2009

NEW YORK - APRIL 25:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with with San Francisco 49ers #10 draft pick Michael Crabtree at Radio City Music Hall for the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25, 2009 in New York City  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Most fans of the San Francisco 49ers approached this year's NFL draft with guarded optimism, thanks to the finish Mike Singletary led the team to last year. 

More accurately stated, the optimism stems from the fact that it is Singletary leading the team. 

Many among us are old enough to clearly remember the '85 Bears

The "Monsters of the Midway" were led by the linebacker with intimidating eyes and the fierceness of a kamikaze. He was called Samurai Mike.

Before any further digression, let's fast-forward from those frigid Illinois Sundays 20-plus years ago to Week Nine of last season. This was the first time Singletary led the 49ers onto the field at Candlestick Park as interim head coach. 

The coach's first two games were losses. Not a huge surprise, taking into account that the team had only won two of the seven games played before Singletary took over.

The second of the losses showed a change in the attitude of the team, though. It was a heartbreaking Monday night loss to the Cardinals. A game in which San Francisco had the ball 1st-and-goal at the Cardinals' 1-yard line with 21 seconds remaining and a five-point deficit.

Although the 49ers did not pull out the Cardinals game, they went on to a strong finish, winning five of their last seven, the first time that had been accomplished by a 49er team since the 2001 season.

Singletary was rewarded for the turnaround by being named the San Francisco 49ers 16th head coach on the same day his team finished the season by edging out the Washington Redskins, 27-24. 

Hence, with great hopes for better seasons ahead, the 49er faithful went off into the drudgery of long months devoid of football.

For a football fan whose team fails to make the playoffs, the wait for spring and the NFL draft can be interminable. 

Thankfully, though, like salmon returning to their place of birth to spawn, the calendar finally made its journey around to the long-awaited date.

It did not take many hours on April 25 for fostered optimism to turn to elation.

There were, as is always the case, numerous trains of thought on which way the 49ers would go with their first-round draft pick. 

A popular prediction, due to the coach's roots, was that it would be a pick on the defensive side of the ball. The name of Rey Maualuga, a linebacker from USC, floated around in many analysts' conversations.

Not many times was it predicted the 49ers would grab a wide receiver in the first round.

Then again, nobody this side of Al Davis could have foreseen the No. 1-ranked receiver on nearly the whole planet's board would fall into the hands of the team picking 10th. 

The Raiders were going to take Michael Crabtree, said all the "experts" directly before Oakland picked. 

Once the Raiders picked Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh pick in the first round, I called a friend and simultaneously prayed to the football gods that the Jags and Packers looked anywhere but the direction of the Texas Tech star. 

The football gods answered!

For any 49er fan who follows even the least bit of college football, elation poured forth.

Into town rides a 6'2", 215-pound winner by the name of Michael Crabtree.

All the receiver did in two years at Texas Tech was catch 231 passes, an NCAA record for a two-year span. He grabbed 41 touchdowns.

At one point, he went 13 straight games with one or more touchdowns and five or more receptions per game. This tied an NCAA record.

Did I mention Michael Crabtree won the Fred Biletnikoff award both years he played college ball? He is the only player to receive the honor as a freshman.

Crabtree is a playmaker. The most clutch play in college football last year was the 28-yard winning touchdown he caught with less than eight seconds to go against rival Texas.

With the quarterback competition in San Francisco, it is yet to be seen who will be throwing passes Crabtree's way. I tend to lean in the direction of Shaun Hill.

Regardless, the 49ers have the biggest receiving threat the Bay Area has seen since Terrell Owens.

Speaking of T.O., if there are any worries the rookie will exhibit any of the same traits or behaviors as the Bills receiver, be reminded...Samurai Mike is at the helm of this ship.