Crawford: 'I Love the Atmosphere'

Sylvester Crawford knew he was ready to make his decision, but NC State tight ends coach Jim Bridge didn't have a clue that the prospect was about to pick the Wolfpack.

Sylvester Crawford knew he was ready to make his decision, but NC State tight ends coach Jim Bridge didn't have a clue that the prospect was about to pick the Wolfpack.

"Coach Bridge was really surprised," said Crawford. "We talk all the time, and I called him to check in. We were talking about football and State's team, and he said to me that [they] needed to get more commitments like [me]. That's when I told him that I wanted to be a Wolfpacker.

"He kind of got all excited and asked if I was verbally committing and I said yes. He then said that I needed to talk with coach O'Brien so he wanted me to call back after their practice."

Later that evening, Crawford officially became a NC State verbal commitment.

"Coach O'Brien was happy too," said Crawford. "He told me that he was glad I was on board with them, and he said for me to keep working hard on the field and in the classroom.

"Coach O'Brien is a great coach. I like what he can do at NC State because of what he did at Boston College. I know they are going to turn NC State around."

In Sylvester Crawford, NC State has landed one of the top defensive linemen in the state. As a junior, he played at Charlotte (NC) Victory Christian, where he tallied an astounding 18 sacks.

"NC State wants to use me as a pass-rushing defensive end," said Crawford. "They want me to play outside the tackle and go after the quarterback. I think I bring a lot to the table. I think my biggest asset is my athleticism. I think I'm very athletic for a defensive end.

"I feel I can't be blocked. I just want it."

"He's a great up-field pass rusher," Victory Christian head coach Frank Crockett previously informed Inside Carolina's Don Callahan. "He puts you in the mind of a young man we had here a year and a half ago -- Kourtnei Brown. [He's a] speed rusher, great contain guy, heads up type player -- a player that gets a lot of sacks because of his athleticism.

"He's very smart, very intelligent. Great speed, great hands, great footwork -- those are his best assets as a defensive end."

This summer, he transferred from Victory Christian to Northside Christian Academy where he could continue playing for Brentson Buckner. Buckner, an ex-Clemson defensive tackle who played 11 seasons in the National Football League, accepted the head coaching job at Northside after serving as Victory Christian's defensive coordinator.

Through five games, Crawford has totaled 52 tackles, 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries from his defensive end position while also starting at fullback on the offensive side of the ball. Crawford admits that playing for Buckner has made him a better football player.

"It's been good because I love playing for coach Buckner," he stated. "I think it is the best coaching a kid can get in high school. He played in the ACC and he played a lot of years in the NFL. He knows what it takes to get to that level because he has been there. I'm just taking in as much as I can from him.

"Coach Buckner, he actually told me that it would be good for me to commit to NC State because it wasn't far from home and there was a good chance for me to get early playing time. He likes the defensive line coach, coach Willis, too because he also played in the NFL."

NC State defensive line coach Keith Willis spent 12 seasons in the National Football League, including a ten-year stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A standout defensive end, Willis ended his career with the Steelers ranked fourth in team history with 59 quarterback sacks — trailing only L.C. Greenwood (73.5), Joe Greene (66) and Jason Gildon (62.5). His 14 sacks in 1982 and 12 sacks in 1986 are the second and third highest single-season totals in team history.

"The coaching staff at NC State was big for me," said Crawford. "Coach Willis played in the NFL for a very long time. There isn't anything better than playing for a guy that has actually been through it all. He's played so much football at my position that he has to have so much knowledge that he can teach me."

Crawford committed to NC State after landing an offer from West Virginia. Early in the process he was a heavy lean to the Mountaineers, but the more time he spent in Raleigh the more he started leaning towards the Wolfpack.

"I've been to three NC State games so far," he said. "I was up there for the win against East Carolina, and it was crazy. I love the atmosphere. They've got die-hard fans... I just love it. Plus, NC State is a prestigious academic school so that is a plus."

With his decision out of the way, Crawford can now focus on his senior season and his academics.

"It feels good to be committed," he said. "During my junior year I was always thinking that I would commit before my senior season, but over the summer I thought I was going to take my time.

"Now I know where I'll be playing in college and I don't have to worry about it. My family wanted me to stay in-state so they can go to all of my games. They really support me... I feel like I made a good choice."

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