Corey Crawford and Izaiah Brown got on the boat for different reasons but next week in Birmingham, Al., they come to the same place.
This time, the Rutgers track and field program is asking for more of its two stars than it ever had before. It’s more than running at the NCAA Championships, they aim to win.
Brown is a freshman sensation for Rutgers track and field that, after he won a Big Ten title in the 400m with a time of 45.62, heads to the net level with a target on his back.
“I put a name out there for myself, so people are looking at me and obviously there’s people I’m looking at as well, so I can’t underestimate anyone,” Brown said. “…We’re all new to the Big Ten, so coming here as a freshman and new into the Big Ten, I’m honored to be able to go out there and put Rutgers somewhere on the Big Ten. Obviously it’s not me alone, it’s a team effort. I’m happy I was able to contribute.”
Crawford’s path to success includes a longer story at Rutgers and more bumps in the road.
After Crawford’s Rutgers career nearly ended last year via injury, he returned as a fifth-year graduate senior with fire.
Crawford added a Big Ten indoor title for long jump to his trophy case last week, and returns to the NCAA’s where he was a runner up in 2014.
The fifth-year senior medically red-shirted last season but was not ready to say goodbye.
“It means a lot to me,” Crawford said on his successes. “This is why I came back – to compete with these guys in the Big Ten. The Big Ten is something that I’ve always grown up watching. I was a huge Ohio State fan growing up. To compete against these other schools and to come out and get the win, it’s humbling.”
Both stars have legitimate Olympics aspirations, and Brown won himself the Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year award in the process. Brown represented a new level of recruiting for Rutgers, which won out for the top 2015 prospect over finalists UCLA, USC and Michigan.
“I got here and I met the team and I felt comfortable,” Brown said about his Rutgers commitment. “I came unofficially first off and then I came officially because I actually enjoyed it so much. It was the closest one to home, the coaching staff was nice, with the athletes it’s like a family.”
Educational standards were another strong draw at Rutgers.
“I knew they would be on top of me and they’d always give me the right direction to go,” Brown said. “I was really sold on that.”
Crawford began his Rutgers career strong, and hopes to end it with a statement in the spring. The son of ESPN anchor Jay Crawford, Corey Crawford has high aspirations both athletically and academically.
“The biggest thing for me right now is to make sure I’m in the [Olympic] trials,” Crawford said. “… There’s a lot of good jumpers out there in the U.S. I want to solidify myself there and then make a name for myself and compete with those guys. Most of those guys, I’ve either trained with them or I’ve beaten them.”
Crawford graduated from the Rutgers School of Communication and Information with a journalism major. He focused on labor studies after graduation, where he receives a master’s degree this summer.
Crawford’s father remains his biggest fan, and will be in Alabama next week for his son’s big jump.
“He’s literally my biggest supporter,” Crawford said. “He was just as happy for me when I won, if not happier than I was at the Big Ten. He goes to literally all of my meets and ESPN is really flexible with him missing work.”