Brandon Crawford, a 6'3" 275-pound defensive end out of Ball State, is very unlikely to be drafted, despite the fact that he has the rarest of qualities in an NFL rookie: life experience and extreme maturity.
He has these things because he's 33 years old.
Mark Craig of StarTribune.com details Crawford's circuitous route to the NFL. A few college programs recruited him out of high school, but he had some personal problems -- namely, a "mishap with a friend's stolen car" -- that derailed his football career.
He kicked around at some odd jobs and ended up working on the assembly line at an automotive factory. He left that job to join the Marines, and after that, with the military helping to pay for his education, he walked on at Ball State. Four years later, he had started 39 games and made second-team all-conference.
Now, he's looking to get drafted.
"But age is just a number," said Crawford, "If you take the age factor out of it and just look at the abilities and character that I have, I think that's the secret with me."
"I think I'll be drafted because if I thought any less of myself, I wouldn't be where I am today," said Crawford. "If I'm not, so be it. I always push myself to go higher, believe higher."
I hate to be a pessimist, but he's probably not going to be drafted. He was not invited to the combine. He mentioned taking "the age factor out of it," but NFL teams aren't going to do that. It's not because he can't play, but it's because he can't play for very long. Even if he adapts to the NFL game immediately and becomes a contributor, what kind of longevity can a team expect?
I'm not doubting the guy, and I honestly wish him the best. His shot won't be coming from the draft, though; it'll come from being signed as an undrafted free agent. And even then, he's going to have to be twice as good as a 21-year-old to beat the younger guy out for the roster spot.
I don't see that as impossible. If Crawford wasn't a quality player with immeasurable heart and determination, he wouldn't have made it as far as he has. There's just no way I'm going to doubt a Marine who walked on to a college football team at the age of 29. Guys with that kind of drive just don't get counted out.
Whether it's the NFL, a practice squad, the UFL or Arena Football, my money is on Crawford playing professional football somewhere next year.