Jack Crawford Reflects On Time As A Nittany Lion, Penn State Child Sex Abuse Scandal
Ten years have passed since the scandal involving former Penn State head coach Joe Paterno and defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. During that time, the Penn State football program and school itself has been able to grow and move past that dark period.
That change is something former Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford is happy to see.
Crawford was a two-time honorable-mention All-Big Ten selection and was on the Penn State team that won the 2008 Big Ten Championship.
After graduating, Crawford became a fifth-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft going to the Oakland Raiders. Crawford has played for five NFL teams, including the Arizona Cardinals, who he currently plays for.
Crawford played for the Nittany Lions from 2008-2011 during the child sex abuse scandal and the fallout that followed happening during his senior season.
CommRadio football insider Logan Bourandas spoke with Crawford on how he first started playing football, his time at Penn State and what he thinks about the scandal ten years later.
Bourandas: You had come over from a completely new country to play a different sport, how did you end up moving over to the gridiron?
Crawford: I was completely new to the sport and I came over originally to play basketball. I came over my sophomore year of high school. I was going to a basketball camp in New Jersey and I had to sit out for the whole year cause they introduced a new international transfer rule so I couldn’t just start up and play.
During that year, I couldn’t play any high school sport so that’s when I kinda learned more about American football. I used to go to the games after school ‘cause I was there anyway and I would see the football games and that was kind of my introduction to the sport.
At first I didn’t want to do it, I primarily wanted to focus on basketball. But after watching the games, I didn’t even understand the rules but I felt like I could play it.
Bourandas: Moving onto your college career, how were you initially recruited to play for Penn State?
Crawford: After my first year of playing football in my junior year of high school, I had interest from schools all over. There were a lot of schools coming to visit me, all of the Big Ten schools, I had schools from down South, all the Big East schools that would come to visit because I was big and could run.
It kinda came down to me. Penn State was on the radar because they were fairly local. I liked that Penn State was a big school but they were only four hours away from New Jersey where I was living at the time.
For me, it was between Penn State and Ohio State and Ohio State was cool but it was a little too far and I liked the coaching staff at Penn State at the time better.
Bourandas: Do you have a favorite memory while playing for Penn State?
Crawford: That’s a good question. I’ve got a ton of good memories, a lot of them on the field, a lot of them off the field.
Actually at first, I’ll be honest I hated it. I hated Penn State cause it’s in the middle of nowhere. Coming from a big city like London, I was used to being able to move around. I was used to being in a location surrounded by millions of people whereas Penn State is secluded, there’s not much out there aside from farmland and just grass and hills.
To me, I felt landlocked. I felt like I was trapped there and that first year there I felt so out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be back in New Jersey, around people feeling comfortable.
But then after the first season I played freshman year, that’s when I was closer with my teammates and my friends. I made friends outside of the team, I felt more comfortable and I started to love it after that.
There’s nothing like making a big play in Beaver Stadium in front of a whiteout or in front of the fanbase, one of the best fanbases in college football. For me, it’s hard to say what play exactly but just making a play in front of the fans that’s one of the memories.
I can still remember the feeling but I can’t remember the exact game or play it was, but I remember the adrenalin rush you get making a play in Beaver Stadium in a night game or something like that which is pretty special.
Bourandas: Now moving on to your senior year, you were there during the Jerry Sandusky scandal, what was it like being there going through all that?
Crawford: It’s kind of misleading because everything that had happened had happened like the years before, almost over a decade before, but it came out a decade later. When I was in my senior year, it came out publicly.
It was kind of weird at the time because we were doing things like calling team meetings in the middle of the day which wasn’t normal so everybody was like ‘what’s going on?’ We were finding out everything on TV at the same time as everyone else so we really didn’t have a clue of what was happening.
We had a meeting, and Joe had a team meeting where he said this is gonna be his last year and everybody was kind of shocked. But we were also finding out about the situation on TV at the time, so we were understanding what was going on at the same time as everybody else.
From the outside on the news, it looked a lot worse than on the inside. The team was okay, we lost our game after that, but it was like a distraction.
We felt almost like bystanders in the situation too. We didn't feel like we could do anything or like it directly impacted us on the field that day, it was just more of like a Penn State thing that affected the whole university from the outside.
For us on the team, it happened so quickly that it didn’t really take effect until people come ask you about it. It’s just like something that happened years ago but we couldn’t do nothing about it. We were so far detached from it that we didn’t feel much of the consequence from it, but from the outside in it seemed like it was crazy but it wasn’t that bad.
Bourandas: Last question I have for you: Now, it’s been ten years since those events, do you still think about them now?
Crawford: No, not at all.
That was like 10 years before I was there so for me, now, that was like 20 years ago. I didn’t know who Sandusky was ‘cause first of all I’m coming from a different country and I just liked the sport, I didn’t know anything about Penn State history. I really didn’t know much about Joe Paterno and everyone was telling me how big Joe Paterno was and how much of a legend he was.
To me, I had no idea who that was, or what was significant about Penn State football, the tradition, the team… I really didn’t care about a lot of that stuff. I liked the coach I had, which at the time was Larry Johnson who was a good defensive line coach and it was close to home and it was a big time school, that was what kinda influenced my decision.
The scandal, I don’t think about it now. The culture has probably changed for the better in some ways since then, but yeah it was a weird experience as a player. We were there but we weren’t there during the events. And none of us knew Sandusky, he wasn’t in the building when we were there so we didn’t get to see who he was.
Everything kind of unfolded and as it came out publicly, we learned about the information too. It was one of those things that went pretty deep but I can’t say I think about it now.
Just yesterday, I was with a few alumni from Penn State. We all got together down here in Atlanta, it’s not one of those things that's brought up in conversation cause none of us think about it.
We all talk about the team when we were there together, we talk about the different teams, the different games, different players on the team, the plays... just things that stuck out to us, the parties and stuff we went to and things like that. Those were some of the things that we spoke about.
Just going to Penn State for me was an experience I’m gonna hold with me forever and I’m really happy I decided to go there. I’ve still got some good friends from there and I loved my time there.
Logan Bourandas is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Third-Year / Broadcast Journalism