Notre Dame CB Shaun Crawford staying positive despite second season-ending injury

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Shaun Crawford did not celebrate.

That’s what it may have looked like, after Notre Dame’s 5-foot-9, 185-pound sophomore cornerback leaped to his feet after breaking up a pass against Nevada on Sept. 10. A year prior, safety Drue Tranquill inadvertently spawned the Irish fan base’s celebration paranoia when he broke up a pass of his own against Georgia Tech, then proceeded to chest bump with linebacker Joe Schmidt and blow out his ACL on the landing.

Like Tranquill, Crawford made a play, then crumpled to the turf in a heap.

But appearances can be deceiving, and this was far from déjà vu.

“He was more upset with people thinking he got hurt celebrating,” Crawford’s father, John Crawford, said this week. “He said he wasn’t celebrating. He kind of jumped up because he felt like his foot was stuck in the mud. He was trying to free his foot.

“He didn’t feel a thing. He didn’t feel a pop. He just felt like his foot was stuck in mud. He was trying to pull his foot up.”

If the feeling was unfamiliar, that’s because it’s one Crawford had never experienced. He tore his left Achilles tendon, barely more than a year after tearing his right ACL in his first fall camp at Notre Dame.

The injury was different, but the anguish struck him just the same.

“When it first happened, it devastated him,” John Crawford said. “I felt bad for him. But, as close as he is to Drue (Tranquill) and seeing how Drue handled (season-ending injuries in back-to-back seasons), I think that’s helping him a lot. Guys like Matthias (Farley) have reached out to him. Even though guys have left, they’ve reached out to him and told him to stay the course.

“He proved that he can play and he belongs. He just needs to stay the course, and so far he’s doing that. Drue and Matthias have a lot to do with that. He’s handled it pretty well.”

Less than a week after his injury, Crawford took to Twitter to provide some trademark positivity.

“When going through tough times you look for people to lean on. Here at Notre Dame, after my SUCCESSFUL surgery, I didn’t need to look far,” Crawford tweeted. “Family, coaches, teammates, and friends all showed love visiting me after surgery. This injury won’t define me, it will only make me stronger and a better person on and off the field.

“My faith won’t fail me now, it will only grow stronger because I know God has something special in store for me!! In the meantime, I’m cheering on Team 12! #GoIrish #20”

Since the injury, Crawford has been able to do little more than cheer. His father reports that, thus far, Shaun’s recovery — which typically spans six to nine months — has progressed without any setbacks. The goal, of course, is to return in 2017 as an improved version of the player who nabbed an interception and returned a blocked extra point for a score in his first collegiate game against Texas.

“That was an amazing feeling. That was something I’ll never forget,” said John Crawford, who attended the Texas game alongside the rest of his family. “To actually see him make an interception, it just brought back a lot of memories and it’s something I’ll always be proud of.

“His first varsity game as a freshman (in high school) against their rival, St. Ignatius, he got an interception and a nice return. His first game at Notre Dame he got an interception. So it was a thrill. It was a real thrill.”

As long as his foot heals properly, Crawford will provide more thrills in the future. He’ll have other chances to celebrate.

Still, John Crawford can’t help but wonder what Notre Dame’s season would have looked like if his son — thought to be one of the premier playmakers on the Irish defense — never caught his foot on the turf.

“Him and Max (Redfield) and (Devin) Butler and (Nick) Watkins, he’s keeping in contact with those guys, and he says they all feel like they kind of let (fired defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder down by not being able to be there,” John Crawford said.

“Some guys made mistakes. Some guys got injured. But they all feel like it could have been a little different if they all were there.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Notre Dame’s Shaun Crawford (20) leaves the field with an injury during the Notre Dame-Nevada NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN