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Notre Dame Football

Captain Shaun Crawford Moves into Playmaking Role for Notre Dame

September 11, 2020

Shaun Crawford would be the last person to look for sympathy, but if you need a feel-good story in 2020, this would be it. 

The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder has battled from back from two ACL tears (2015,2018), a torn Achilles (2016) and then dislocated his elbow last season that cost him two games because of torn ligaments. 

Crawford will now get his turn to lead the Fighting Irish as he was named a captain earlier this week and it's been a long time coming. 

"It means a lot to me," Crawford stated. "I'm just grateful for the opportunity, grateful for this group of guys who voted for me. A lot of the teammates that I have currently weren't with me when I got here on campus and so for me to just make an impact on the new guys and still have a voice and still be a leader in the locker room to many of the young guys and then some of the guys who were also here with me throughout this journey, I'm just grateful and I'm honored."

The Lakewood (Ohio) native is known more as a 'lead by example' kind of personality, but Crawford has become more vocal as the team rolled with the punches 2020 has thrown. 

"This whole year, honestly, it has been a tough one for all of us," Crawford explained. "It has been a different one. So, my leadership had to step up and I answered the call and I was just grateful to be in this leadership role, to have a lot of young guys in the DB room and so I was able to lead them first and then just carry on to the next group of the defense, and then talk to whoever else needed me. I'm just excited. I'm grateful. A lot of close friends that I have were captains here, so I'm just grateful that I get to join that group of guys in just a long line of tradition here."

Crawford will also have a different role on the field this fall, which wasn't in Notre Dame's initial plans when they started camp in August. Defensive coordinator Clark Lea had used Crawford at safety in some sub-packages last year, but Crawford meshed with safety Kyle Hamilton and made plays over the last month. 

"He won that position," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly stated on Monday. "We didn't come into camp expecting him to win it. We came into camp expecting him to be a place-holder at that position. He went out and won that position. We are a better football team with Shaun playing the safety position."

Not only will Crawford bring timely playmaking (think MSU 2017), but this will be his fourth season in the same defense, which gives him and Lea confidence. 

"I think that was just the plan for this year, as well just to get some reps just to stay up on things just in case," explained Crawford. "I was there maybe a little longer than they expected. I got comfortable. Then I started making some plays. I was communicating the defense and I was just being a vocal leader back there. I kind of just felt at home back there and the coaches saw the same thing, just with my playmaking ability and my ability to tackle. 

"I think we all thought it was a great opportunity for me. I also thought it was a smooth transition just because me being able to play corner and nickel in previous years. It's sort of similar. It's just from a different angle. All the calls are pretty much the same thing, just looking at a different key now. With my experience at corner and my experience at nickel, I'm pretty confident in my ability at safety as well just because I think it will all translate."

It's a move Crawford is more than fine with as he's also looked up to more than a few safeties over his career. The move will also likely allow him to build off his 28 tackles, one tackle for loss and interception in 2019. 

"I never thought I'd be starting as a safety," said Crawford. "It was always in the back of my mind, just like a dream that I had, just because some of my favorite players play safety, like Tyrann Mathieu, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu, Budda Baker. Those are some people that I've looked up to - that I try to model my game after. Although they've been safeties most of the career, I've just tried to take the physicality, the instincts, the playmaking skills that they have and just put it into my game wherever I am on the field. 

"I was talking to some past safeties, Jalen (Elliott) and Alohi (Gilman), as well as Nicco (Fertitta). Any questions that I have, just reach out to them just to try to get me up to speed on things, as well as Kyle (Hamilton). Although he's young, he's played the position longer than me. I just lean on him. We lean on each other and it's just a great mix back there with us."

Elliott and Gilman might be in the NFL, but they've been more than willing to help their former teammate and friend out as he makes the transition full-time. 

"I played a little safety last year for a few weeks and so I leaned on heavily then too," stated Crawford. "They were great while they were here, just getting me up to speed, teaching me all of the calls, teaching me all of the reads and things like that. Still, now I'll send them some film and we'll talk ball. We're in a group chat still. I'll shoot them any questions that I have. 

"They'll shoot me some videos of what they're doing and what they did when they were here, so it's just good to just bounce ideas off each other or get film back and forth with one another. It's just been great. I'll probably talk to them today. I'm sure they reached out to me just about the captain stuff, but yeah, we have a tight friendship and we say in communication constantly." 

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