0

STOVALL: Georgia’s Crowell’s troubles brings back memories

Associated Press
Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell is shown in this file photo against Mississippi State last season. Crowell faces felony weapons charges after police found a gun in his vehicle early Friday morning.

Associated Press Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell is shown in this file photo against Mississippi State last season. Crowell faces felony weapons charges after police found a gun in his vehicle early Friday morning.

It was February 2, 2011 — National Signing Day for college football.

Listening to two sports talk radio hosts gush about the Georgia Bulldogs’ latest signee, however, it may as well have been Christmas Day for Bulldog Nation.

I recall driving down the highway and listen to the host talk about Isaiah Crowell — the all-everything, top-ranked running back recruit from Carver High School in Columbus.

I recall the excited chatter of the show’s hosts, interrupting and talking over each other trying to explain just how all-world this Crowell guy is.

I can also recall the gaggle of fans who phoned in to talk of their newfound bromance with Crowell with baited breath.

As the No.1-ranked prospect on everyone’s recruiting board, they were calling him the biggest coup of Mark Richt’s tenure.

As a 6-0, 210-pound back with sub 4.4 40-yard dash speed, they were calling him the next Herschel Walker.

But today, after an early-morning arrest at a police check-point on Georgia’s campus, they’re now calling him the latest ex-Bulldog. Crowell was dimissed from the team after being booked on felony weapons charges at 3:37 Friday morning.

It is a sad commentary. Scratch that. It is another sad commentary of another college football player who had the world at his finger tips because of the talent in his legs, yet couldn’t outjuke trouble.

And I’ll be honest. I’m not totally surprised. Last season Crowell led the Bulldogs in rushing as a senior with 850 yards.

Impressive, considering he was suspended for disciplinary reasons twice last season and missed several other games due to injury.

After his second suspension came last November after a failed drug test, I began to have a feeling that this wouldn’t be the last time we’d hear of Mr. Crowell in the news — for all the wrong reasons.

I’ve seen this pattern before about 16 years ago.

His name was Lawrence Phillips.

In Nebraska where I grew up, college football was a religion and former head coach Tom Osborne was its god.

And at the brink of the Cornhuskers’ last title run Phillips, captured our imaginations immediately as a freshman — just like Crowell.

As Phillips danced around tacklers, he caused visions of national championships to dance in our heads, just as Crowell did. But unlike Crowell, Phillips stayed around long enough to deliver, as Nebraska won two of its three national titles in the 1990s with him on the roster.

Then came his junior year when he was arrested for dragging his ex-girlfriend down a flight of stairs.

Unlike Richt, however, Osborne did not dismiss Phillips from the team. Instead he imposed a six-game suspension which brought him back just in time to start in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl — a 62-24 trouncing of then No. 2 Florida — to give the Huskers back-to-back titles.

Osborne took a lot of heat for re-instating him. Richt may get a lot of praise for booting Crowell.

Fast-forward through more arrests for Phillips to a bizarre incident where he drove his car into three teens after losing a pickup football game. He won’t leave prison until he’s 57 years old.

That’s not exactly the way we Husker fans envisioned our all-world running back’s career to pan out.

I doubt that the Bulldog fans who gushed over Crowell’s potential last year saw this day coming for him either.

Despite Crowell’s latest troubles, I still have hope for the young man. At age 19, he still has time to rectify his career. He still has time to repent of his wrong doings. He still has time to make things right.

He may not have side-stepped the law, but he still can dance around having a Lawrence Phillips-type fate. He still has a chance to travel to the top of his sport where many people believe he belongs.

After today, he’ll just be carrying some extra baggage.

Gabriel Stovall is a sportswriter for the Clayton News Daily/Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at gstovall@news-daily.com.