49ers Michael Crabtree, Misunderstood

For Michael Crabtree, It’s All About The Work


Michael+Crabtree+Denver+Broncos+v+San+Francisco+TgxN20CHF5DlIn 2008 when Michael Crabtree caught a touchdown pass with one second left in the game to beat number 1 ranked Texas, he became “the big man on campus” at Texas Tech.  But he didn’t celebrate.  He went home, watched TV, and began to prepared for his team’s next game.  On February 3rd, he would like to stand on sports’ biggest stage as a member of a team that won Super Bowl.

In the previous year, as a red shirt freshman, Crabtree caught 134 passes for 1962 yards and 22 touchdowns.  He won the Biletnikoff award as the nation’s best wide receiver.  But he wasn’t satisfied with that accomplishment.  The 2008 season witnessed him working on his blocking, running routes and catching passes from quarterback Graham Harrell in addition to normal pratices.

He won the Biletnikoff award again in 2008.  Crabtree announced that he would enter the 2009 NFL draft.  Before the combine, he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot and was unable to workout.  San Francisco drafted him anyway as the 10th pick overall.  But he didn’t show up for rookie camp.  He held out for more money for 71 days.  Fans and coaches doubted that he would become the receiver they expected him to be.

A quiet man, who some viewed as arrogant and aloof, he worked on the rehabilitation of his left foot.  Former coaches and teammates assured the press that he was far from blasé about the game.  They described him as one of the hardest working athletes they had ever worked with.  One coach described him as a “grinder” who would mature into one of the best in the game.  Jim Harbaugh, who took over head coaching duties in 2011, said:  “He’s very much a complete player.”

When Colin Kaepernick became the starting quarterback, Crabtree emerged as his favorite target.  Hands that coaches called “vice-like”, and his ability to adjust his routes, Crabtree set career highs in 2012 with 85 catches, 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. He dominated December, catching 35 passes for 538 yards and four scores in five games.

In the NFC Championship Game, he caught 6 passes for 53 yards.  He also lost a fumble on the goal line.

Crabtree’s workout ethic, and physicality will challenge the Ravens’ secondary.  He immediately adjusted to the team’s “read-option” style of play.  He runs to space, giving Kaepernick an open target, or, if he runs, Crabtree is there to block for him.

(A small insight into the character of Colin Kaepernick.  On Thursday, he sent cupcakes adorned with the 49er logo and his number “7” to his former high school in Turlock, California.  Friday, he had pizzas delivered to all the press covering the San Francisco workout.  It’s the little things that count.)

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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