Early in his career, when Texas Tech running back Aaron Crawford had played some and been injured some, he and teammate Tyrone Sonier would load up and go to Buffalo Springs Lake. Recreation wasn’t the reason.
“They have these long, steep hills,” Crawford said. “We would run them every day, just constantly keep working. Put yourself in the best position to succeed, to not be negative and be positive.”
Crawford had ample reason to choose either mentality. As a true freshman in 2007, he started the last five games, making important contributions most notably to wins against Oklahoma and Virginia, who were ranked No. 3 and No. 21 at the time. But that season, he had a torn labrum in his shoulder, and the next year he missed nearly the entire season with a turf toe injury.
From 2008 to 2010, the once promising young running back faded into the background while a string of others passed him. Crawford got 92 touches from scrimmage in 2007 and 34 in the next three years combined.
It never crossed his mind to quit.
“I always talk to my mom, and she was like, ‘You always finish with excellence, no matter what, so you never go back on your life and say what would have happened, what could have happened?’” Crawford said this week. “Anything can change in a split second. You just have to remain positive and keep going. That’s the motto I live by.”
Sure enough, things changed in a split second last week for the Red Raiders and Crawford, who suddenly has a chance to be a key player — maybe even a starter — again. When workhorse running back Eric Stephens went down with a knee injury, the pool of replacements included true freshmen DeAndre Washington and Kenny Williams and … Crawford, who Tech followers might think has been around forever.
Only it doesn’t feel that way to Crawford, a 5-foot-10, 211-pound senior from Memphis, Tenn.
How long ago does 2007 feel?
“It seems like yesterday,” he said. “If you look at all the things that’s gone on here, unfortunate things have happened over the years, but it seems like yesterday.”
In fact, Crawford sees a strong correlation between the circumstances now and circumstances in his freshman season. Tech running back Shannon Woods had led the Big 12 Conference in all-purpose yards as a sophomore in 2006, but nine games into the following season, Tech coach Mike Leach benched him.
That’s when Crawford got his first opportunity.
“Shannon was in the doghouse with Leach, and it was just me and Kobey Lewis,” Crawford said. “Even though he was a junior, I was all by myself. It was just us two, so I’ve been in a similar situation.
“These guys,” he said, referring to Washington and Williams, “are really good guys. They learn pretty quick, and they’ll be very good in the future. As far as I see it, it’s not really a burden. I’m excited.”
Crawford got a medical hardship waiver to recapture a year of eligibility from 2008, when he got hurt in the second game. The last three years, the running back position was manned at various times by Woods, Baron Batch, Harrison Jeffers and Stephens.
Special-teams duty kept Crawford involved.
With Stephens lost for the season, though, the second half of his senior year could be the most important to his career.
“It is not how I would want it to happen,” Crawford said, “because on the field and off the field I value Stephens as a teammate and a good friend. I’ve learned from him as much as he’s learned from me, hopefully.
“But the opportunity … I stuck with it through the years, and it’s just something that’s popped up. You never quit, because if you quit, you never give yourself a chance to win. So I’m excited about the opportunity.”
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