Crull has always been a fan of his parents' alma-mater, so he was more than happy to receive interest from his favorite team, the program that, largely through Brees' transcendent play, illuminated his maiden college football experience by reaching a peak performance level—culminating in a Rose Bowl performance in 2001—that has long since faded into the periphery for most Boilermaker fans. That narrative has reached its breaking point, because Crull prefers another Big Ten school: Northwestern.
Linebackers coach Randy Bates contacted Crull last summer for the first time, in the early phase of his recruiting process. Bates told him that he was one of their top DB targets, and Crull has held the Wildcats in high regard ever since.
"We chatted back and forth, and he told me they were really interested, that they really liked the way I play," Crull said. "I don't know where I stand amongst the other [defensive back recruits], but they told me I was near the top of their board."
That conversation lead to a strong connection between school and player, one strengthened after Crull attended two NU games in the fall. He returned for an intra-squad scrimmage in March, an informal visit in which he spent the day touring the campus with director of player personnel Chris Bowers, learning the ins-and-outs of NU's revered academic and career preparation programs and cultivating an authentic interest in the school.
Crull's two Big Ten suitors and a host of MAC outfits form a growing list of schools interested in his diverse-skill set. Indeed, the Loveland, OH, native has lined up at wide receiver, kick/punt returner and plans to play quarterback in the fall—not to mention safety, his best position and the one that Bates and other coaches envision him playing in college.
Say what they may, Crull is no one-trick pony. He said that he's more than willing to play whatever position best fits him at the next level.
"I enjoy playing all over the field, it doesn't really matter," he said. "As long as I can help my team win, do what's best for the coaches, the team."
The academics, near-city locale and what he calls a "beautiful" campus are huge draws, yet the biggest factor weighing in NU's favor may be its head coach. Pat Fitzgerald regularly speaks on developing not just football players, but young men. This approach is an effective one, and is in many ways directly responsible for Fitzgerald's recent success on the recruiting trail.
For Crull, the prospect of playing for a young, fiery coach who brings an upbeat attitude to every game, practice and team activity, one who weighs in equal heft on and off-field development and maturation, is understandably exciting.
"I love the way he [Fitzgerald] treats his team, the attitude that he brings," Crull said. "I understand that this isn't a four-year decision, but more of a 40-year decision, and I know he feels the same way."
Bates and NU's other talent evaluators have only seen Crull on tape, but tomorrow, they'll get their first look live and in person, when he attends their prospect minicamp. Crull has long eyed this on-campus workout as a huge opportunity to prove himself in front of his possible future school's coaches, and his improvements this offseason in the weight room reflect his determination. Crull cut his 40-yd dash time from 4.6 to 4.46, his shuttle time from 4.4 to 4.18 added 15 lbs to his max-bench press and six inches to his standing vertical leap.
Even with those drastic improvements, Crull believes what will stand out most to NU coaches is his attitude, an unrelenting drive to succeed in whatever facet of the game needed to best help his team win.
"I just work hard," he said. "Whether it's trying to cut that one tenth of a second off my 40-time or make that one tackle, that one big play, I'm not going to stop working until I get what I want. I'm never satisfied with my game."
Fitzgerald will be overjoyed with Crull if those words hold true.