Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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16 SEPT. 19, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MATT JONES A bout a month before the sea- son, a reporter asked Notre Dame sophomore cornerback Shaun Crawford a fairly simple question. Had Crawford — who missed all of the 2015 season with a torn ACL — made a play or had a moment where he felt like he was back to his pre-in- jury form? The former St. Edward (Ohio) High School standout said at the time he hadn't, but was hoping for one or two "jaw-droppers" in the season opener against Texas. Crawford, all 5-9 and 185 pounds of him, was one of Notre Dame's few bright spots on defense against the Longhorns, making several highlight- reel plays to spark the Irish in the sec- ond half. His first was a tipped ball interception in the third quarter, which he returned 22 yards to set up an Irish touchdown. His second big moment, though, was much larger. After fifth-year se- nior defensive tackle Jarron Jones blocked Trent Domingue's extra point late in the game, Crawford scooped up the ball and returned it for a two-point conversion to tie the game at 37. "Pick it up and return it," Crawford said of his split-second thought pro- cess. "I was kind of hesitant at first, but I just had great preparation. Coach [Scott] Booker talks a lot about scoring on special teams, and I just saw an op- portunity. We needed those points." Crawford finished with five tackles to go with the interception in Notre Dame's 50-47 double-overtime loss. He played 84 snaps on defense, the third most of any Irish player. An undersized but natural athlete, Crawford said after the game it took him about a series to settle into a com- fortable flow. Then once the Longhorns tested him on a seam pass into the end zone, a ball that fell incomplete, he was ready to play. "They were going to come after me, and I had to be ready," Crawford said. Two days after the game, Crawford posted two pictures of himself on Ins- tagram. In one, he was shown just days after his August 2015 knee surgery, a long way from getting back. The sec- ond showed Crawford celebrating his two-point conversion in the end zone in Austin. Crawford posted the following cap- tion to accompany the photos: "You would have to know what I've been through to see the man that I'm be- coming. #1yearlater." In an ideal world, Crawford's impact would have happened a year earlier. Proclaimed by head coach Brian Kelly as a starter at nickel back shortly before he was lost for the season, Crawford — a former four-star prospect and the highest-ranked cornerback of the Kelly era at No. 7 nationally according to Rivals — spent the season focusing on the mental side of the game. The injury preserved Crawford's freshman year of eligibility, meaning he essentially redshirted the 2015 sea- son. Going from a projected major role as a rookie to a season lost to injury was a dramatic swing of emotions for Crawford. ONE YEAR LATER … Cornerback Shaun Crawford has relied on perseverance and dedication in his short time at Notre Dame Crawford notched five tackles and an interception plus returned a blocked extra point for a two-point conversion in his debut against Texas. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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