One of the players that the Cleveland Browns picked up after the NFL Draft was Alabama State running back Isaiah Crowell. While that name may not mean much to the average fan, plenty of people remember him as being the top running back prospect coming out of high school that announced his intention to go to Georgia with a bulldog puppy on signing day, followed by a productive freshman year, being named as the SEC Freshman of the Year. Crowell was ultimately dismissed from Georgia that summer and transferred to the SWAC. After playing a couple seasons at Alabama State, Crowell now has his opportunity in the NFL and Ray Farmer seems to believe in the young man, which could be the last piece to completely overhauling the running back position on the Browns.
Georgia has been a football program that is constantly associated with players that have been arrested or been suspended for various reasons, with a number of them ultimately having to finish their careers elsewhere. For Crowell, a felony arrest for weapons charges in June in 2012 was basically the final straw. Crowell has since called the arrest ‘childish’, but that was not the only childish behavior he exhibited in Athens. Reportedly, Crowell had a reputation for instigating issues with teammates as well.
Despite the fact that Crowell was successful as a true freshman rushing for 850 yards at 4.59 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns, his life off the field was a mess. Crowell lost a close friend as well as a nephew that year. He also had a child of his own that year. The culmination of all of these things caused Crowell to act out and not be the person he wanted to be. In the end, it cost him his opportunity to carry the football for the Bulldogs.
Crowell is telling anyone that will listen he is a changed man; that he has grown up and become a better person for going through everything he did. The NFL was not convinced enough for a team to draft him, but Farmer and the Browns made it a priority to bring him to Cleveland as a priority free agent, giving him a $10,000 bonus to sign here.
In a recent interview with Tony Grossi, Farmer mentioned Crowell as an under the radar player that could have an impact this year. Along with Ben Tate and fellow rookie Terrence West, Crowell brings size, strength and speed. At 5’11” 224lbs, Crowell showed explosiveness at the combine as well as raw power, though his 40 time was relatively average. For a team that has put a substantial emphasis on running the football this year and establishing an identity in that area, having a player of Crowell’s talent and press clippings potentially as the third guy could be huge.
Crowell’s opportunity represents a chance for him to play with a clean slate but also may represent a clean slate for the running back position as a whole in Cleveland. Dion Lewis showed some ability last year, but he may have a difficult time making this year’s roster. As a result, the Browns could completely turn over the entire running back group from last season that featured names like Trent Richardson, dog foo… Willis McGahee, Edwin Baker and Bobby Rainey. This year’s group will have Ben Tate, Terrence West and if he can stay focused and out of trouble, Isaiah Crowell with the Browns having to decide if they want to keep a fourth back on the active roster, which could then be Lewis.
Crowell has taken a rocky road to get to the NFL, but now he is here and he has his chance to prove all of his doubters wrong and be successful at the next level. Farmer has sounded enthusiastic about Crowell, so the hope is that is an indication of his attitude and appreciation for his opportunity here. If Crowell takes advantage of the opportunity, the Browns potentially have a three-headed monster in the backfield that can take some much needed pressure off of the quarterback, control the clock and give them a new look on Sundays this fall. Crowell’s redemption on and off the field could help key Browns contention on it.