At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds, LSU senior deep snapper Joey Crappell doesn’t exactly fit the same kind of mold as many of his hulking Tiger football teammates.
The hairline is winning the battle a bit. Though still fit, there is some hint of a belly. And the heavy brown beard doesn’t help either.
Just 23, Crappell passes for somebody much older … whether he wants to or not.
“People ask me all the time how old I am,” Crappell said. “I tell them I’m just 23, that I’m just a kid. A lot of them don’t believe me. I understand. I do look older. It’s just the genes I have in my family.”
|Crappell: He's only 23. Really.|
That more mature look doesn’t go unnoticed by Crappell’s teammates, although for some it took a while to realize that the Houma native and Patterson High graduate was a teammate and not an assistant coach.
Several players said they had no clue Crappell was one of them until they saw him in the locker room.
Senior linebacker Ryan Baker compared Crappell’s appearance to an old man in a nursing home.
“I didn’t know he was a player until a little bit into my freshman year,” defensive tackle Mike Brockers said with a chuckle. “He looked so old, I just thought he was some guy working out with the team to get in shape.”
Added cornerback Morris Claiborne, “When I first saw him I thought he was a coach. Then I saw him out on the field snapping the ball and I said ‘Where did this guy come from.’ ”
Even LSU coach Les Miles chimed in when asked about his deep snapper.
“He looks like a coach – one that’s had a couple of tough seasons,” Miles quipped. “Oh, now I’m going to get some Crappell hate mail.”
Five years ago – before age set in, perhaps? – Crappell went to an LSU summer camp and caught the attention of Miles and other Tigers coaches at a spot that isn’t always to catch attention.
Without a scholarship offer and playing perhaps the most anonymous spot on the football field, Crappell reached out to the LSU coaches about walking on.
“Joey came in and said ‘I’m just going to compete for this thing,’ ” Miles said. “He stepped in and he was the backup snapper when he first arrived and continued to compete and got better and made the position his.”
In fact, if it’s possible to dominate at a position where you’re doing best when nobody knows your name, Crappell is doing so.
On 116 deep snaps – punts, point-after kicks and field goals – this season, Crappell has been nearly flawless. There hasn’t been a conspicuously bad snap, and as a result, kicker Drew Alleman is 14-of-16 on field goals and 51-for-52 on extra points, while Brad Wing has rarely been pressured and is averaging 43 yards an attempt.
“I appreciate what he does to the fullest,” Wing said. “We watch the snapper on film and he’s been amazing. I definitely don’t take him for granted.”
If anybody would know if Crappell has had any lapses it would be Wing, who is also the holder on kicks.
“None, zero,” Wing said when asked if there have been any bad snaps this season. “To him, his bad snap is like an inch off. But there’s been no outrageous snaps where it’s messed up a punt or a field goal. He’s been very good all year.”
Brockers concurred and pointed out that Crappell is no slouch on punt coverage, either.
“He’s a very good deep snapper and he can cover, too,” Brockers said.
“He’s a lot more athletic than you might think at first.”
Especially for a guy who gets mistaken for middle age.
The range of ages his teammates threw out for how old they think Crappell looks was wide.
Wing started with 60 before adjusting to 45.
That’s the number Claiborne stuck with as well, pointing out that Crappell often walks around with a golf cap on that facilitates the older look.
“That thing makes him look like an old man,” Claiborne said, barely able to speak without laughing.
|Les Miles on Crappell: 'He will have great success outside of football.'|
Alleman and Sam Montgomery put their numbers in the 60s – tongue in cheek.
“We give him a lot of grief about it,” Alleman said. “We were out at a restaurant once and we had them say it was his birthday and introduce him as an assistant coach from the 1958 national championship team.”
For his part, Crappell takes the jabs in stride, saying he never really understood how much older he looked until he got around college teammates the last five years.
“Everyone gives me grief,” he said with a shrug. “Growing up I was the first one to have a moustache in my class. Everything has happened fast to me in my life. Even though people give me grief I look at it as a positive because I look a lot more mature than everybody else.”
That may not be a stretch.
Besides commenting on Crappell’s advanced-age visage, Miles also spoke passionately about his deep snapper’s character and determination to make himself a better player and how that will benefit him down the road.
“He will have great success outside of football,” Miles said. “He will go to some business, some opportunity and do a great job and do better than that employer would have asked him to do it.”
All kidding aside, that message is meaningful to Crappell, who will graduate in December and is likely to give the NFL a shot.
“It humbles me to hear Coach Miles say something like that,” Crappell said. “It makes me realize everything I’ve done hasn’t gone unseen.”