From enlisted man to draftee?

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NFL Combine Feeling YoungBrandon Crawford may turn out to be the feel-good story of this year’s NFL draft. Sure, the former Marine is a long shot to get picked, but he’s overcome the odds before.

Once a promising high school prospect, Crawford’s hope of playing college football went down the drain after getting arrested his senior year. But Crawford persevered, working in a factory for a short time and eventually enlisting in the Marine Corps.

After leaving the Corps in 2003 with an honorable discharge, Crawford walked on at Ball State — 10 years after he last played a down — and eventually became a starting defensive lineman for the Cardinals. He made 2nd team All-MAC twice and even stuck it to his old employer twice — first by blocking a field goal in a memorable 2007 game against Navy, and then by racking up four tackles in another win against the Mids the following season.

If Crawford, 33, gets drafted — and that’s a big if — he’ll become the oldest player picked in the NFL draft. By five years.

Crawford’s unusual path to pro football was chronicled on the front of the New York Times sports page on Sunday. A former NFL personnel guru pointed out just how much the odds are stacked against Crawford.

“He’s got the intangibles you’re looking for; you just wish he was 23,” said Reed Johnson, a former personnel executive for the Atlanta Falcons who saw Crawford work out. “Maybe he’s on a developmental squad. But what are you developing at 33 years old? You have to make that decision where you want to spend your money.”

It’s hard not to root for Crawford. Even if he’s not drafted, hopefully he can sign somewhere as a free agent and put on a helluva performance at training camp this summer.

Here’s a video on Crawford that includes highlights and interviews with Ball State coaches. As you might expect, the field goal block against Navy is featured prominently.

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