Published on January 19th, 2020 | by Percy Crawford0
Catching Up With Nebraska Great and Heisman Trophy Winner, Eric Crouch
Eric Crouch was a human highlight reel at the University of Nebraska. The former Cornhusker still sits atop of many records for the school at the quarterback position.
Nebraska became known for having amazing talent at the quarterback position throughout the 90’s and 00’s. The style of play was unique from the quarterback position. They weren’t the typical drop back passers. They ran a potent option that drove defensive coordinators crazy. Omaha native, Eric Crouch torched opposing defenses both with his legs and his arm. Crouch owns many of the school’s records, won several individual awards and competed for a National Title in his tenure at the school. He is Nebraska’s all-time leader rusher from the QB position with nearly 3,500 yards, he made a short-list of quarterbacks to rush for 3,000 yards while passing for 4,000 yards throughout his career. In 2001 he earned the Heisman Trophy, Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp Award.
I recently caught up with the Cornhusker legend to discuss life off the football field. We discuss his Crouch Recreation business, Terence “Bud” Crawford’s influence on Omaha as well as humbling lessons he’s learned over the years.
What did you think of this year’s college football season?
Eric Crouch: I was very happy about it.
Are you a fan of the 4-team playoff system or would you like to see them move to eight in the near future?
Eric Crouch: I don’t know. I think eventually eight is going to be a good thing. I’m in favor of a larger system. Division II has it, so I don’t know why it can’t work at this Division I level as well. Take all of the conference champions and put them in a big playoff system.
You were once in Joe Burrow’s shoes where, you won the Heisman Trophy and then competed for a National Championship. Did you feel any additional pressure because you had won that prestigious trophy?
Eric Crouch: You could let it eat you up, but I wasn’t victorious in my championship game. But I was just trying to win the game with the team that I had. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I won the Heisman and how much pressure was on me to win the National Championship game because I won it. I never looked at it like that. It was always something deeper. We were up against a really good team. That’s just the facts. We didn’t play our best game as a team, I don’t think we played our best games as individuals as well, and you put those two things together and that’s what you end up with. A Heisman Trophy but no National Championship.
You broke so many records at The University of Nebraska and won so many awards. Does any one of them stick out more than the other or collectively they all have a special place?
Eric Crouch: I think a lot of people would say, “Oh, it’s gotta be the Heisman Trophy.” That’s the one that sticks out to me the most. It’s a great award as well as the Davey O’Brien or a Walter Camp for different reasons. But also winning a conference championship was a really cool thing to me. I was on the Nebraska football team as a red-shirt freshman when we shared the National Title with Michigan in 1997. I do have a National Championship ring; I just wasn’t the guy behind center and that’s a lot different. It’s a lot different when you’re actually the guy behind center. I appreciate all my achievements individually.
Surpassing guys in the record books like, Tommie Frazier and Scott Frost who I’m sure being from Nebraska, were idols of yours is amazing.
Eric Crouch: Absolutely! I looked up to those guys and wanted to carry on the legacy, prestige and tradition of the powerhouse that Nebraska was that I remembered watching growing up. I wanted to be a part of it and those guys had a big impact on the way that I played the game, the way that I prepared for it, and the way that I approached every play from a mental and physical standpoint.
The stigma was, white dudes aren’t that fast or athletic, and you truly destroyed that stigma. Do you feel like you were perhaps underestimated because of those stigmas and in turn, made a lot of teams learn the hard way?
Eric Crouch: (Laughing)! Hey, I thought, Joe Burrow looked pretty good the other night with his legs. I think Johnny Manziel and Drew Brees looks pretty good with their legs. Trevor Lawrence can run like the wind. He just looks like a gazelle out there. I think in terms of being underestimated, I think I was underestimated in terms of my determination. I’m not the biggest, I wouldn’t even say I’m the fastest or the strongest, I just was determined. I was very competitive. I was willing to sacrifice my body for an extra inch for a first down or a touchdown. Not every player has that little extra that says, I’m gonna score, I’m gonna get the first down. I think that’s the difference. You see a lot of quarterbacks protecting themselves now; probably the smart thing to do, but it could cost games.
Football comes full circle. When you were doing it, smaller quarterbacks weren’t as prominent then. Now, not only do you see an influx of guys right at 6’0, but coordinators are running offenses based on their strengths, and that wasn’t really a thing at one point either. What is it like for you to see the evolution of football, smaller quarterbacks having success and offenses being revolved around their skill sets?
Eric Crouch: That’s a good question, I think that, the more that we look at this, like you said, full circle. There’s been a lot of quarterbacks out there that can run and throw, short and tall. And to be honest, none of that stuff even matters. What matters is if you can get your team together and win games. I think that you can underestimate anybody, but there is a reason why people lose their starting positions. There is a reason why people don’t win football games when they’re supposed to. For whatever those reasons are, that’s why the next guy will get an opportunity. You gotta find the guys that can get the team ready mentally. Someone that the team will play for. That quarterback position is unique. What we saw Monday night is two unique QB’s at the elite level. Their teams really rally around them and play for them. 25-wins in college and never getting beat… Trevor Lawrence, that’s incredible. I think Tommie Frazier had the same kind of thing. Very few guys can win that many football games as a starting quarterback and not lose. If the stars align, you have the right guys and the right coaches, the right schedule, all of these things, but they got it done. That’s the bottom line.
You have always been a favorite of mine, but when I saw that you were either a big Terence “Bud” Crawford fan because of the Omaha link or you’re a boxing fan, I gravitated to you even more being that I’m a boxing guy.
Eric Crouch: I’ve been a boxing fan my whole life. I remember growing up in the neighborhood, we put on the gloves and we had these fights down in people’s basements when their parents weren’t home; crazy stuff like that. You know what I’m saying (laughing). I like watching the UFC too, but it’s just different. I like boxing more because it’s the classic hand-to-hand combat. It’s technical. It’s all fists.
Watching and having someone like, “Bud” Crawford come out of Omaha. I don’t know how much you know about, “Bud,” but he comes from a part of Omaha that is one of the worse places in the nation in terms of black on black crimes, gangs, black on black murders. So, the impact that he can have and is having in his community, to me… he may not understand it now. He’s probably 30-years old, but each and every year that passes, he’s going to realize the impact that he’s having on his community. He’s allowing kids to understand that, they don’t have to go down that path. You can make a difference. You can make choices. Sometimes these choices almost seem impossible, everything is against you, but that’s why, “Bud” gives that bright light and that hope. Watching him fight the way that he fights; it makes me sad but happy. I know the way that he fights and the background that he came from is why he fights like that. It makes the hair on my neck stand up watching it, because I know the struggle of where he came from, so that’s the sad part, but to see him utilize it the way that he does makes me happy. I’ve been to a lot of his fights. I didn’t know a lot about, “Bud.” I just met him last year. Him being in Omaha, I was gone playing football. I didn’t come back to Nebraska fully until 2012.
To be honest, I was a big heavyweight fan, when those guys all went away, I loss track a little bit. Then the middleweights came back strong, the lighter weights. I’m a big Pacquiao fan. I love watching that guy fight. Triple G, I’m a fan of him as well. When Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya was around, those guys were so much fun to watch. Roy Jones Jr. was another one I loved. Watching boxing got me pumped to play football too. You just gotta be tough. When I watched boxing, that just made me think of how tough you gotta be to do anything in life.
You played angry like a fighter. Real raw aggression on that football field.
Eric Crouch: Yeah man! I had to. Those fights got me pumped to go out there and play.
I love how accessible guys like you and Terence Crawford are around your hometown. I think that’s important as well.
Eric Crouch: Life has humbled me in a lot of ways. Everything hasn’t gone the way I wanted it. I’m not the one in charge here. You have these hopes and dreams and things that you want out of life and sometimes you get humbled by that. Nebraska is also a humble place. It’s a small place, so you start burning bridges too quick and you find yourself all alone. You want to be helping everybody out. We’re about community and family. That’s what I love about the state of Nebraska. I love that about a lot of the athletes that have success and they come out of here. They never forget where they’re from.
Before I let you go, tell us a little bit about Crouch Recreation.
Eric Crouch: A friend of mine at the time, he’s passed away. He was an older gentleman; in his 60’s or 70’s when I bought this business. He basically just told me, “You know what, man, football is not going to lasts forever.” The wheels started to turn, and I got to thinking and I was like, “What are you talking about?” He knew a guy that was selling his business. So, I actually shadowed him for 3-months, and I ended up buying this business… I wouldn’t say out of desperation, but more out of like… security. It was like a switch went off, you know what, football is not going to lasts forever, maybe I’m not going to be the MVP of the Super Bowl and make millions of dollars and signing autographs for the rest of my life and charging $100 per autograph.
I’m just happy that it worked out the way that it did, and I had the opportunity to get into a business that you have to work hard in every day. I don’t want to say it’s a grind, but when you own your own business you’re always working and it’s a lot like playing football and being a quarterback. I’m the leader of my business. When I step into the huddle, which is when I step into my business every day, people are looking at me to call the play. I enjoy that part because that’s what I enjoyed about football. I enjoyed building relationships with my teammates and doing what I could to make them better. And then essentially doing that, made the whole team better. I didn’t know what business what about to be honest. I had to learn about all of this. But the way I approached it was pretty simple, and I just fall back on what I know. And I know football and I know hard work, and I know some of those things that it takes to be successful. Now, I have transitioned that into my professional world of recreational equipment, but 16-years later, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert still. I’m learning every day. We have a great business. We’ve built a lot of great parks and recreational facilities for communities, and we are bringing families and communities together with our projects. That’s something you can feel good about when you rest your head on a pillow at night.
That’s awesome, my man. It’s been an honor speaking with you, best of luck and if there is anything you need to get out there, don’t hesitate to give me a buzz.
Eric Crouch: Alright cool. Call me anytime.
Be sure to visit Crouch Recreation’s website at www.crouchrec.com.