Crowder: Choice is to take care of family

If you ask Channing Crowder where the National Football League should select him in the 2005 draft, he grins and without hesitation says, "First round, first pick."

He knows it won't work out quite that way, but it doesn't stop him from aiming high. From pre-draft reports he's received from the NFL, he will definitely go on the first day, and there is talk he could even go in the first round. Still there are no certainties, but he's weighed all the options and feels that the opportunity may never be better to move to the NFL than it is right now.

"I've heard the first day, one, two, three …really no less than the mid-second round," said Crowder Wednesday afternoon at a press conference held at The Swamp to announce that he's decided to forego his final two years of college eligibility to enter the NFL draft. "I got the paperwork back that said the best thing for me and my family would be to try my luck at the professional level."

Channing Crowder was a first team (coaches) All-Southeastern Conference selection at linebacker for the Gators in 2004, second team in 2003 as a true freshman. He was the SEC's Freshman Defensive Player of the Year in 2003. He was named All-America by the Football Writers Association of America in 2003, and was selected to ESPN's All-America team in 2004.

The choice to leave Florida for the professional ranks didn't come easy, but after a lot of conversations with his mother (Pauline) and other advisors, he concluded that making the jump now was the right thing to do. Although he's had knee surgery and he's missed parts of his two seasons at Florida because of injuries, he insists that the chance of further injury never entered into his decision. He also said that Florida's choice to fire Coach Ron Zook and hire Urban Meyer was not a factor.

"The knees are fine, I don't even wear a brace on my knee anymore," he said. "A lot of people say injury has a part to do with it but if I would stay six more years, I would always have my knees and my knee surgery. It had no part in my decisions it's just what I thought was best for me and my family."

As for the coaching situation, he says he talked with Zook (now the coach at Illinois) and Meyer, both of whom were very supportive of his decision.

"It wasn't a coaching decision just what's best for me and my family," said Crowder, who was quite vocal in his displeasure after Zook was fired after the Mississippi State game. He's had a chance to talk to Meyer, and he likes the new coach.

"I like coach Meyer," said Crowder. "He's a great guy, I've met his family and I like him. He's a great coach. He's taken two teams from the middle tier and he's made them into great teams. He's going to be a great coach here."

He will head back to Atlanta, Thursday, where he and his mother will begin the process of selecting an agent. He will be part of the interview process with prospective agents, but said the bulk of the decision making will be done by his mother, Pauline, "She's gonna be a main part of the agent thing. My mom is in the legal profession so she knows all about that stuff, so she'll be a big part of everything."

His mom will have a say in the choice of the agent, financial advisors and so much more. They've already decided that part of his preparation will be done with Tom Shaw in New Orleans, famous for tough physical preparation. He will attend Chip Davis's pre-combine camp in Atlanta, and as often as he can, he will be in Gainesville to work out with University of Florida strength and conditioning coach, Rob Glass.

"Coach Glass really knows me and I have a lot of confidence and respect in what he can do for me," said Crowder. "He'll have a part of this."

Asked if he's having fun now that he's made the decision to go to the pros, Crowder replied, "The funny thing is in four or five days I'll be in boot camp, training harder for something than I've ever trained in my life. The fun times will come when and if I do make it."

Crowder said that his final decision to bolt to the NFL came Tuesday night when he spent a long time talking things over with his mother. Until then, he says he was prepared to come back to UF for another year. He says he and his mother made the final choice jointly. Although they listened to advisors, he said there were both aware that "A lot of them tell you what they think you want to hear. The guys who want you to stay in school will tell you worse [where you will get drafted], the guys who want you to go will tell you better. I just put it all aside, laugh it off and say thank you."

Crowder, who is 6-3, 245, leaves Florida with 179 career tackles (in two seasons), four quarterback sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception. His 106 tackles in 2003 led the nation for freshmen.

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