Godfather on WVU’s Crawford: ‘You all ain’t seen nothing yet’
Justin Crawford’s Godfather predicts a big year for the senior WVU running back.
By: Angelia Barnett
An Interview with Anthony Sanders, Godfather of WVU Running Back Justin Crawford.
Anthony Sanders met Justin Crawford when the now-star running back was in the ninth grade, the summer before his sophomore year at Hardaway High School in Columbus Georgia. Sanders, the the school’s basketball, became Crawford’s mentor and father figure.
During Crawford’s high school years, he moved in with Sanders and his wife Lynn. Like any struggling teen, Crawford had been moving from house to house until settling in with the Sanders family. All through high school, he thrived at basketball and football.
The first year they met, Sanders saw several teachers running out of the cafeteria toward him shouting, “Hey Coach you’ve got to see this!” Well the “this” was Crawford lining up two long cafeteria tables and jumping them.
“That’s just Justin,” Sanders told Blue Gold Sports.
Crawford is a humble and open person. He is also a very quiet type of person, which has been witnessed plenty of times.
“He’s always been nervous about interviews. I told him he’s got to get over that and once he starts talking, there’s no problem,” Sanders said.
Sanders joked: “Waking up to go to practice is no problem. Waking up to do chores around the house, now there’s your problem!”
But he followed up the light-hearted joke with much praise.
“We’re very proud of him,” Sanders said with pride in his voice.
Turning to his senior year, Crawford was turning 19, which meant he was unable to participate in high school sports in Georgia. Anthony and Maurice, Justin’s uncle, sought out to see what they could do.
They contacted Northwest Mississippi Community College’s football coach. Justin had to graduate early from high school in order to attend NMCC. This would be the first real time Crawford would be away from his “family” even if he did originate from Gainesville, Fla.
His first year at NMCC was a tedious one. He became a young father with his wife Chakeya. But true to form, Crawford’s second year became his signature year.
Sanders said that Justin’s second year is always the year — his first year at NMCC, he only broke some records and they made it to the playoffs.
“I told his coach to get ready for a big year the next year. A championship,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the coach just laughed. Well, guess what happened. Crawford’s second year at NMCC, he broke all the records and they won the national championship.
“His coached looked at me as they entered the playoffs. I smiled and said, ‘Be ready and give the ball to Justin,” Sanders recalled. “He becomes stronger and stronger each carry he has of the ball.”
Then came WVU.
“Coming to West Virginia is a story within itself,” Sanders said.
Crawford had it narrowed down to WVU and Missouri. He went to visit Missouri and called Sanders telling him that he liked Missouri. Crawford also told Sanders, “I don’t think I want to go to WVU.”
“I told him to go and see what they were offering. He goes up to West Virginia and three hours later, I kid you not, Justin calls and says, ‘I’m going to WVU,'” said Sanders. “I asked him what did they offer you that made you turn so quickly? Justin says, “(former running backs coach JaJuan) Seider, he reminds me of you.”
Little do people know that Alabama also came into play three hours before Crawford signed with WVU. They couldn’t offer him what WVU could— the chance to play.
Imagine Dana Holgorsen pacing in front of the fax machine because it wasn’t cooperating and how it was said that he jumped up screaming when he finally received Crawford’s letter.
“Some people don’t give Justin the credit he deserves or maybe it’s the protective side of me” said Sanders. “I turn on the TV and hear them say how he hasn’t proven himself and I think, ‘You all ain’t seen nothing yet!’ Greatness is written on his birth certificate,” said Sanders with a smile. “God has blessed him.”
When Seider left to coach at Florida this offseason, Crawford had some hesitation, but he has grown close to his new running backs coach, Tony Dews. Sanders talked about how coachable Crawford is and how coaches should tell him what you need and he’ll do it.
“Justin gets stronger every time he touches the ball. He can run in snow, sleet, rain, no matter what,” Sanders said.
Weather may not be a factor, but a forecast for this year?
Sanders says, “Remember that Justin’s second year is always his epic year.”