2004 NFL Draft Prospect: Thomas Crowder

Blink and you might have missed him, but even with your eyes open he was hard to catch. Arkansas' former special teams wonder Tom Crowder wowed NFL the 25 scouts in attendance on the 9th of March with two 4.4 runs in the 40 yard dash. In doing so, Crowder elevated himself up many draft boards.

Having not worked out at the NFL combine, Thomas Crowder had it all to prove. For many top prospects, the idea of running 40 yards on an indoor track in front of 25 NFL scouts and coaches would be a daunting task. For Crowder it was much more than that; a good run was essential for him to secure his place as a solid draft prospect. But through his own eyes, speed isn't everything.

"Athleticism, not entirely speed," Crowder replies when asked what his main strengths are. "Just being an athlete and knowing the game of football has been a real big asset for me."

Crowder knows that it is these attributes, and his fairytale college story, that will endear him to NFL teams. A former walk-on at Arkansas, Crowder established himself as a standout special teams player in 2002, leading the special teams with 21 tackles. Along the way he notched a forced fumble and a touchdown.

For his efforts, Crowder won himself a scholarship. He also forced his way into the receiver rotation, a remarkable achievement for a man whose sporting career had thus far been dedicated to track, and his football days spent predominantly in the defensive backfield. While many have suggested that Crowder's move to offense has hindered his progress, he remains defiant.

"I think if anything it helped it," He rebukes. "I have always felt that I am a wide receiver and just being a good athlete and being to play free safety or wide receiver has always been an option for me. I have always felt that I am a true wide receiver."

Also to his advantage is the fact that he returned kicks in High School. With his excellent pace and athleticism, Crowder could see time returning kicks as early as next year, should he join a pro team lacking in that department. If he were to see playing time in this environment it would be an interesting comparison to his time as a walk on at Arkansas.

"I walked on to the University of Arkansas and being a walk on saw limited time," recalls Crowder of his first year with the Razorbacks. "I just wanted to play so bad and it was more ‘please put me on anything, I have to play.'"

It was through catching the eye of the coaching staff that year that he won his scholarship, and the chance to play at receiver, safety and as a regular fixture on special teams. Players such as Dante Hall established themselves as returners and special teams standouts in the NFL, and have since used this success to build themselves a future in their natural positions. Crowder hopes for the same.

To assist with his development from a track star into a complete football player, Crowder has focused primarily on developing his upper body. Countless hours in the weight room have paid off, and the once slight Crowder now weighs an impressive 205 pounds. His size and speed combination is one that many NFL WRs and CBs could only dream of.

"I have put on a little bit of weight. Putting on a little bit of upper body mass is going to be important for me to show I can compete," he remarks. "Running a low 4.3 is what I am trying to do. I weigh 205 right now. Into the offseason I was around 195. I just worked on eating a lot better and working out twice a day to put on some of the upper body mass that I will need."

On his March 9th pro day, Tom Crowder ran his 40s in 4.40 and 4.43, the short shuttle in 3.93, the long shuttle in 10.77 and the three-cone drill in 6.53. His broad jump was 11 feet and his vertical leap 38-inches. The Packers and Chiefs showed interest in the young wideout as coaches and scouts alike were left enthusing about the potential of the Camden, AS native.

For Crowder, it's nothing different. He's been fighting the critics who thought he was nothing more than a glorified sprinter all his career and he's not about to stop now. Having achieved his dream of playing college football, he knows that he must start all over again, building himself another brick by brick reputation, only this time in the NFL.

People keep pulling Tom Crowder down, but he just keeps breaking through. And that suits him perfectly.

Denis Savage contributed to this report.

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