Bridging the Gap

Maurice Crum Jr. wasn't quite sure what to expect of his off-season, but he left with a lasting impression that will be with him for the rest of his life. During the summer months leading up to his fifth-year as a linebacker for Notre Dame, Crum Jr. spent some time with underprivileged children in Ghana volunteering for the charity Students Bridging the Information Gap.

Maurice Crum Jr., who was fourth on the Irish in total tackles with 84 in 2007, traveled with ex-teammate Abdel Banda to an orphanage called Basco in Africa. While there, he interacted with approximately 100 orphaned children from ages five to twelve and helped change their lives forever.

The service was a two-way street, however, as the children gave Crum Jr. perhaps even more than he could provide for them.

"I think it helped me a lot to grow as a person," he said. "Because sometimes you forget all the stuff that's available to you, but it's not available to them."

Banda, who is co-founder of the charity, urged the Tampa, Fl. native to join him on the journey to Ghana with the goal of building and furnishing a complete library for the orphanage. Through fundraisers and book drives, the charity successfully accomplished the feat, providing these children with a source for information and a tool to avoid violence, establishing education as a priority in the community.

"Once we got there, we helped set up the library," Crum Jr. said. "We did some computer classes with the kids, and made sure everything worked. We passed out t-shirts, but it was definitely a really good thing."

Like many instances in his collegiate career, however, there were certain challenges hindering the completion of his goal. Rather than shedding a lineman for a tackle, in this case, it was a language barrier.

"They didn't speak English," he said. "But they understand it enough to where it wasn't a huge problem." Another barrier was the approval of permission to allow Crum Jr. to go on the trip. Once coach Charlie Weis heard the benefit the program would offer the youths, the choice was easy.

"Once I told him about it, [Weis] asked me ‘what is it? What are you doing? How long are you going to be gone?' I actually missed the first day of workouts, but he understood that it was something I was really excited and passionate about, so he was real lenient in letting me go."

Of all the memorable images and experiences the fifth-year senior observed, there is one that clearly sticks out. "The smiles on their faces is what I remember the most. They couldn't wait to get into the computer lab. They could not wait to get into the library and try to read whatever they could get their hands on. Just seeing someone so excited about being able to learn is an experience."

For the children of Ghana that Crum Jr. was able to meet, their acquaintance is more than a simple temporary friendship. The linebacker's mother received a letter from one of the children recently, and shared it with her son. "I just got a letter, actually from somebody from the orphanage. My mom, she sent that to me now, but I look forward to being involved with this charity more."

This fall, Crum Jr. will get his opportunity to showcase his talents on the field, and coming into his fifth year with the squad, expectations are high for the linebacker. In his press conference to open media day, Weis spoke often of Crum Jr. and his consistency and experience.

"Now in some cases it's the third go around and Mo Crum kind of feels like it's his tenth go around," Weis said. "We always knew about Mo Crum. He's like an old reliable … I'm going to leave Crum out of this one, because he's like my favorite son."

For Crum Jr., this praise carries some significance, because he knows that coach Weis is not one to overtly laud a player. "It's pretty nice of him to say," he said with a laugh. "Wow. It's pretty nice. I think coming from coach Weis it's nice, because he doesn't just hand those out. You kind of have to earn it, so it's definitely a testament to the person that I am."

His newly appointed linebacker's coach, Jon Tenuta feels similarly about Crum Jr. "Coming through and going through our meetings the last two days and being with him, obviously today and out of practice, he knows what I want and how I want it done," Tenuta said. "Obviously I'm the third or fourth guy that's coached him, but he's very intelligent and really has passion for the game and he's going to do what's right so it's a joy to be around someone like that and like coach said, he's a 37-year veteran," he said, joking about Crum Jr.'s tenure with the program.

Crum Jr. became only the 17th player in Irish history to be named a two-time captain of the football team, proof of his ability to lead and produce on the field. With only 54 more tackles, he will crack Notre Dame's top-ten list for career tackles, as further proof of his durability and reliability.

With his volunteer work fresh in his mind, now Crum Jr. must focus on the task at hand — erasing the football program's worst season in its history with a winning campaign. To aid him in that process, the linebacker will draw upon his experiences in Ghana, translating them into success on the football field.

"The message when I share my story with my teammates is ‘it's not that bad. Two-a-days get tough and practice gets tough, but it could be much worse.' And being able to see it first-hand it makes playing easier and more excitable."

With all these tools and experiences at hand, it is clear that Crum Jr. will continue to bridge the gap — whether it be the gap between winning and losing on the football field or the gap of information in the humanitarian realm.


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