L.D. Crow has had enough to sweat this fall with his school's football season. The senior quarterback at Clearwater (Fla.) Countryside High School has seen his team suffer injuries, inconsistency and mental lapses. 8-2 doesn't sound so bad, but the Cougars started last year 9-0 and this fall missed their goal of winning their district.
Through a rollercoaster season, though, the great weight on Crow's shoulders has been his admissions application to Stanford. The 6'3" slinger verbally committed to the Cardinal back in May, but that was a beginning rather than the end to his journey. He worked hard during the spring, summer and into the fall on all aspects of his application packet - grades, essays and his test score. Crow took the SAT four times in this calendar year, with an ACT sprinkled in for good measure.
The Countryside senior student-athlete bumped his writing portion of the new SAT by 20 points with his most recent October test, raising that score to 540. Crow also reports a 540 on the reading section and a 550 in math. He sweated the composite 1090 (M + R/W) score until he heard glorious news from Stanford on Wednesday.
"Admissions decided that they would accept me. I was really excited about it," Crow says. "I don't know a lot of the details, but I know I'm in and it's nice to have it done."
"I was committed to them the whole time, but it's nice to get in," he adds. "It's great - a lot of excitement for me. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. It's coming down to it, and you want to get into school. I would love to go to Stanford and excited about the opportunity. To finally get in is really relieving. My parents were equally excited because of what a great opportunity presents, with great academics as well as athletics."
Just as jubilant were the three Cardinal coaches on the other end of the phone: head coach Walt Harris, recruiting coordinator Nate Nelson and area recruiter Jeff Hammerschmidt.
"They were all excited. It's been a long process," says Crow. "Especially Coach Hammerschmidt because I talk to him every week. We always try to get updates on SAT scores and what Admissions is doing. To be able to finally talk with him about being accepted, we were both equally accepted."
Stanford recruiting involves scholarship offers that by necessity are conditional upon a prospective student-athlete's successful admission to the school. Occasionally the Cardinal tender an offer after admissions acceptance, but for Crow and others offered during their junior year of high school, their football promise only puts their foot in the door.
It has been somewhat unusual that Stanford snared five verbal commits in this class before any member of that group - or any other 2007 recruits - had gained admission. Crow made a bold statement by making his commitment before being admitted. Quarterback recruiting is unique in that most schools will take just one signal caller in a class, with a race by both colleges and recruits to make their matches early. Crow closed his options when he committed to Stanford, despite the lack of any guarantee that he could be admitted to the school. Who knows if his offers from Rutgers, Illinois or Ole Miss would still be on the table, should he have received the red light from Stanford Admissions.
"I had committed so early that I didn't give other colleges a chance. Stanford was the place where I wanted to go from the get-go. Knowing that I can go to Stanford is nice to get done because I'm really not sure what I would have done if I hadn't gotten in," Crow allows. "We're kind of getting down to crunch time in our season. We're starting the playoffs this week in football. You are thinking in the back of your mind: 'Am I going to get into school there or not? Am I going to have to go to another school?' Yeah, it's in the back of your mind always, but you try to forget about it on Friday nights."
Tonight he doesn't have to try to forget. Crow can play for the first time all season without the specter of Stanford Admissions. Countryside will need that full focus from their quarterback this evening, as they go on the road for the first round of the Florida Class 5A state playoffs. The Cougars will play on the road at Largo (9-1), who won their district. All district runners-up are on the road to start the playoffs, while all winners host. Countryside controlled their destiny to win District 9 but dropped an upset loss to Dunedin four weeks ago, 8-6. That came on the heels of a non-district loss to Tarpon Springs, 14-7, despite spanking the Spongers by a 42-10 score in a preseason affair.
"It was kind of a shocker," Crow says of the Tarpon loss, which sent the Cougars into a mini-tailspin. "We didn't play well on offense at all. We had some protection breakdowns and what-not."
After dropping out of the top spot of the district standings to Dunedin, Countryside had a bye week and then notched a 15-13 win. Last week they closed the regular season with a triumphant trouncing of Lakewood, 41-0.
"That was really rough, but I think we really bounced back. Our offense is clicking again," Crow comments. "We're on a roll, playing well again. This game is the Game of the Week and will be on TV. They're 9-1. They're a good team, but we definitely think we can beat them. They have a big running back. If our defense comes to play, we'll definitely get it done on offense."
Crow has surpassed his passing of a year ago (1,561 yards in 2006 vs. 1,360 yards in 2005), but it has been a rough year for him in the pocket. His star left tackle who protected him last fall is now at South Carolina. His starting right guard and right tackle, both two-year starters, both went down early this year to ACL injuries.
"The new guys have done a good job stepping it up," the senior says. "It's different. It's been a long process, making sure everything goes along. We've had some mental lapses."
"We are starting to rely on the short passing game," Crow explains of the resultant offense. "Little three-step drops, slants, hitches. Stuff like that, getting the ball out of my hand. Then we try to hit them with the running game. We've tried a little bit of two-minute [offense] early in the game to try and get them off their feet because we don't have the Seaver Brown like we did last year, blocking my backside for me. We're just trying to get the ball off. If stuff like that doesn't work, then we'll try something different during the game... We're trying to change things up with things we haven't had to do before because we've had a good offensive line."
Few people outside of Countryside expect much of a playoff run for Crow and the Cougars. But the Cardinal commit hopes and believes that he will still be playing football into December. That possibility clouds the scheduling of his Stanford official visit. He has talked with the Cardinal coaches about taking his trip the weekend of December 8, which would also bring him together with fellow Sunshine State recruit Doug Baldwin, a Gulf Breeze (Fla.) High School wide receiver Stanford offered in the spring. Should Crow's senior season remain alive at that time, he is ready to officially visit in January.
In the meantime, he offers his excitement for what he can do to attract other recruits to join him in this class. With an admissions acceptance in his back pocket, Crow is secure in his spot and Stanford and can move full-steam ahead.
"I saw that we got Sean Wiser on the commit list. I'm excited about that and see that he's a good wide receiver, playing with Jimmy Clausen," Crow notes. "I think that we can do this if people bring the winning attitude. We both come from good teams that have a tradition of winning, and we can turn it around at Stanford for sure."
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