As I update the attempts of the Big 10's best to make an impact at pre-combine games and practices, I am always reminded of Eric Crouch, the 2001 Heisman winner who was drafted in the third round of the NFL Draft. The well known storyline was this: Crouch won the Heisman on the strength of his legs, but believed that he be could play quarterback in the NFL on the strength of his arm and his outstanding athleticism. After every pre-draft analyst tore his "QB dreams" to shreds, he settled on being drafted as an athlete and was shockingly taken in the third round by a more than respectable St. Louis Rams team. The Rams saw Crouch's great hands and agility and figured he could easily play slot receiver. Crouch suffered some early training camp injuries and seemed to drop into a mental funk because he missed playing quarterback. Out of nowhere, Crouch handed back much of his $300k signing bonus to the Rams and left camp. Much was made of his small town life back in Omaha, living with his parents and working out instead of cashing in on the typical NFL dreams of a Heisman winner. "He's so dedicated to a dream," people said, "look at that determination."
Crouch never made it through an entire season in the NFL as a quarterback, quitting the Green Bay Packers and then being reassigned to NFL Europe from Kansas City. And as I see Tyrelle Sutton up his draft stock by busting his ass to recover from an injury or Bradley Fletcher knock down passes in the Shrine Game, I consider the Crouch situation a sad referendum on ego and a warning to stay grounded. Sutton, Fletcher and others would give anything to have the kind of tremendous hype that accompanied Eric Crouch, but instead they have to work doubly hard to get drafted at all. Maybe when your the king of the college football world, you lose some ability to see reality, but I get the feeling that Crouch had a bit of a Justin Boren reaction (the UM lineman who complained that RichRod had killed family values, but actually was just angry that he had to work hard under a new coach). When your tired and worn out from rep after rep, maybe it's hard to see the amazing opportunity that Fletcher and others have. But as the combine approaches, let's hope they possess the appreciation and awareness that Crouch lacked.