DE Jack Crawford works with defensive line coach Terrell Williams. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Jack Crawford was a basketball player. In fact, the England native played on his country's national team on their under-16 and under-18 basketball teams. "It's always an honor to represent your country in a sport," said Crawford. "I got to go abroad and see different places and compete against different countries across Europe. That's something that everybody gets to do so that was definitely a great experience. "People from all over England coming together and being able to play on a basketball team with them, that was a great experience."
The Raiders defensive end came to the United States for basketball his sophomore year of high school. He made the decision to come to the U.S. when a coach saw him play in England and suggested he try playing basketball in the states. To play here, Crawford needed to find a host family, and the family he ended up living with changed the course of his life. "So my basketball coach in high school, he got me over here and he set me up with a player on the team and his parents and that just didn't work out," explained Crawford. "Me and the kid on the team, we weren't really able to get along that well and stuff like that. So I told my coach I was ready to go back to London. And he said, 'stick around a little bit.' So I asked another kid on the team if I could live with him and ended up staying there seven years."
The Raiders 5th round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft found a home with the D'Andrea family. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here right now," said Crawford. "They really just supported me. They took me in and treated me like part of the family. That was huge for me. I would've easily gone home because I was homesick, but I just wasn't happy being over here at first. So the support that they gave me really kept me pushing through everything. They definitely supported me and I definitely owe a lot to them."
Now comfortable in his new surroundings and settled at his new home in New Jersey, Crawford started watching football. "I watched college football and I watched NFL and it was exciting to me," said Crawford. "It was an exciting sport once I started to learn the rules. When I started to learn the rules my sophomore year of high school, which was the first year I came to the United States, I just decided I wanted to give it a try my junior year."
He turned out to be pretty good at it, rated the No. 15 defensive end in the nation by Scout.com his senior year. Crawford then chose to play football in the Big Ten Conference at Penn State, which prepared him to play at the highest level. "It's just a major conference," said Crawford. "To play at that level is something that is not the same as playing in the NFL, but it definitely prepares you at a good college level to come in and have the same kind of work ethic and be able to push through. It gets your mind right mentally."
Crawford heads into his first NFL training camp with the support of his Penn State teammates OL Stefen Wisniewski, LB Nathan Stupar and DB Chaz Powell. "It definitely allows me to come in and feel a little bit more comfortable just because I know I can always ask them questions if I'm feeling out of place or if I'm feeling lost on the schedule," explained Crawford. "I can always ask them and feel comfortable."
As Crawford works to earn a spot on the Raiders 53-man roster, he is pushed and inspired by his host family. "The fact that my host family helped me get through and has just given me so much support, it's an inspiration to me to give back to be the best I can be," said Crawford.