Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree enjoyed one of the finest freshman campaigns in the history of college football and went on to be a unanimous first team All American and the winner of the Biletnikoff and Paul Warfield Award, which is given to the nation’s top college receiver.
As a redshirt freshman, Crabtree amassed 134 receptions for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns, which is unheard of. But in a pass-oriented offense where the receiver’s production is crucial, Crabtree was the beneficiary of many Graham Harrell passes and flourished.
With Crabtree’s spectacular freshman season behind him, Scout.com’s Chris Steuber asked him about his playing days at Dallas Carter and why he decided to attend Texas Tech, what receivers he patterns his game after and if there’s a chance this draft-eligible player declares for the NFL Draft after this season.
Chris Steuber: I remember watching Friday Night Lights, and in the championship game, Odessa Permian played Dallas Carter. You attended Carter High School – what was that like?
Michael Crabtree: It was pretty cool. It was a great football environment to play in.
CS: Is Texas high school football portrayed correctly in the movies, or is it different?
Crabtree: It’s really competitive where I’m from. In the Carter area, there are a lot of people supporting the team. It’s a great place to play, and it’s really exciting.
CS: You played multiple positions at Carter, but primarily at quarterback. How did you wind up becoming a wide receiver?
Crabtree: I was a receiver my sophomore year [at Carter]. I was basically a receiver my whole life; I played quarterback and receiver. When I left high school and attended Tech, I wanted to play receiver.
Crabtree may have been a quarterback in high school, but he’s excelled as a WR in college.
Texas Tech University
CS: Did you like one position over the other?
Crabtree: I prefer being a receiver. It’s a real fun position, and I’ve learned a lot.
CS: What went into your decision to go to Texas Tech?
Crabtree: They throw the ball, and I wanted to be a receiver. They say that this system only has system players. It doesn’t matter what the system is, if you’re a football player, you can ball.
CS: Was there another school that you were strongly considering?
Crabtree: Kansas was the other school, but everyone was saying that Kansas wasn’t good. Everyone was telling me that Kansas is just a basketball school; don’t go there, don’t do that.
CS: They finished 12 – 1 last year and won the Orange Bowl.
Crabtree: Yeah, I know.
CS: How would you describe your relationship with Coach Leach? He seems to have a lot of confidence in your abilities for you to go out there and put up the numbers you did last season.
Crabtree: Yeah, definitely; Coach and I are really cool. He’s really good with the plays, and he’s all business on the field. He jokes around a little, but on the field he tells you what he wants to see. If you don’t do it, then you don’t play. I just do whatever he wants me to do.
CS: Last year, as a freshman, you had 134 receptions for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns; that’s video game-like numbers. How much are those numbers based on the system you’re in compared to the talent you have?
Crabtree: I think it’s just based on hard work. It’s not the system. As a football player, you just go out and play, and that’s what I did.
CS: After a season like that, you proved that you’re a true playmaker, but are there some aspects of your game that still need to be improved?
Crabtree: There are still aspects of my game that I have to improve. I have to improve some of the physical things like my speed and strength. Plus, I’m trying to get smarter on the field and to understand the game better. The more you know the game, the easier it is.
CS: What was your favorite game from last season? It doesn’t have to be a game where you had a career day, although you only had two games where you didn’t record 100 yards receiving. But was there one game that you got pumped up for?
Crabtree: I’d say the Oklahoma State game, even though we lost. It was the game where I missed the game-winning catch. That was probably the roughest game I played in.
CS: Why was that your favorite game?
Crabtree: We were just going back and forth. It was just a classic shootout. That was probably one of the best games I played in.
CS: How is your relationship with your quarterback, Graham Harrell? He seems to have a lot of confidence in you, and you always seem to be in the right position to make a play.
Crabtree: Yeah, we’re real cool. We talk even if I don’t get a ball thrown to me the whole day. We have a good relationship like that. We can just talk and be cool. Our relationship is pretty good.
Crabtree has a world of potential and he plans to continue his ascension to stardom.
Texas Tech University
CS: How would you describe your game? Is there a player or players you pattern your game after?
CS: Now that’s what I call a wide receiver.
Crabtree: No doubt. I’m trying to do what they do and more. I’m trying to put a little running back into my game too. I’m trying to get more physical, more strength; that way I would be harder to tackle. I have a lot of stuff coming out, you’ll see.
CS: I came across an interesting music video entitled, “Crank that Crabtree” on the Internet. What’s that all about?
Crabtree: They do that to get crunk; to get the crowd going.
CS: So do you have your own fan club at the games?
Crabtree: I guess you can say that; it’s crazy. I couldn’t even explain it to you. You will have to come to a game and see it one time.
CS: Do they do some kind of crab dance?
Crabtree: They’re all dancing, and they got the crab claws; they got everything.
CS: Do you get in on it? Do you do a little dance in the endzone?
Crabtree: I do what I feel at the moment, but I do it with them sometimes on the sideline. I try to get everyone crunk.
CS: Do you talk a lot on the field?
Crabtree: Yeah, I talk, but I really don’t talk unless somebody else starts it up. It usually starts when somebody starts with me, and then I’ll start talking from then on.
CS: Do most of the players you go up against talk trash?
Crabtree: Yeah, they do, and I just tell them to be quiet. They all talk noise and make you mad. I get mad, and it makes me want to beat them. It just makes me go that much harder.
CS: You mentioned that you’d like to understand the game better. How do you think your route running is at this time?
Crabtree: I think my route running is good, but I can always get better… [Pause]… I think it’s pretty good right now.
CS: Is there a particular route that you like to run the most?
Crabtree: I don’t really have a favorite route, but if I had to choose I’d say a fade route; just throw it up and I’ll get it.
CS: What is your best attribute as a player?
Crabtree: I’d say my hands.
Crabtree poses with the Biletnikoff Award.
AP Photo/Reinhold Matay
CS: Your hands led you to one of the most prestigious awards last year. What was it like to win the Biletnikoff Award?
Crabtree: It was great. It was a great experience being up there with all of the All Americans, joking around, and seeing who was going to win. It was a great time, and it was cool to win the award.
CS: If you keep posting numbers like you did last season, a Heisman Trophy may be in your future. Do you ever think about being a Heisman Trophy winner?
Crabtree: Yeah, I think about winning the Heisman. I think about it, but I try not to dwell on it. I’m thinking about my team this year. We’re trying to win every game this year.
CS: That will definitely help your Heisman credentials if you guys win every game.
Crabtree: That’s what I’m saying, it will fall in place if we win every game and I do what I’m supposed to do. But if I don’t do what I have to do, then I don’t deserve it.
CS: Even though you just finished your first year playing ball at Texas Tech, after being redshirted your first season, you’re eligible for the NFL Draft after this year. Have you given any thought to your future at the next level?
Crabtree: Yeah, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t, but I try not to think about it. When that time comes I’ll make that decision.
CS: Do a lot of people ask you about it?
Crabtree: [Sigh]… Yeah, I get asked that question everyday.
CS: Well, pretty soon you will be taking the field everyday at practice. Looking ahead to this upcoming season, what are your goals and what do you want to accomplish?
Crabtree: I’m looking to do great things. I’m going to work as hard as I can this summer, and get ready for this season and give it all that I got. Whatever the results are, that’s what they are, but I want to get us to a BCS game.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.