Father knows best

Michael Crabtree Sr. began coaching his namesake son in Pee Wee football a decade ago, and he has been instrumental in the younger Crabtree's development as an athlete and football player ever since. Here, in an interview after his son was drafted in the first round by the 49ers, the elder Crabtree gives some insight on his boy's rise into a game-breaking wide receiver.

Q: When did you realize that your son had some special athletic ability?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
When he first started playing football, he could play any position. When I saw he could do that, I knew he had something special.

Q: He talked recently about catching passes from his older brother. Do you remember that?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
Yeah, his older brother, Keiron Stevenson, he plays football too. But he's smaller, and he threw the ball to him real hard, so that developed his hands, to catch the ball with his hands.

Q: Michael has talked about his close relationship with his father. Can you talk about how much you have helped in his development as a football player and the athlete he is today?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
I've been his coach since he was five years old. I was his Pee Wee football when he was in the sixth grade. And being a coach, you can't really just concentrate on just one player, you know, you've got a whole team. But he pretty much learned a lot, and he was easy to coach.

Q: How was his game as a quarterback, since that's what he mostly played until he got to college?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
He went to a high school where he ran the ball a lot, he was the leading rusher on the team. He was a pretty good passer, but the receivers didn't have the hands to catch the ball, so he didn't have big (passing) numbers as a quarterback.

Q: Does that background as a quarterback help him as a receiver?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
It helps him know the routes and how to get the ball to him, and how to break off the routes and get open.

Q: Does his quarterback background help his rapport between the quarterback and receiver because he kind of understands how to communicate with a quarterback and what he wants?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
Yeah, it does. Him and Graham (Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell), they worked a lot off the field, before practice and after practice, to get on the same page.

Q: Your son claims to be very fashion conscious. Where does that come from?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
From me. He likes to look good.

Q: There was some talk about Michael's character leading up to the draft. As a father, were you thinking some of the negative stuff was as far away from the truth as possible?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
You know the media. They take things different ways. They ask questions that are loaded, and if he says something which might not be exactly what he meant, they take it the wrong way. You've got a lot of people coming up to him asking for his autograph and this and that, and they portray hgim wrong. When he had the meeting with (Cleveland coach Eric) Mangini, everything was just like any other interview. So, when the quotes that came out about what Mangini said, it was like, ‘Where did it come from?'

Q: Michael seems like a pretty well-grounded individual, but is there any ‘Diva' in him at all? A guy that reaches the level he is, you might think there might be a little bit of cockiness or something about him.
Michael Crabtree Sr.
He's a pretty cool guy. He's laid back, and his swagger on the field – that's motivation. He's motivated by what people say he can't do. When a defensive player come up and talk stuff and try to rush him up, that makes him play even stronger.

Q: At what point did Michael realize his football future was going to be at wide receiver, and was their any disappointment in that, since he came up playing quarterback?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
No, we talked about it, and to make it at the next level, that was going to be his position. He was an OK quarterback, he wasn't the greatest quarterback, he was more of a running quarterback. He has a good arm, he can throw the ball 50 yards on the run. But he's better running down the field, so we chose receiver, and that's why he went to Tech.

Q: Michael also was a star basketball player in high school. Was there ever a point where he thought about choosing the basketball route instead of the football route?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
He did. His sophomore year, he was like, ‘Daddy, I'm going to stick with basketball.' I said, ‘You're going to disappoint a lot of people, so … (laughs).' I told him to just go out there and try it with football. He played receiver his sophomore year of high school, but they didn't throw the ball. And the team was so good, he was third-string quarterback but he was a first-string receiver. But he played more at quarterback than he did at receiver (in high school).

Q: What was your reaction when Michael came out as a freshman at Texas Tech and started setting records by the game from the very get go?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
I knew he had it in him. I didn't think he'd excel that fast, but I thought he'd gradually get there. But I thought he always had the potential to be what he did.

Q: Did you start steering him toward football rather than basketball in high school?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
Well, in basketball, if you're not 6-8 or 6-9, then, you know … So I told him football would probably be his ticket out. So he chose football.

Q: What kind or pride are you feeling right now after your son is the No. 10 overall selection in the 2009 NFL draft?
Michael Crabtree Sr.
Real pride. As a father … most father dreams of being of this position that I'm in right now. It's like a dream come true.


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