The pride in Ken Crawley’s voice is unmistakable when he talks about what he did last summer.
The former Colorado cornerback had some good moments on the field during his four seasons with the Buffaloes, but ask him about the 4.0 grade-point average he achieved during summer school and he really beams.
“I was proud,” he said. “It was my first 4.0 semester since I’ve been here.”
Outside of quarterback Sefo Liufau, there may not have been an individual player criticized by fans more than Crawley this past season. As a cornerback, he’s on an island most plays and every mistake is spotlighted.
With his CU career now over, though, it’s tough to find anyone in recent memory that grew more as a player, a student and a person throughout his time in Boulder.
“By time he left, he had become a really driven and passionate young man,” said Katie Bason, CU’s director of football academics. “He’s an incredibly respectable young man who does stuff right.”
Crawley has yet to graduate, but he’s on track to do so in May. With eyes on the NFL, he has already signed with an agent and will spend this next semester training in Arizona while finishing his degree with online classes.
“He’s made some commitments to people in his life about graduating,” Bason said. “He’s a man of his word and he’s going to do absolutely everything he can to make that happen.”
Four years ago, Crawley was entering his final semester at H.D. Woodson High School in Washington D.C. He grew up in a neighborhood that lacked racial diversity and was riddled with crime.
“I lived and grew up around violence and violence in my home,” he said. “You go on the wrong turf, you might get jumped or something might happen to you.”
Back in D.C. for the holidays, Crawley said he will forever be grateful for his hometown, though. He credits D.C. for giving him the aggressiveness, toughness and competitiveness he brings to the football field.
Boulder, however, helped him grow up.
“Boulder pretty much changed me,” he said. “I felt good being around that type of environment.
“I met a lot of people, not just on the field and in the locker room. In class, I learned how to talk to people differently, how to adapt to their environment. It was a great learning experience.
“That’s where I grew up and matured as a man.”
Bason said Crawley’s ability to step out of his comfort zone and find success in Boulder is one of the most impressive things about him.
“That’s going to benefit him the rest of his life,” she said. “He learned how to go into an environment that isn’t natural to him and be successful. That’s a skill you can’t teach in the classroom.”
Crawley almost didn’t give Boulder much of a chance. A big reason he came to CU was the relationship he built with former Buffs head coach Jon Embree. When Embree was fired after Crawley’s freshman year in 2012, Crawley met with new head coach Mike MacIntyre.
“I told him I was frustrated and I was so mad and I was telling him I wanted my release,” Crawley said. “I gave him a chance in spring and I grew closer to him and I trusted him.”
Three years later, there are very few with more Buff pride than Crawley. Bason, who didn’t meet Crawley until his sophomore year, marvels at how much he changed during the past three years.
“It’s really inspirational to me and its part of the reason I love my job so much,” Bason said. “He went from, I think, not having a lot of direction academically; just wanted to do enough. By the end, I think getting his degree is one of the most important things in his life.”
While a degree is important to Crawley, so is preparing for the next level.
As frustrating as it was for some CU fans to watch Crawley give up touchdowns or untimely penalties this season, he’s got skills and potential that aren’t being ignored by NFL scouts.
“They said I have a great chance of going (to the NFL),” the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Crawley said. “It sounds like there’s a chance of me getting drafted.”
He will train at EXOS Athletes’ Performance in preparation for a professional career.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s a new process for me and I’m ready to get it started. I’m excited to go on this journey and see what’s new in my future and I’m excited with what my future holds.”
If his future is anything like his past, Crawley is sure to do well.
“I genuinely believe Kenneth is going to be successful in whatever he puts his mind to and whatever he wants to do,” Bason said. “If going to the NFL is what he wants to do, then I am incredibly confident he’ll find a way to make that happen.”