Part of it was the people in front of him, but the bigger part was he.
After battling through his redshirting in '08, admitting it was tough watching people in his class compete ahead of him, Cromartie approached last season with the want and desire to contribute at the cornerback position. That changed when he saw some of those same people in his recruiting class – Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith – be more consistent than he was, Cromartie had to settle, and it kept him on the sidelines.
"I just felt that it wasn't my time," Cromartie said. "I felt that when I did get the opportunity (again), I have to grasp it. Going into my sophomore season, I feel the sky is the limit for me in terms of the potential that I have."
From the outlook of fall camp, Cromartie has started to run with his second chance. Being taught under New Secondary Coach Chris Ash, Cromarie has seen an increase in his level play. While Ash is a big preacher of flawless fundamentals and technique, the big preaching point with Cromartie has been his consistency.
Much like UW's cornerbacks last season, Cromartie has looked very good at points with solid reads, breaks on the ball and interceptions. Other times, Cromarite has shown that he has work to do. IN a recent practice, Cromartie stumbled in coverage to allow Jared Abbrederis to be wide open for a score.
After resetting, Cromartie slipped on the next play, too, allowing Manasseh Garner to get a first down with an inside slant route. His stint ended when he was beaten by Jeff Duckworth on an inside route for a touchdown.
"I think for me, consistency is more important than anything," Cromartie said. "My goal out here, I know I am not going to play my best every practice, but I want to compete every practice. I know the receivers are going to catch some passes, but I have to think about what I am going to do on the next play. I want the coaches to trust me."
Each cornerback brings something different to the table for Wisconsin. Senior Niles Brinkley brings the most experience (having played in 30 games with 13 starts), junior Devin Smith brings a lot of talent while junior Antonio Fenelus is the group's hardest worker. As for Cromarite, his length and ability to make up ground is second to none.
"He came became a little more physical and a little more mature," Head Coach Bret Bielema said. "He's going into his third year and he's got a lot of tools. He's long, he's tall, he's rangy and athletic. He's probably playing as good of football as he has since he's been here."
The maturity level is also increasing off the field. Twice in one practice earlier in the second week, Cromartie walked off the field, only to be yelled at to run back out and run back off. During summer, Cromartie missed a class and received a tongue lashing from both Ash and Bielema.
"I don't know if that (meeting) turned the light bulb on, but he's competed and has responded differently," Bielema said. "He's got a lot of pride to him."
That pride has allowed Cromartie to be tentatively slotted as the team's fourth cornerback and a fixture in the nickel package. Having learned the lesson of patience from Brinkley and senior safety Jay Valai, Cromartie is not prepared to let go of another opportunity.
"Jay had to wait before he started playing and Niles didn't really start playing until his third year," Cromartie said." You just have to be patient and know that your time will come. In the meantime, you have to work hard in the weight room and the film room.
"I feel like I am consistently getting better, but I have to definitely get better."