Channing Crowder: The GatorCountry.com Interview

While 60-some members of the '04 Florida Gator Football Team are making the adjustment to a new coaching staff and a new way of doing things, Channing Crowder is a playful observer. GatorCountry.com's Larry Vettel recently spoke at length with Crowder about his impressions of the new Gator system and how he's preparing for the upcoming NFL Draft.

LV: Channing, what's your impression of (new Florida coach) Urban Meyer?

CC: He's a great guy. The guys who are gone like me and Ciatrick (Fason) and guys that are working out he tries to get us involved. I love him. You know I talked with him before I decided to come out and he said he'd support me either way so we have a really good relationship.

LV: We've seen so many Ex-Gators around this spring, more than I can ever remember. Even though you're a very recent ex-Gator how important is it that Coach Meyer is reaching out to guys who played for Florida no matter what coach he played for?

CC: Oh, it's great. It's a good situation and he's doing a great job with it. He told us we're welcome to work out with Coach Marotti. In fact, he even writes us workouts. He's really reaching out to us and like it's said, once you're a Gator you're always a Gator.

LV: What's it like watching practice? You might have seen one or two option plays a day in the past, but these guys have to defend the option every snap. How hard is that for the linebackers to deal with?

CC: I was just thinking yesterday that I hate offenses like that. I'm an old school, nasty kind of guy. I want to see two tight ends, a fullback, tailback, and straight down at you and let's see who the better man is. But football is going to that wide-open spread attack type stuff and everyone has to get used to it. It's going to work. It's tricky and it's misleading and things develop slow so you can't be too aggressive but you can't sit back too much either or they're going to pick you apart. It worked for him at Bowling Green and it worked for him at Utah. I'm hoping, and I'm pretty sure it's going to work for him here, too.

LV: Watching the linebackers Saturday it seemed like Brian Crum is starting to put things together. Do you agree with that and can Brian really help this defense?

CC: Oh yeah, he can help it. We're real good friends and hang out all the time. You know everyone made a big deal about us doing the hog hunting and stuff. He just has to get comfortable in a position. He played safety at Camden County High School and at Florida he went to tight end, then linebacker, and then back to tight end and now back to linebacker. All that adjusting makes it tough to get comfortable at one position. Now the coaches have told him he's going to be a linebacker and he's a smart guy so he's making the adjustment. Coach Strong called me the other day and told me, "your buddy's balling" so I had to come check him out.

LV: Would you agree that Brian seems more comfortable than he has at any point in his Gator career?

CC: Oh yeah, by far. I talked with him yesterday and we talked about that a little bit and jumping around it's tough to get confidence. I was blessed that I never had to deal with that I was always a linebacker, but his situation was kinda funny. But now things are starting to work out for him and I'm really happy for him.

LV: The Gators don't have a lot of guys at linebacker, are there enough guys to get the job done?

CC: Oh yeah the guys who are there can definitely get the job done. Without injury we'll be set at linebacker. Plus, what did they sign four or five guys this year? They may need those guys to step up but without injury will hold out. Siler did a great job last year and he's looking good. Earl, I've been saying all along is a way better athlete than I'll ever be, probably the best athlete whenever he's on the field. He's amazing and he'll make plays all over this year. Todd is a solid player and he's been killing people. He's not the fastest man in the world but he's gonna make some plays for you. And with Brian coming on they'll be a pretty good group.

LV: When you watch the defense now the Gators are playing a lot more press coverage and turning guys loose with blitzes from every angle. Do you ever look at that and say, "man why couldn't they turn me loose like that"?

CC: Yeah, I was just talking with Coach Strong and they send a man on just about every play. I went out to practice and they really work at all these blitzes and twists; all these things to try and get guys open so playmakers can make plays. That's what you need in a defense, and I wish I could have been out there some of those plays. If it was up to me I'd been blitzing myself every play and Id love to be out there now. I made the decision and I'm happy with my decision, but I do look out there and think I coulda done that or I coulda done this. It's fun to watch, a lot of fun.

LV: Channing, what is the latest on your draft preparations and you interactions with various NFL teams?

CC: I went to the combines. Then I had a personal workout with Coach Belichick from the Patriots and I'm going up there tomorrow (Monday) to meet the owner. We've also been talking about going to Dallas to meet with the Cowboys and the St. Louis Rams. But I hear different things every day. I think I've heard that all 32 teams want to draft me. So I try not to listen to the hype any more. I just can't wait until the countdown is over and I'm sitting there fishing and some team calls and says they're about to draft me.

LV: If you listen to every rumor there might be some NBA teams looking to draft you, right?

CC: I hear it all the time. Every day somebody tells me their buddy's cousin's, mom's sister is the secretary for Coach Gruden and they want you. I just say thank you, I appreciate it and I'll be there if they call my name.

LV: But when Coach Belichick comes down to work you out in person, I mean he's the best in the business right now. So he comes down and works you out spends some time with you and is impressed enough to want you to meet the owner, that must mean their interest is real serious, doesn't it?

CC: If I were to guess I would have to say so, but with me not knowing.. I was talking with Mike Peterson, Lito Shepperd, Gerard Warren, Mike Nattiel and they all said the guys who spent the most time and worked the hardest didn't even draft them. They tell you they're in love with you but when the time comes they pick someone else and you end up with a team that never showed any interest in you. Going to New England would be amazing, stepping into, you know a dynasty like that but I just gotta wait until the 23rd and see what happens and what my career is going to do.

LV: Is it hard not having any control of the situation and accepting that the league is what it is and you have to go where they tell you?

CC: Yeah, it is now. It wasn't right after the season when I went out to New Orleans and worked out to get ready for the combine, and then I had three more weeks to try and prepare for pro day. But after pro day it's kinda like, what's next? I'm working out to be ready to mini-camp wherever I am but it seems like there's nothing left I can do to improve my draft status.

LV: Channing, you've had multiple knee surgeries. How much have the NFL folks tested, poked and prodded you where that's concerned?

CC: Oh yeah, at the combines the medical part usually takes about an hour or and hour-and-a-half, but I was in there letting pull and twist on my knees for about four hours. Then I had about four hours of MRIs because they wanted to look inside and see what all was going on. Some guys said I might have been more of a risk so we went to Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham and had him examine me. He sent out a letter of recommendation to all the NFL teams saying he sees me as no more risk than any other player.

LV: You ought to send that letter to Mel Kiper because he has you falling into the third round in part because of your knees, while others have the Patriots trying to trade up to get you. Does that bother you, or do you treat it like all the other rumors and let it go in one ear and out the other?

CC: I met Mel Kiper at the Senior Bowl. I went there just to walk around and meet some people and he was I love with me saying I was going number 22 to Green Bay and that I'm one of the best athletes in the draft. Now he's saying I'm going down and I might third or fourth round or whatever. I've never looked at his draft board compared to what really happened so I don't know if it's on target every year. I hope not because now he's saying I'm not as good as I'm supposed to be so I hope he's wrong from that standpoint.

LV: Channing to do you talk a lot with C4 and compare notes about what you're going through, what you're hearing and how you're preparing?

CC: Yeah, me and Ciatrick were always tight but we got close in New Orleans when we were working out together every day. He's in Jacksonville now and working out. There's really nothing more you can do in terms of draft preparation. So we're just talking about messin' around and stuff, we're just cool now so it's not really about preparation.

LV: What are you going to do on draft day, where are you going to be?

CC: My family and all is coming to Gainesville to my apartment and watch it. I'm going fishing and getting away from everything because they announce the first pick of the draft, "The San Francisco 49ers select…" and then it's 15 minutes before anything else happens. You could have a heart attack sitting there waiting and waiting.

LV: So you going fishing?!!?

CC: I'm going fishing. The teams they usually call you a few minutes before they announce your name and says it's coach so-and-so from team whatever and we're making you the 23rd pick or whatever… so I'm gonna take my cell phone with me and try to catch some bass.

LARRY VETTEL'S TAKE: I've had a lot of guys tell me they were playing golf, but Channing is the first to make plans to catch a bass or two on draft day. His is a rather unique situation. His athleticism and competitiveness make him one of the top 25 players in this draft. Still a couple of off-field transgressions and knee injuries raise some warning flags about taking him too high.

I have to believe the Patriots and Packers will give strong consideration to choosing him in the later stages of round one. If he isn't chosen then, even more teams will take a look in round two. I cannot imagine Channing Crowder being a third round selection. Then again I cannot imagine anyone dumb enough to choose Blair Thomas over Emmitt Smith, but it happened.


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