The Southwestern Athletic Conference may be glad to the nation's former No. 1 RB recruit Isaiah Crowell playing for Alabama State --- bringing a high level of visibility to the SWAC --- but the coaches aren't ready to give him any type of preseason recognition until he can prove he can stay out of trouble after Crowell was kicked out of UGA recently following a felony weapons charge.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama State running back Isaiah Crowell will clearly have to earn the respect of his new Southwestern Athletic Conference rivals.
The former Georgia starter and five-star recruit is already a hit with his new teammates, but he was not a preseason pick for either first- or second-team All-SWAC at Media Days this week for the East Division favorites.
Crowell, however, is still the league’s most high-profile player without even stepping onto a SWAC field.
He enrolled at Alabama State on July 5, a few days after Georgia coach Mark Richt dismissed the sophomore following his arrest on felony weapons charges. Crowell faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a weapon on school property.
Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow described Crowell as “a quiet, humble guy” but said there haven’t been any promises extracted that he won’t misbehave again.
“He’s a young man that was 18 and he was thrust into the limelight,” Barlow, a former NFL receiver, said. “Sometimes that stuff can overtake you. There haven’t been any promises, just basically talks about we’re going to hold him accountable. That’s what they want from us, his mom and his dad. We’re going to do that. His teammates have embraced him, and we look forward to him just being a team member.”
There’s little doubt that Crowell can make a big splash in the SWAC since he already has in the SEC. However, coaches, sports information directors and some media members who cover the league didn’t show much love in preseason ballots that weren’t due until after Crowell’s arrival.
Crowell, rated by some services as the nation’s top running back recruit two years ago, ran for 850 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman for Georgia and earned Associated Press freshman of the year honors.
Several team leaders — Hornets quarterback Greg Jenkins, safety Kejuan Riley and wide receiver Landon Jones — sent Barlow text messages urging him to pursue Crowell, even before he was officially available, the coach said. Barlow said “amazingly” Crowell was already interested when he first contacted him.
“Any time you can get one of the best players in the country and add him into the mix, that brings another dimension,” Jenkins said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders.
“We accept him. He’s a part of the family now and we’re ready to get moving. “
Asked if Crowell faces a zero tolerance policy for off-the-field missteps, Barlow said: “Whenever you come into a new program and a second-chance type deal, there’s no wavering room. He understands that, and I think he’s embraced it and now he’s looking forward to kind of rebuilding his credibility.”
Barlow described him as “a good humble guy, excited about a second chance and a new opportunity” since he’s been in Montgomery.
“We really like him,” said Riley, a safety. “He works hard. He comes out every day working hard. He’s a big addition to the program.”
Crowell still faces legal issues stemming from his arrest after police found a gun in his vehicle on the Georgia campus.
“As far as we are concerned as long as he’s out, we’re going to continue to embrace him and let him be a part of our team,” Barlow said. “The legal system is what it is. Until that takes place, he’ll be here at Alabama State. He’ll be a part of our team.”
Athletic director Stacy Danley said ASU spoke to Georgia officials and people who knew Crowell and his family before agreeing to accept him in the program.
“The football will take care of itself,” said Danley, a former Auburn running back. “But it was important that we understand who this young man was and that we had the appropriate structure in place.
“I was impressed with the structure that he had at home. He had both parents, parents who taught him the right things. You’re dealing with young people. Young people make bad choices sometimes. The fact that the parents and our coaching staff and myself were on the same page in what was necessary and what was important at this stage definitely played into our decision to bring him into our program.”
Defending SWAC champion Grambling State is picked to repeat in the West Division and meet up with Crowell & Co. in the championship game. Defensive back Edward Patterson likes the attention that has come the league’s way since Crowell’s transfer.
“It’s a nice step for the league, having a nice talented running back coming into the league and (drawing) a lot of media comments,” Patterson said. “The game’s still got to be played, but it’s nice to have a big-time name coming into the SWAC.”