Crowder Will Learn From Two All-Time Greats

While Saturday and the Gators reign supreme in my fall schedule, it is the comfort of watching the Miami Dolphins play on Sunday that has always been there to pick me up when times are down.

Rooting for what I like to call the most successful unsuccessful team in the NFL, I didn't know what to think of the Nick Saban hire, but I did know that Dave Wannstedt had to go. Saban has revamped the Miami Dolphins organization in many facets, embracing the role of general manager with Rick Spielman and most recently, taking the reigns to the 2005 NFL Draft.

Four rounds into the draft, Saban has chosen three Southeastern Conference athletes-- Ronnie Brown (Auburn) with second pick, Travis Daniels(LSU) in the fourth round and most notably in Gator circles, Channing Crowder in the third.

Sitting with Channing last month with Bob, Franz and Leo I saw a guy who was enjoying life and looking forward to April 23rd. There were whispers of first round promise in the air with the likes of Green Bay, Dallas and New England all with their prospective hats in the circle. But there were doubters, questioners and the likes of Mel Kiper who said otherwise.

"This kid has ability, but the only thing is staying healthy and a lot of teams thought with his knee situations medically that there would be some problems possibly," Kiper said. "If he can stay on the football field and have a career that goes 5,6,7,8 year range --- that's going to prove the doubters and the skeptics wrong."

It might be irony that Crowder went fishing Saturday in order to get his mind off the draft and a mere nine hours later, ended up with the aqua and orange of the Dolphins.

''It hasn't really hit me yet,'' Crowder said. ``I haven't really sat back and thought about it, but it's crazy that my dad [Randy Crowder] got drafted by the Dolphins coming out of college and now I've been drafted by the Dolphins. They're a team with history, and they have a real tradition down there. I'm just going to try to keep that going the best that I can.''

The question now goes as to what the future holds for the talented linebacker. Amongst the company of other third round picks such as Frank Gore, Charlie Frye, Vernand Morency and David Greene, Crowder has the ability to make the biggest impact right away from players in that round next to punter Dustin Colquitt in Kansas City.

In 2001 the Dolphins picked linebacker Morlon Greenwood in the third round and he started right away. Greenwood started there for four years before signing with the Houston Texans during the off season. The Dolphins line backer corps will inevitably welcome a talented breath of fresh air in the up beat Crowder. Crowder will learn from the likes of Pro Bowl tackling machine Zach Thomas and be groomed by future hall of fame linebacker and 12-time Pro Bowl selection Junior Seau.

Seau, who is on the last legs of his 15-year NFL career, was injured late in 2004 and when he was placed on injured reserve he ranked second on the Dolphins in tackles with 68 stops and had one sack, and one fumble recovery. However, Seau's primary role was one of playmaker brought in on blitzes, a role that Crowder flourished in while playing in The Swamp.

At 6-2, 252-pounds, Channing stacks up physically with any linebacker in the NFL. Staying healthy will be the focus for him, but if he does and shows up to training camp in Davie with something to prove, Crowder could be seeing the field right away in Miami's Dolphins Stadium.

"A million guys would love to be in my shoes and with my situation right now, I'm not mad at all," Crowder said. "I just want to go out and be the best I can. I'm going to keep working really hard."

Hard work could lead him to become the next big name in a long list of legendary Dolphin linebackers. Bryan Cox, John Offerdahl, Zach Thomas and Nick Buoniconti highlight a list of talent that goes on and as someone who cheered for Channing on Saturday's, you can bet the house I'll be rooting him on come Sundays.

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