Jack Crawford didn't know much about American football growing up in England. The one team he knew anything about was the Oakland Raiders.
For reasons Crawford didn't know, Raiders games were televised in England, and he occasionally watched.
That's good for Crawford's family and friends. The Longport resident and Penn State University graduate was picked by the Raiders in the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday. He was the 158th pick overall.
"It's crazy," Crawford said in a phone interview with The Press of Atlantic City. "They have the biggest following in England. Over in England, there are a lot of Raiders fans because they are on TV."
There probably will be several more fans there now as one of their own will wear black and silver.
Crawford, a St. Augustine Prep graduate, spent the day in Longport with his host family waiting for a phone call. He was excited and nervous, patiently waiting.
On television, he saw when the Raiders had the next to pick, and then his phone rang.
"It was (general manager Reggie McKenzie) and the first thing he said was, 'How would you like to become and Oakland Raider?' " Crawford said. "When my name came on TV, everyone started screaming."
Coincidentally, the D'Andreas, Crawford's host family, had an Oakland jacket and hat in the house because father Steve D'Andrea is a Raiders fan. Crawford wore the jacket while he spoke to McKenzie and several coaches.
Once he finished that call, Crawford had several more to make.
It was time to tell his family in England.
"Everyone was really emotional," said Crawford, who last saw his family in September. "My middle brother (Paul) was watching on the computer and my mom (Janet) said he started shouting."
Crawford still is getting used to the whole situation. He leaves for his first minicamp May 10.
The 23-year-old didn't start playing football until his junior year at St. Augustine in 2006. But his size (6-foot-5, 274 pounds) and raw talent made him a player Penn State wanted on its defensive line.
In 34 career starts with the Nittany Lions, Crawford had 26 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Oakland, which was 8-8 last year, was one of the teams that expressed interest in Crawford during the exercises leading up to the draft. At the Scouting Combine and Senior Bowl, the Raiders scouted him and talked to him.
Crawford's agent Rich Rosa, a St. Joseph High School graduate, wasn't surprised the AFC West team picked up his client.
"If you look at this defensive makeup, (the Raiders) like big, long, athletic defensive ends and linemen in particular," Rosa said. "He'll fit real nice into that rotation there. From an athletic standpoint, he can set the edge and play the run. He also has pass-rush ability."
Because of Crawford's inexperience, he's still learning. However, Rosa doesn't think that will be a problem with Oakland.
"We think he was worthy of a top-95 (overall pick)," Rosa said. "He has that type of ability, but talking to teams, Jack was still a little green. He's still growing. He has a lot to learn. Our projection all along was right in (rounds) 4-6. He had a good spot."
It's a situation Crawford never even dreamed he would be in, but he's looking forward to the future.
"I haven't spent that much time in California. I'm excited to get out there," Crawford said. "I'm excited to start the football process and getting to experience Oakland and the California lifestyle. It will be like making the switch from London to New Jersey."
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