Isaiah Crowell ‘happy,’ seeking fresh start at Alabama State

Isaiah Crowell is getting ready to compete at a school far from SEC spotlight.

Former Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell is getting ready to compete at far from SEC spotlight.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – About 225 miles from Athens, in the opposite direction from where most people will be looking when the college football season opens, you can find Isaiah Crowell here.

Take the last exit of I-85 south, make a left under the overpass and drive straight down Decatur and into the projects. There you will see a weathered sign reading, “Hornets Stadium,” and a football practice field bordered on one side by a small college campus and on the other by less-than-idyllic surroundings.

“The culture is a little different here,” Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow said with understatement.

Alabama State is in the midst of a makeover. A 30-year, $600 million wish list of constructions projects includes several new athletic facilities, including a $62 million football stadium scheduled to open on Thanksgiving. In that sense, this is an appropriate place for Crowell to land. He hopes to be in the midst of his own makeover. Twice suspended and ultimately kicked out of Georgia for weapons charges (still pending) — a gun with a filed off serial number was found in his car at a campus checkpoint — Crowell is thankful to be anywhere.

Crowell seems more "comfortable" at a smaller program.

Crowell seems more "comfortable" at a smaller program.

Barlow, the seventh year coach, said that when he met Crowell, he found him “regretful for what had happened. I remember when he was here for his visit, I heard him whisper to his mom, ‘Thank God for a fresh start.’  I didn’t say anything. But I saw Isaiah walking around and looking. He seemed relieved that somebody was ready to embrace him again and give him a second chance.”

Crowell was pleasant when a reporter approached him after practice Friday. “Yes, I’m happy,” he said, responding to a question. But then he was asked by a school official to keep walking to the locker room and stop talking. He has been advised by his attorney not to speak to the media, perhaps until after legal matters have been resolved.

A previously scheduled interview two weeks ago also was canceled suddenly

Kaiss (left) says Crowell still has long way to go in maturing.

Kaiss (left) says Crowell still has long way to go in maturing.

by his mother. Debbie Crowell said late Friday night that she was pleased for her son and that, “He’s happy at Alabama State.” But she otherwise declined comment.

We’ve seen no shortage of skilled but misguided youth in college athletics. Those “stars” on national signing day don’t account for deficiencies in maturity and intelligence. Crowell was the center jewel of Georgia’s prematurely celebrated 2011 recruiting class that already has lost seven of 26 players.

On the field, Crowell was as great as advertised last season. Despite injuries and suspensions,

The backside of Alabama State's practice field is bordered by project housing.

The practice field is bordered on one side by project housing.

questions about his work ethic and toughness, he still rushed for 850 yards and five touchdowns and was the SEC’s freshman of the year.

Vince Dooley played the “bad apple” card when discussing Crowell recently. Maybe. But Crowell never has seemed like a bad kid, just an overly coddled and enabled one. If he left Columbus-Carver High School with a sense of entitlement, his enablers at the school and all surrounding him should share some blame.

It's not Sanford Stadium but Crowell soon will play in a new stadium.

It's not Athens but Crowell soon will play in a new stadium.

When Crowell arrived at Georgia and suddenly had to deal with rules, it didn’t go well.

“Am I surprised? No. It’s what we created,” said Fred Kaiss, an Alabama State assistant coach.

“I don’t know if Isaiah was lost. But he’s not a guy who can have a lot of freedom. He can’t. And he ain’t there yet. Oh, he’ll tell you, ‘I’ve got it.’ But inside, I think he knows he doesn’t have it yet because if he did he’d be meeting with guys like you.”

Barlow has taken chances on problem kids before.

Barlow has taken chances on problem kids before.

Kaiss, a 20-year coach at HBCU programs, has seen several athletes function better at the 1-AA level than major (FBS) programs. A number of former SEC players have transferred to Alabama State, including NFL quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

“Is it more glamorous [in FBS]? Sure,” Kaiss said. “But it’s also easier to fall prey to other things for some kids. Some guys can’t pitch for the Yankees because they fall apart in the limelight, but they can pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers and be a star.”

So there you go: Crowell hasn’t gone from Bulldog to Hornet as much as he has Yankee to Brewer.

There have been some early hiccups. Crowell has been disciplined twice for being late – once to a meeting, once to a weight session. “His habits were not formed yesterday,” Kaiss said. “This is a process.”

But he’s trying to blend. Barlow, a former Alabama State and NFL wide receiver, was pleased the other night when an assistant coach asked for volunteers to run on kickoff scout team and Crowell ran onto the field. “That showed me he was starting to turn a corner,” he said.

Alabama State was a surprising option. Top players generally will transfer to a junior college for a year and then back to an FBS school without having to sit out a year. (Cam Newton and Zach Mettenberger are two examples.) Even Barlow placed his recruiting chances at only “30 percent.”  But he sold Crowell and his parents on the program’s growth, proximity to Columbus and his past work with problem transfers (Nigel Carr was kicked out of Florida State, came to ASU and now plays for the Baltimore Ravens).

Barlow said Crowell is “comfortable here. We talked about junior college, but he said he just wanted to be someplace where he would fit in.”

During their first conversation, Barlow described Debbie Crowell as “really down” about matters.  “She said he looked immature with the way he was dealing with some stuff [at UGA] and he felt bad because he had let his teammates down, and people who believed in him. He wanted an opportunity to restore his name, and she wanted to make sure we were demanding of him and would hold him accountable.”

He told Crowell he didn’t care about his history and barely even looked into it: “I told him, ‘Here’s where our trust starts.”

Barlow doesn’t deny this was a football decision, but he maintains it’s more than that.  “I believe in second chances,” he said, and then he referenced his brother, Clemmon, a standout athlete who “went astray,” and eventually to prison.

“The parole board cut him a break and gave a second chance. Now he’s a great father and provider. So, yes, this was a chance for us to get an elite athlete. But I’m hoping we can give Isaiah something rewarding: experiencing accountability, team, an education.”

Crowell isn’t quite off the map. Alabama State’s opener against Bethune-Cookman next Sunday in Orlando is being carried by ESPN. But when major conferences begin play, he will slip under the radar for the first time in his life. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

By Jeff Schultz

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253 comments Add your comment

Jeff Schultz

August 25th, 2012
12:40 pm

Folks, please be reminded about the responsibilities that go with public commenting and understand that anything that strays over the line will be deleted and the commenter may be banned. Thanks, Jeff.

Miamidawg

August 25th, 2012
12:52 pm

He is just a kid, one with a ton of talent, but just a, kid. In a good environment he could rebuild his future. Best of luck to him.

Miamidawg

August 25th, 2012
12:53 pm

By the way, since Jeff doesn’t count. FIRST!!

Kevin

August 25th, 2012
12:56 pm

I hope Crowell is FORCED to act like the ADULT HE IS for the very first time in his life. He is NOT A KID. Part of his problem is that he has people TREATING him like a KID, letting him make kiddie mistakes and giving him kiddie penalties. He’s a MAN. Hopefully, he’ll start acting like one and make the most of the talent he’s been blessed with.

BeauvighnBeauvighn

August 25th, 2012
1:03 pm

Uh…second chance ..let’s see how about multiple chances and he couldn’t handle it. Hope he gets his life turned around and becomes a productive citizen one day but I’m sorry if I don’t shed a tear for this guy. He reaped what he sowed

Game Changer

August 25th, 2012
1:03 pm

UGA is bordered by housing projects on one side also Jeff, whats the importance of that statement? Bottom line is Mark Richt has no rules and is not respected by any players. Hopefully, the head coach of Alabama State can mentor to I. Crowell about being a good person with character. The first thing the new coach should do is require I Crowell to cut the dreads off. Image will always be the first impression you make, looking stupid with long dreads tells others immediately what they need to know.

Big Dawg

August 25th, 2012
1:04 pm

UGA sure does miss him, but he made stupid mistakes. He’s paying for them, but I hope he does well in his future.

BobDog

August 25th, 2012
1:07 pm

I wish him the best. I don’t know everything about his upbringing and what he may have been through, but the environment probably hasn’t been the best to prepare him. No doubt he has been an elite athlete all through school and had a longer rope than most. I hope he uses this opportunity, probably his last, to get it together. I really want to seem him in the NFL one day.

bamaguy

August 25th, 2012
1:09 pm

I hope things work out for him. Montgomery is my home town (even though I have lived in Atlanta for 20 years). He should do well there. It is a quiet school of mostly locals. The culture of the city is dominated by the air force bases so ASU is not a “party school.” Maybe good things will happen for him.

Supes

August 25th, 2012
1:10 pm

Thankful for 2nd chances…what’s gonna happen next time he gets in trouble again? 3rd chance somewhere else…why b/c he’s a top tier talent that’s why….As a lifelong UGA fan it was extremely disappointing to see Isaiah blow his opportunity at becoming a big time SEC back (see Lattimore)…I sincerely hope he can straighten out his life b/c he a very talented young man…but wouldn’t be “shocked” if he turns out to be a “Maurice Clarette” down the road…

sandiego

August 25th, 2012
1:10 pm

Hopefully he will draw close to God without all the limelight of the SEC and will learn how to use his talents and opportunites wisely. Praying for him-

DP

August 25th, 2012
1:12 pm

The comments of the Alabama State coaches and their apparent willingness to hold Crowell accountable are good to read. But when they mentioned proximity to Columbus as one of their selling points in recruiting, I was thinking close proximity to Columbus is about the last thing he needs. I hope he gets his head on straight and capitalizes on this second chance he’s been given.

Boom Boom

August 25th, 2012
1:14 pm

Jeff, I’m scared to post anything. Thanks for the reminder.
I wish him good luck and hope he grows from this but I have a feeling this is only the begining of troubles for this young man.

DP

August 25th, 2012
1:16 pm

Showing a kid who already has a sense of entitlement 10 guys lined up on the field with an empty spot at running back when you’re recruiting him might have helped Richt get Crowell to UGA and ensured he wouldn’t last there at the same time. One would think Richt would understand coddling is the last thing a kid like Crowell needs; maybe Richt understands that better now.

Reservoir Dawg

August 25th, 2012
1:16 pm

Good article Jeff and good luck IC, hope things work out for you. Actually their stadium expansion looks nice (from I85) with its new upper deck, bet they’ll have pretty good attendance this fall.

Mr. Hankey

August 25th, 2012
1:19 pm

Out of sight, out of mind. That’s the way the “real” world works. You get fired from a job, just try going back to the office a couple of months later. I’ve had to do that before and, folks, it’s best not to revisit old history. Wish the kid best — not luck, you make your own luck with preparation and dedication when it meets opportunity. But LORD HAVE MERCY, SON, YOU REALLY BLEW IT.
Mildly unsurprised that he’s had a couple of “slips” of discipline so far. Kudos to Coach Richt for doing what had to be done.

SC Old Dawg

August 25th, 2012
1:27 pm

Everybody that has not made a major mistake in your youth, please sign in………should be a rather short list….

Wonder if some of you read the article

August 25th, 2012
1:33 pm

“When Crowell arrived at Georgia and suddenly had to deal with rules, it didn’t go well.”

Q

August 25th, 2012
1:34 pm

Wow, hes a dad too. He got his second chances and hes still late to stuff? Let’s just face it folks, he’s going to flip your burgers and mop some floors in his future. And that’s OK cause we need those peeps.

Just hate it for the kid….you come into the world 3 steps back and you’re pretty much doomed. Just sad.

Joe

August 25th, 2012
1:35 pm

Good luck to the kid. It’s amazing what being a star athlete will get you in this country. I hope that Crowell will begin to realize how lucky he is and will take advantage of it. I doubt he will, but you never know.

Game Changer

August 25th, 2012
1:38 pm

@SC Old Dawg

Once you cross the line and get in trouble for something you dont do it anymore, having an AD state publicly that him will personally protect the players in the future for flunking drug test etc. is not the answer.

Flo-Ri-Duh

August 25th, 2012
1:38 pm

Diaper Changer – You show your ignorance concerning football. Doubt if you have ever played a single down. You are a wanna be that never was. Hypocrite.

GTBob

August 25th, 2012
1:42 pm

Crowell wasn’t mentally mature enough to handle the pressures and glamour of a football factory environment. You can’t just take a kid from meager home life, build him up to be the king of the world, coddle him every second, and expect him to act like a world class citizen. That is a catch 22 in the recruiting world. You have to coddle and basically brainwash a kid to get him to come to your school, but hope that he reverts to a hard working, down to earth kid when he gets there. Sometimes it isn’t going to work out that way. College Football would be better off if recruiting wasn’t a spectator sport in and of itself.

Frank Lane

August 25th, 2012
1:44 pm

I hope that he can turn one wasted opportunity into something good for his future.

Flo-Ri-Duh

August 25th, 2012
1:47 pm

Grayson and the “great” Robert Nkemdiche are only up on McEachern 14 – 12 at the half. Nkemdiche hasn’t done much running and has zero sacks. To go with that he lost one fumble – giving McEachern good field position leading to a TD. This doesn’t look #1 in the nation to me.

Duchess

August 25th, 2012
1:50 pm

Miamidawg…you’re funny

Duchess

August 25th, 2012
1:51 pm

By the way, football comes second. He needs to get his soul right and stop playing on the wrong side of the law. Good luck in your future. Stay positive and focused!!

2 old dawg

August 25th, 2012
2:05 pm

Just wish him well. And there is hope. Look how well Jeff has done.

KBP

August 25th, 2012
2:14 pm

Gamechanger. . . What does long dreads tell about a person’s character? I don’t care for dreads but are insinuating that there is some correlation between hairstyles and character/judgement/decision making?

KBP

August 25th, 2012
2:17 pm

Gamechanger . . . sorry for the typo on previous post. My question is are you insinuating there is a correlation between hairstyles and character?

Mary Mac's Tea Room

August 25th, 2012
2:18 pm

Vince Dooley played the bad apple card on Isaiah Crowell
but not Zach Mettenburger.

Joe Falcon

August 25th, 2012
2:19 pm

While I’m glad that my Dawgs cut him loose (keeping him would have sent a poor message to the other team members, and the parents of potential recruits), I truly hope that he turns his life around, at Alabama State.

I’ll be pulling for him.

Ed Pilcher

August 25th, 2012
2:19 pm

They already had to discipline him twice?

Second verse, same as the first.

Ed Pilcher

August 25th, 2012
2:22 pm

Mary Mac…….Mettenburger had misdomeaner charges compared to two felony charges for Crowell.

I don’t condone what Mettenburger did, but the charges are apples to oranges.

Vince was right on the money in his assesment of Crowell.

Ed Pilcher

August 25th, 2012
2:22 pm

And Richt was right to kick Mettenburger out, too.

dick whiskey

August 25th, 2012
2:32 pm

he reminds me of a running back named lawrance phillips that played for nebraska back in the 90’s tons of talent but could not stay out of trouble, probably working at mcdonalds today ,or in prison

2 old dawg

August 25th, 2012
2:43 pm

Laurence Phillips had a “career” in professional football and is now in prison. Google it.

2 old dawg

August 25th, 2012
2:46 pm

L-a-w-r-e-n-c-e. Pardon me.

mambo

August 25th, 2012
2:46 pm

It’s obvious that crowell is still a punk who thinks he’s bigger than his team. I don’t know how old he is, and I don’t care. But, he is old enough to be on time to team events. What a punk!

The Truth

August 25th, 2012
2:50 pm

The Dawgs are better off without Crowell and his shenanigans. The guy couldn’t take a hit, didn’t run tough, and took every opportunity to stand on the sideline when faced with even the least bit of adversity. Off the field, he was a slow moving train wreck – gun with the serial filed off, twitter pics of himself stoned out of his mind…it was one brilliant move after another. Best of luck at Alabama State – you’re going to need it.

The Truth

August 25th, 2012
2:52 pm

Dick – the difference is that Lawrence Phillips was actually talented. Crowell is nowhere near the athlete or running back that Phillips was.

mambo

August 25th, 2012
2:53 pm

Jeff, why are you hanging around this punk who now goes to a school whose stadium is across the street from a housing project? At least Sanford Stadium is 2 blocks from a housing project.

Jlew

August 25th, 2012
2:56 pm

I believe in 2nd chances, but he had many more than that at UGA. And those were just the ones that were made public. I hope he can turn his life around, but it sounds like it has even been a slow process at Alabama St. At some point he is going to have to decide for himself that he must mature. I agree that being made a “celebrity” during his life/high school years are part of the problem.

2 old dawg

August 25th, 2012
2:58 pm

What are you people gaining by continuing to bash Crowell? You’re preaching to the choir. Everyone on here knows his history. Give it a rest.

Boo

August 25th, 2012
3:00 pm

Wish Ic well!!

The Truth

August 25th, 2012
3:02 pm

Crowell will play in the NFL…He made poor decisions and understands he messed up…He will probaly will run behind a better line at Bama State…he gained almost 900 yards behind a line playing 4 guards and a center…Mettenberger pulled a young lady breasts out in public and was banned from Valdosta, and he is about to start for LSU, I hear no complaints about that…hmm…DOG fans should worry about why UGa has not beat a good team in 3 years?…..

Dawgfan0711

August 25th, 2012
3:18 pm

The truth- one of the “guards” you referenced is the starting LT for the Bills as a rookie, I think we had a very capable OT on the line last year.

Beast from the East

August 25th, 2012
3:20 pm

Waste of talent.

SEC Fact Finder

August 25th, 2012
3:20 pm

I visited State a few days ago, and watched maybe 30 minutes of practice. I spoke to a couple of coaches who said that IC was not acting like a 5 star player, and that while he has been there he has been very modest and low key. They all see he is a special player that requires others to monitor his time and insure he is busy and is not part of the wrong group of people. Camp is one thing, once school starts will be when either he moves forward or reverts back to his old core.

Certain players, whether they are High School, College or even Pro Players sometimes have to remove themselves from their old friends and habits. Ray Lewis had to do it years ago, Rolando McClain was told to not go back to Decatur where his “old running buddies” were and drawing him into their dramas.
IC should do the same with Columbus and all those old behaviors will soon be a thing of the past. He and many of these young players need to learn that life is not always handed to you and growing into a man is not always the easiest thing to do.

Good Luck to IC and All of your Teams this fall.

Ed Pilcher

August 25th, 2012
3:27 pm

2 old dawg…….What do you mean by ‘you’ people?