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Perseverance Helps Darrel Crutchfield Overcome Injury

Oct. 18, 2000

By Shipp Daniel Sports Information Student AssistantThe Maryland Game Program – October 14, 2000

Mr. Webster defines the word “perseverance” as “the act of persisting in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counter influences, opposition, or discouragement.”

Perseverance is something with which Clemson cornerback Darrel Crutchfield is all too familiar. He has displayed perseverance many times throughout his high school and college football career.

Crutchfield began playing football while in the fifth grade, following in his older brother Derrick’s footsteps. He played his prep football career at Raines High School in Jacksonville, FL, where his football talent and determination became evident. Raines High School is the same school that produced current Clemson Tiger wide receiver Rod Gardner, as well as past Tiger standouts Brian Dawkins and Patrick Sapp.

Crutchfield’s patience were first tested his junior year of high school when he broke his thumb. The injury caused him to miss five games, but he still had four interceptions that season. Displaying his ability to overcome adversity, Crutchfield completed a superb high school career, earning All-America honors from two publications as well as receiving numerous All-State accolades.

After he graduated from high school in 1997, he continued to display his tenacity and desire to succeed as he began his collegiate career.

In order to move out from under the shadow of these Tiger playmakers, Crutchfield had to display a desire to succeed on the field and in the weight room. He had to continuously fight to achieve and maintain his level of play. After all, he also wanted to make a name for himself by being yet another standout from Raines High School.

Last season as a junior, Crutchfield worked extremely hard to earn playing time in the defensive backfield. He suffered through the infamous two-a-days, the strenuous workouts in 100+ degree weather, and the rigorous weight lifting programs. Turns out that his hard work paid off – Crutchfield was getting playing time, and he was doing well. All his hard work and dedication to the Clemson football team was finally paying off when suddenly things changed.

During a special teams play during last year’s battle against Florida State, Crutchfield tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

“I was running downfield, and I shifted my weight to the right. As I did, I felt my left knee buckle, and I heard a pop,” Crutchfield painfully remembered.

After hearing the pop and realizing that something major had happened, Crutchfield simply said, “I’ll leave this in the Lord’s hands.”

It is that faith that helped him fight through the difficult rehabilitation process that included reconstructive surgery. He was brought up in church and “faith is something I knew I needed, and I knew that once I had it, I wouldn’t lose it.” Crutchfield said “It’s all about putting God first and having faith that everything would be alright if I worked hard.”

Working hard is just what he did.

“I have worked hard after my injuries because I didn’t want to let my team down,” Crutchfield said. “They count on me and I kept that in sight. That was the main thing that motivated me to work hard and get back on the field.”

Crutchfield has worked so hard that he has regained his position as a contributing player on the team. Today, the 6-0, 180-pound senior is back on the field competing better than ever. During this year’s Virginia game, on Sept. 23, Crutchfield played the best game of his career. He racked up a career-best seven individual tackles and broke up four passes, one of which led to an Alex Ardley interception. His four passes broken up was just one off the Clemson single-game record of five set by Perry Williams versus Virginia Tech in 1985.

When asked about his standout game against Virginia, Crutchfield said “I always knew that kind of game was coming. That’s what you work hard for.”

While he’s pleased with his performance against Virginia, he’s not completely satisfied.

“I don’t think that will be my best game of the season. I can do better.” That perseverance and hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by his coaches.

Defensive Coordinator Reggie Herring believes Crutchfield’s story is probably one of the better stories on the football team. “Darrel had major knee surgery that caused him to miss the spring and part of his junior year,” Herring said. The fact that he was able to come back and play this season, and perform as well as he has is amazing. “A lot of men would have thrown in the towel after an injury like that. Darrel didn’t. Therefore, he will be a better person in the long run and Clemson University will be better also.”

Head Coach Tommy Bowden also commented on Crutchfield’s return. “It’s kind of a humbling experience to see a guy like that fight back and not sulk, and moan, and complain, but fight back and win his job back as a senior,” Bowden said. “I think that says a lot about him and how he was raised and what he’s got inside. It also sends a message to the team that when you meet a hurdle or an obstacle, don’t quit.” That message has been well received by his teammates and coaches.

They are all happy to have him back because of his contributions on the defensive side of the ball, but also because of his inspiring attitude. Crutchfield’s ability to be energetic and “bubbly” as Herring puts it makes him a valuable asset to the team.

“Darrel is the vocal leader of the team. He’s very enthusiastic,” Bowden said.

“He’s a highly motivated young man,” said wide receivers coach and recruiting coordiniator Rick Stockstill. “He is one of the best competitors on this team. He competes extremely hard at practice – just as hard as anybody and that’s why he’s so successful.”

“Darrel’s got a great personality,” Herring added. “He challenges the other guys on the practice field. You’ve got to have people like Crutchfield on your football team. He’s a pleasure to be around. He’s just a great kid with great character.” Herring went on to say that Crutchfield even “keeps me going.” It’s hard not to be proud when you receive a comment such as that from a guy like Herring, who is one of the more animated coaches on the sideline.

It is evident that Darrel Crutchfield has come through his obstacles stronger than ever, and as he said himself, his outstanding hard work and perseverance is not complete. He still has the rest of the season to show what he is capable of doing and he’s got all intentions of making that a reality.

Coach Herring agreed. “The best thing about this story is that it’s not finished yet. We’re all anxiously awaiting the end.”