Former Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford doesn't plan to watch the NFL draft.
The St. Augustine Prep graduate would rather play video games and relax with friends and family at his Longport home than remain glued to the draft ticker at the bottom of ESPN or the NFL Network.
"I'm just going to try to go about my normal routine," Crawford said in a phone interview Tuesday. "If I sit there and watch the draft, the anticipation is just going to make things worse. Hopefully, I'll get a phone call from a team telling me they drafted me and I'll get the opportunity to prove myself at the next level."
Crawford, 6-foot-5 and 278 pounds, will likely get that phone call on Saturday, when the fourth through seventh rounds of the draft are held.
One mock draft has the London native going to the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round while another has him becoming a member of the New York Giants in the sixth. The New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams have also been mentioned as being interested in a raw talent who has made amazing progress since playing football for the first time during his junior year at St. Augustine.
Pro Football Weekly's draft guide, which ranks Crawford as a fourth- or fifth-round pick, describes him as "highly respected, tough, competitive and hardworking. Takes pride in his craft and has progressed steadily after getting a late start to football. Has enough athletic ability and moldable talent to warrant developmental consideration."
Crawford came to the United States hoping to earn a college basketball scholarship, but was ruled ineligible to play for the Hermits by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association upon arriving at the Richland school.
He decided to try football as a junior after watching a few games. He caught 12 touchdown passes for the Hermits as a senior tight end/defensive end and earned a scholarship to Penn State. He was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions.
"I feel incredibly lucky to be in the position I'm in, especially considering how far I had to come to get to this point," Crawford said. "The whole thing is like a dream to me. I couldn't be happier."
Crawford has spent the last few months attending various all-star games, combines and workouts in an effort to impress NFL scouts. After playing in the Senior Bowl in late January, he participated in the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February and worked out for scouts at Penn State in March during the school's Pro Day.
He also worked out with former Eagle offensive lineman Tra Thomas in Medford.
"Jack already has the size and strength to stop the run, and now I'm working with him to become a better pass rusher," Thomas said in an interview in January. "He has a great attitude. He doesn't back down from anything. "
Crawford talked with a few teams during the process - the Eagles were among the teams that interviewed him at the combine - but received very little insight as to his draft status. Both he and his agent, St. Joseph of Hammonton High School and Penn State grad Rich Rosa, have been fielding phone calls in the last couple of weeks.
"It's tough to gauge their interest because they're not very open about things," Crawford said. "It's weird how this process works. I've heard of teams showing little or no interest in a player, then wind up drafting him. It's almost like a chess game. To be honest, I really have no idea what's going to happen."
The time leading up to the draft hasn't been completely uneventful for Crawford. Last month, police found traces of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in an State College, Pa., apartment belonging to Crawford and current Penn State receiver Devon Smith.
No charges were filed against Crawford, who denied anything to do with the incident, saying in a statement that he hadn't been at the apartment since December, 2011.
Crawford is hoping to become the third local player to get drafted in recent seasons. Stafford Township native and Southern Regional grad Clark Harris was picked by Green Bay in the seventh round in 2007. The former Rutgers standout is entering his fourth season as a long snapper for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Former Galloway Township resident Myron Rolle was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round in 2010 out of Florida State. Rolle spent that season on the Titans' practice squad, but was out of the NFL last season before signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason.
The last time a local player was drafted earlier than the sixth round was in 2002, when the Browns took Atlantic City native and Holy Spirit grad William Green in the first round and the Dallas Cowboys drafted Atlantic City High School product Pete Hunter in the fifth. Both players are out of the league.
"I would probably be a little disappointed initially if I'm not drafted," Crawford said. "But if it doesn't happen, I'm pretty sure I'll sign with somebody as a free agent. Getting drafted is the goal, but really I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to prove myself at the next level. Very few college players even get the chance to play in the NFL. I feel truly blessed."
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