Human by day, animal by night
|Crawford (click for larger version)|
August 03, 2011 | 08:24 AMGeneva Township — A suit and tie by day. A bloody face and black eye by night.
Walworth County Public Works Director and Deputy County Administrator Shane Crawford, 33, isn't your average football player.
Crawford sits at his desk in his office on a Friday afternoon, decked out in a dress shirt and tie. But there's a dark bruise on his face. A couple days earlier in a game against the Racine Threat, the 6-foot-1, 205-pound defensive lineman for the Lake Geneva Generals took a helmet strike to the face, leaving him bloodied and battered.
None of that matters to Crawford. He knows it's just part of a game he never played until this year. A 4-foot-11, 95-pound basketball player in high school, Crawford became a gym rat in his mid-20s and is now a force for the undefeated Generals.
In four games, Crawford has compiled 2.5 sacks and nine tackles. Not too shabby for a guy in his first year of organized football. In Saturday's 34-12 win over Monona Grove, he had a sack and five tackles including one for a loss. Generals coach Derek Diehl sung Crawford's praises Monday.
"Shane is a team favorite," Diehl said. "Everyone supports him. He's a sponge, and he soaks in all the help he can get."
The Regional News caught up with Crawford Friday at the Walworth County Public Works Department to discuss playing football, the success of the Generals and his unofficial fan club.
RN: When did you start hitting the gym?
SC: Around 2002, when I was a county administrator in Buffalo County, one of my best friends, a physical therapist, lived with me. He was like, "You should just start doing this with me." I hit it hard for awhile then took a break. About two years ago, I probably started spending two to three hours in the weight room. After a long day, there's nothing better than pounding it out on the weights. My wife is in Germany becoming a judge, so I have a lot of spare time on my hands. The closest thing we have to a kid is a football-sized dog that sleeps 20 hours a day.
RN: How did you find out about the Generals?
SC: I hit it hard and got to be a big guy. Geneva National has an awesome fitness facility. It's nice because I usually have the place to myself. A guy brought it up in the weight room back in January. He told me to take a look. I e-mailed Jeni Diehl (Derek Diehl's wife) and was asked if I played high school or college football. But I'm not that guy. I never played football. However, she told me to come check it out.
RN: So what happened when you showed up at practice?
SC: I showed up and ran through some drills. I put up 225 pounds 18 times. Derek said, "I don't know what you're going to play, but you have a spot on the team." At least I could do something right. My goal was just to survive a tryout, then it was to make the team. My next goal was to play, not just be on the team. I remember practicing outside in April and freezing my butt off. Derek started me at linebacker, and I had a sack and an interception in a preseason game. I give Derek credit because he had to dumb down defensive end for me and was like, "Go kill the quarterback." Then my goal was to start, and I've started every game.
RN: As a guy in his 30s, how taxing is the sport on your body?
SC: I'm pretty careful about my diet, and I work out every day. I do a lot of cardio. But our games are Saturday, and I don't feel good until Wednesday. I might be fit, but I'm old with 34-year-old knees. Sometimes it's brutal. I took some pretty heavy hits in the Racine game. My brother jokes with me that I'm having a mid-life crisis at age 34. He said guys retire at 34. But he came to see us play, and he saw it's the real deal.
RN: Semi-pro ball is sometimes referred to as the "working man's NFL." What has been the reaction from your Walworth County co-workers?
SC: Everyone around here knows. I came in on a Monday with my with eye swollen shut and a big gash. We always have a "blunder of the week" award, and I won it once. County Board Supervisor Dave Weber's son-in-law is one of my defensive coaches. With Derek, you can miss practice if it's family or work-related, but if you miss practice, you're not starting.
RN: What are your strengths on the field?
SC: I'm a defensive lineman but sometimes I will drop in pass coverage. Derek has this notion I'm quick, but I've always been the slowest guy. But when I'm against a 300-pound guy, I look quick. We usually run a 4-3 or 4-4. Justin Ankley is a stud lineman from UW-Whitewater, and he makes my job very easy. I don't have my technique down, but I'm slowly refining my skills.
RN: What's harder: staring down a 6-foot-5, 300-pounder or crunching the county budget numbers?
SC: Obviously, work takes a lot more out of me. They're both challenging. There are times when I can walk away from the most hard-hitting practice and feel good. Here, it's eight or 10-hour days. This isn't a pretty budget season. Just like Derek, (County Administrator David) Bretl puts together a program here where you're never set up to fail. He'll always help you through it. Every single year, we get through the budget. Work always come first, but the Generals is my release. I knew I liked football, I just didn't know if I could compete at this age.
RN: How long do you want to play?
SC: I've achieved my goal of making the team. This might be my first and last year. It's something I've never done. I played basketball in high school, but I didn't play much. My parents would sit through my two minutes of mop-up time and they'd love it. Unfortunately, my mom passed away a few years back, but she'd be the first one in the stands screaming, "rip that guy's head off." My dad, who lives in Manitowoc, hasn't missed a game yet.
RN: You guys are undefeated at 4-0. Can you win it all this year?
SC: Derek has attracted the talent to do it. People like to play for him, he's an inspirational guy. He doesn't play favorites, and he calls a spade a spade. We're all friends. We hang out at each other's houses, but on the field it's all business. Everything is clicking.
RN: How is the team chemistry?
SC: We embrace differences. Our youngest guy is 18, and the oldest is 38. When I first walked out there, the guys thought it was cool I was some old guy who never played football before. There is some tutoring from the older to younger guys.
RN: Being so embedded in Walworth County, how good are the Generals for the county?
SC: This is great. The stands are packed. In our first game, fans had to be moved closer together so everyone could sit down. I didn't know what the public response would be, but it's big. We had a fan bus go to the game Saturday in Madison. It's good for the community. There's been an outpouring of sponsors. Derek and Jeni do a great job of recruiting sponsors, and we reward them by getting there after the game and getting people there during the week.
RN: Why football? What do you love about it?
SC: I'm a competitive guy. Against Racine, I just wanted to eat the guy up, and he was getting frustrated. I was getting the best of him, and he hit me across the face with his helmet. I don't hate the guy for it. He got kicked out of the game. It was rough, and I was bleeding. That's football. The fans were going crazy, and that's what football is all about.
RN: Derek said the Generals had a meet-and-greet with the Williams Bay players? Why is it important to interact with them?
SC: There is this brotherhood with the Bay guys. They watched us practice once before their practice. Derek is a football mastermind and knows the game. The high school level can only benefit from watching us. I wish I would've had a good mentoring system. I am looking forward to helping the kids in the weight room.